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Wednesday, March 16, 2011
N.M. Hispanics Overtake Anglos
By Dan McKay
Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
People who identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino are now the largest ethnic or racial group in New Mexico, according to new Census figures released Tuesday.
In fact, the Hispanic population grew about 10 times as fast as did the number of Anglos, the Census shows. The two groups still dominate New Mexico's population, with about 46 percent of the state calling itself Hispanic or Latino and about 41 percent identifying as non-Hispanic whites.
"This is a flip from 10 years ago," when Anglos outnumbered Hispanics, said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc.
The total number of Hispanics grew about 24.6 percent since 2000, while the number of non-Hispanic whites grew about 2.5 percent.
Overall, the state's population grew about 13 percent, from 1.8 million to 2 million. That won't be enough gain a fourth Congressional seat.
The Census also shows that big cities are growing faster than their home counties, suggesting people have opted to live in urban or suburban environments, rather than rural ones.
Fourteen of the state's 33 counties actually lost population.
"Political influence will continue to grow in the state's largest cities and continue to decline in the rural areas of the state," Sanderoff said. "Influence will also grow on the West Side of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho."
Sandoval County, driven by 69 percent growth in Rio Rancho, was the biggest winner. Albuquerque grew about 22 percent, to 546,000 people, well above the state's overall 13 percent growth rate.
The numbers, of course, will help reshape the political landscape in New Mexico through redistricting.
The political power of Hispanics may also continue to grow. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and her predecessor, Bill Richardson, are Hispanic.
Estevan Rael-Gálvez, executive director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, said the trends in New Mexico match what's happening elsewhere, where an increasing share of the population is Hispanic or Latino.
"There's always been a strong Latino presence in defining the cultural and art scene of New Mexico," Rael-Gálvez said. "That's only going to increase."
Alex Romero, CEO of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks more Hispanics are opting to start businesses now than 10 years ago.
"I think there's growing confidence in what can be accomplished in business," Romero said. "We've got a younger crop of board members that are businessowners and doing extremely well. Many of those are in the technology" sector.
Sanderoff said Hispanics tend to be younger and have more children than Anglos, a reality that may be felt in the education system, which has struggled with overcrowding in some areas.
It's not clear how much of the growth is due to migration, as opposed to the birth rate simply exceeding the death rate. More detailed information from surveys should be available later.
New Mexico's population overall climbed about 200,000, and more than three-quarters of that growth was Hispanic.
Among other changes in ethnic composition, the population identifying as Asian grew about 44 percent. That was faster than any other group, but Asians still compromise a relatively small share of the population overall, at 1.3 percent.
The share of American Indians and African-Americans held steady over the last decade. About 8.5 percent of New Mexico identifies as American Indian and about 1.7 percent as African American or black.
The numbers indicate that big cities are doing well, with their growth often outpacing the surrounding areas'. Albuquerque grew 22 percent, for example, while Bernalillo County's population climbed only 19 percent overall. Las Cruces shot up 31 percent, compared with 20 percent for Doña Ana County.
"Some of our inner cities are expanding at an impressive rate," Sanderoff said. "There have been some decades where that was not the case."
Growth dwindled in some of the outlying areas near Albuquerque. Torrance County, on the other side of the East Mountains, saw its population fall about 3 percent since 2000. That's a huge turnaround from the 1990s, when Torrance County grew 64 percent.
"The cities are becoming bigger," Sanderoff said. "The rural areas, in many cases, are stagnant or losing population."
Fourteen counties lost population, and another two experienced growth of less than 1 percent. The declines are centered in rural counties in the southwestern part of the state, the east and a few in the north.
Centrally located counties, such as Bernalillo, Sandoval and Valencia, grew faster than the state overall.
Valencia County, for example, grew about 16 percent.
Sandoval County grew the fastest, at 46 percent since 2000. That's even stronger than its 42 percent growth in the 1990s.
Rio Rancho was a big part of that.
Rio Rancho Mayor Thomas Swisstack said the bigger population could play a critical role in getting federal dollars and in redistricting.
"We may look at getting another state House seat covering Rio Rancho," Swisstack said.
Journal staff writer Rosalie Rayburn contributed to this story.