According to recently released 2010 Census data, the middle Rio Grande region grew by 158,432 people over the past decade for a 2010 population of 897,146. The gain is the equivalent of adding a second Sandoval and Valencia County to the region, and represents a 21.4 percent increase in population since 2000. The pace of growth of the MRCOG region over the past decade essentially mirrors the pace of growth over the 1990s and the 1980s.
While Bernalillo County continues to dominate the region in total population, it has been declining in share over time. In 1960 Bernalillo County represented 88 percent of the region's population, in 1990 this share was 80 percent, and in 2010 Bernalillo County accounts for 74 percent of the region's population.
The MRCOG region contains three of the state's five fastest growing counties over the decade: Sandoval County (46.3 percent), Bernalillo County (19.0 percent) and Valencia County (15.7 percent). The pattern of growth seen within the state of New Mexico over the decade can be characterized as metro-area focused with central New Mexico as a key beneficiary. Bernalillo, Sandoval, and Valencia Counties combined captured two-thirds of the state's growth, while 14 of New Mexico's 33 counties lost population.
At 46 percent of the total population, New Mexico has the highest percentage of persons of Hispanic or Latino Origin among the 50 states, followed by Texas and California (both at 38 percent). Persons of Hispanic or Latino Origin represent also represent 46 percent of the MRCOG region's total population. The region's Anglo population (white, not-Hispanic) represents 43 percent of the population, down from 48 percent in 2000. For the first time, persons of Hispanic/Latino Origin represent the largest share of the region's population and outnumber white, non-Hispanics.
While we do not have detailed age data yet from the 2010 Census, we do have data on the voting age population. The number of persons in the region who are 18 years and over has grown by 133,000 people and the number under 18 has grown by 25,264 people. The youth are a shrinking segment of the population; persons under 18 represent 25 percent of our existing population but only 16 percent of our growth. Supplementary demographic data indicate that the driver of growth in the over 18 population is the 65 years and over cohort. This is a national trend commonly referred to as the 'graying' of the population.
One of the more remarkable findings amid the 2010 Census data pertains to housing. New Mexico is essentially the only state that had a decline in vacancy rate over the decade, from 13.1 percent to 12.2 percent. (Two states, Hawaii and Wyoming, had a decline in vacancy rate of under 0.2 percent over the decade.) To put this in context consider our neighbors; Nevada and Arizona. Each had a vacancy rate that jumped over 3 percentage points over the decade. Additionally, their vacant units increased by 120 percent and 61 percent respectively. Much of this can be attributed to the impacts of high levels of housing construction prior to the recession. This reflects a national trend, as 35 states had at least a 30 percent increase in the number of vacant units over the decade. New Mexico bucked this trend and had the smallest increase in vacant units among all 50 states; just 7 percent. It was also one of three states that witnessed faster growth in new housing units than vacancies.
In the MRCOG region, vacancy rates declined from 8.1 percent to 7.3 percent over the decade. The number of vacant units grew by 2,395 units while the housing inventory itself grew by nearly 70,000 units. So although the number of vacancies slightly increased, it did so at a much slower rate than the housing market as a whole. This could be suggestive of many things: 1) The region was not subject to an overabundance of speculative housing during the heightened market; 2) It responded quickly to the turning economy and has cleared much of the excess inventory that was built; 3) The rental segment has been consistent and vacancies are being filled by market demand; 4) Potential homebuyers are either staying put or purchasing another home only if their existing home is sold or rented. Evidence from the housing industry has suggested all of these factors are true to varying degrees.
Bernalillo County - Bernalillo County added just over 105,000 people (19 percent) over the decade for a 2010 population of 662,564. The City of Albuquerque accounted for the majority of growth (97,000). Persons of Hispanic/Latino Origin lead the growth representing 79 percent of the overall population gain, or an additional 83,500 people. The share of Hispanic/Latino persons grew from 42 percent in 2000 to 48 percent of the Bernalillo County population in 2010. Conversely, the share of white, not-Hispanic persons declined from 48 percent to 41 percent of the overall population. The number of housing units in the County grew by 45,160 while the number of vacant units held constant at just over 18,000. This resulted in a decline in vacancy rate from 7.6 percent to 6.4 percent over the decade.
