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Population and Housing

Central New Mexico, which includes Bernalillo, Sandoval, Torrance, and Valencia counties, is the nation’s 60th most populated metropolitan area. This area represents the majority of the MRCOG region with the exception of southern Santa Fe County. It also represents New Mexico’s State Planning and Development District 3 (SPDD3), which is a designation by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) that guides economic planning and strategic investments.

The largest municipalities among the 18 incorporated communities within Central New Mexico are Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Los Lunas, Bernalillo, Corrales, and Belen. The area also includes eight Indian pueblos – Sandia, Isleta, Cochiti, Jemez, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Santo Domingo, and Zia – as well as portions of the Navajo, Jicarilla, and Laguna Pueblo Indian reservations.

When New Mexico became a state in 1912, the population within Central New Mexico was small. The population increased rapidly during the 1940s and 1950s with World War II and post-war growth, and continued a steep climb through the 1980s as the economy diversified. Central New Mexico has experienced significant growth, with an average annual growth rate of 3.4 percent between 1950 and 2010. However, more recent post-recessionary growth has been slow; year-to-year growth has been below 1 percent for each year between 2010 and 2015. In 2015, the four-county population was 907,301, a total increase of 2.3 percent from 2010 (Table 1).

Table 1: Historical Population of Counties Within Central New Mexico

Historical Population of Counties Within Central New Mexico
  1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2015
Bernalillo
145,673
262,199
315,774
 419,700
 480,577
556,678 
662,564
676,685
Sandoval
12,438
 14,201
17,492
 34,799
 63,319
 89,908
131,561
139,394
Torrance
8,012
6,497
5,290
 7,491
 10,285
 16,911
16,383
15,485
Valencia
 13,530
16,146
 20,451
30,769 
 45,235
 66,152
76,569
75,737
Central NM
 179,653
 299,043
 359,007
 492,759
 599,416
729,649 
887,077
907,301

Source: US Census Bureau; Decennial Census and Population Estimates Program

Albuquerque’s metropolitan area population has grown at a faster rate than New Mexico’s since 1950. As Chart 1 illustrates, Central New Mexico’s share of the state’s population has increased from 27 percent in 1950 to 44 percent in 2015. In addition to serving as the largest population center of New Mexico, the metropolitan area also holds 45 percent of the state’s non-agricultural employment.

Chart 1: Central New Mexico's Historical Share of State Population
Chart 1: Central New Mexico's Historical Share of State Population

Certain municipalities in Central New Mexico, such as the burgeoning City of Rio Rancho, have grown faster than others. Its smaller neighbor, the Town of Bernalillo, has also seen substantial growth, assisted by commuter rail stops within its boundaries. The City of Albuquerque has seen sustained growth, but the population leveled off at 559,121 in 2015, which was only 2.4 percent higher than in 2010. Valencia County growth, while slower in rural areas and the City of Belen, has seen growth in its largest municipality, the Village of Los Lunas, with many new subdivisions coming on line over the decade. The percentage of the four-county population that was in incorporated municipalities has increased from 70 percent in 1960 to 79 percent in 2015, indicating an increased urbanization of Central New Mexico (Table 2).

Table 2: Historical Population of Incorporated Places Within Central New Mexico

Historical Population of Incorporated Places Within Central New Mexico
 Incorporated Places 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2015
Albuquerque
201,189
243,751
331,767
 384,736
448,607 
545,852 
559,121 
Belen
5,031 
 4,823
 5,617
6,547 
6,901
7,269
7,152 
Bernalillo
2,574 
 2,016
 3,012
5,960
6,611 
8,320
8,843 
Bosque Farms
 -
 -
3,353
3,791
3,931
3,904
3,838
Corrales
 -
 -
2,791
5,453
7,334 
8,329
8,502
Cuba
 -
 -
609
760
590
731
736
Encino
 -
250
155
131
94
82
78
Estancia
 -
721
830
792
1,584
1,655
1,597
Jemez Springs
 -
356
316
413
375
250
253
Los Lunas
 -
973 
3,525
6,013 
10,034
14,835
15,336
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque
1,900
2,702 
3,955 
5,092
6,024 
6,063
Moriarty
758
1,276
1,399
1,765
1,910
1,806
Mountainair
 -
1,022
1,170
926
1,116
928
878
Peralta
-
-
-
-
3,660
3,585
Rio Communities
-
-
-
-
5,476 

Rio Rancho

-
9,985
32,505
51,765
87,521
94,171
San Ysidro
-
-
199
 233
238
193
195
Tijeras
-
-
311
340
474
541 
545
Willard
-
209 
166
183
240
253
241
Incorporated Population
208,794
256,779
367,784
454,137
546,751
692,257
718,416
Central NM Population
299,043
359,007
 492,759
599,416
729,649
887,077
907,301
Share within Places
69.8%
72.0%
74.6%
75.8%
74.9%
78.0%
79.2%

Source: US Census Bureau; Population Estimates Program

Population growth in Central New Mexico has been significantly dampened by the recession. In the years immediately following the recession, permits issued within Central New Mexico plunged from a high of over 10,000 in 2005 to below 3,000 every year since 2008. Recovery of the construction industry and the number of housing permits has been somewhat stagnant statewide. Chart 2 shows the course of new housing starts from 2000 to 2014 in the area’s three largest municipalities.

Chart 2: Residential Permits Issued in Central New Mexico's Largest Municipalities
Chart 2: Residential Permits Issued in Central New Mexico's Largest Municipalities
Source: Individual Permitting Jurisdictions & US Census Bureau; Building Permits

New Mexico is a southwestern state that shares a border with Mexico and has a rich history rooted in Native American populations, Spanish settlements, and European immigrants. This diversity is reflected in its racial and ethnic composition. Table 3 shows that while just 18 percent of the national population identify as Hispanic or Latino, 48 percent of Central New Mexico’s population, and as high as 60 percent of Valencia County’s population, identify as Hispanic or Latino. In addition, Central New Mexico has a much higher American Indian population percentage than the national average, which is as high as 12 percent in Sandoval County.

Table 3: 2015 Racial and Ethnic Composition of the United States, New Mexico, Central New Mexico, and Counties

table 3 pop housing
Source: U.S. Census Bureau; Population Estimates Program

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