Sandoval County - Sandoval County jumped ahead of San Juan County to fill the 4th most populated county in the state in 2010. Spurred by significant growth in the City of Rio Rancho, Sandoval County was also the fastest growing county in the state, adding 41,656 people for a 2010 population of 131,561. The City of Rio Rancho was responsible for 35,756 of the additional population and 86 percent of the county's overall growth. Bernalillo added 1,709 new people, Corrales added 995, and Cuba added 141. Jemez Springs and San Ysidro declined in population over the decade. In terms of racial composition, Anglos lost their majority status over the decade dropping to 47 percent of the county's population, while the Hispanic/Latino population now represents 35 percent of the population. The population remains among the 'youngest' in the region, with the under 18 population representing 27 percent of the overall population, the highest share among the four counties. Sandoval County's housing stock increased by 50 percent with 17,421 new units, nearly 14,000 of which were located in Rio Rancho. Vacancy rates were at 9.0 percent for the county in 2010 but variable from place to place; with vacancies hovering around 20 percent and higher in the rural areas, and a low of 6.1 percent in Rio Rancho.
Torrance County - Torrance County was one of 14 Counties within New Mexico that lost population over the decade. The 2010 population of 16,383 is 528 people (3.1 percent) less than 2000. The majority of the decline was seen in the unincorporated county however Mountainair lost 188 people. Meanwhile, Moriarty gained 145 people and Estancia gained 71. The racial composition remained essentially unchanged over the decade. It is notable that the under 18 population declined by almost 1,200 people, which could be a result of an aging population, an outmigration of youth, or most likely a combination of the two. Despite the population decline, the housing stock grew by 541 homes. As such, the vacancy rate also increased; in 2010 one in every five homes in the county was vacant.
Valencia County - Valencia County added just over 10,000 people for a 2010 population of 76,569. The majority of the population growth occurred in the unincorporated county (5,087) followed by the Village of Los Lunas (4,801). The Hispanic/Latino population continues to represent the majority of the population within Valencia County with a 2000 share of 55 percent reaching 58 percent by 2010. The Village of Bosque Farms is the only community with a majority of Anglos at 59 percent. It is also the only community in the county that saw a population decline over the decade (-27). In Valencia County, the housing stock grew quite a bit faster than the population, 22 percent compared with 16 percent. This contributed to an increase in vacancy rates in the county as a whole and every community within. Belen had the highest overall vacancy rate in the county at 13.7 percent; this equates to 453 vacant units, about the same number as in the Village of Los Lunas.
Southern Santa Fe County - Southern Santa Fe County grew by 1,001 people over the decade for a 2010 population of 10,066. Its only incorporated place within the MRCOG region, the Town of Edgewood, grew by 1,842 to total 3,735. (The 2010 Census count for the Town of Edgewood is expected to be an undercount; while the 2010 population includes many of the annexations into the Town over the decade it does not capture them all. MRCOG's 2010 estimate puts Edgewood's population closer to 4,700.)
Some of this growth is due to multiple annexations of unincorporated area into the Town. The remainder of the county lost 841 people, which is also primarily a reflection of annexation activity. Southern Santa Fe County continues to consist primarily of Anglos, which represent 72 percent of the population in 2010. The smaller Hispanic/Latino segment grew by 24 percent over the decade and represents 23 percent of the population. Southern Santa Fe County lost population under 18 (-480), which could reflect the aging of its population as well as an outmigration of youth. With an additional 935 housing units over the decade (808 in Edgewood), Southern Santa Fe County has a housing count of 4,392 homes. The vacancy rate in the unincorporated areas has increased significantly, from 8.6 percent to 11.5 percent, while the vacancy rate within the Town of Edgewood has declined, from 10.5 percent to 8.4 percent.