The State of Health in New Mexico 2018
18. Demographic Characteristics
New Mexico's People
Urban and RuralNew Mexico is the fifth largest U.S. state in terms of land area, but in 2016, was only the 36th most populous state. New Mexico's population is not evenly distributed across the state geographically. In 2016, two-thirds of New Mexico's estimated 2,103,586 residents lived in the six most populous counties (Bernalillo, Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Valencia, Dona Ana and Sandoval counties). Those six counties have an average population density of 80.9 persons per square mile, compared with 6.9 persons per square mile in the remaining 27 counties (Figure 1). Providing health care and public health services in rural areas poses challenges such as the ability to hire and maintain full-time clinicians and specialists, and the great distances that many people have to travel to get care.
Age DistributionContinued growth of our older adult population in New Mexico is expected. Based on population estimates provided by the University of New Mexico Geospatial and Population Studies Program, in 1990, 11.1% of people in New Mexico were aged 65 years or older. By 2010, 13.3% of New Mexico's population was 65 years or older, and by 2016, the figure was 16.5% (Figure 2). According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, by 2030, persons in this age group will comprise over 20% of the U.S. population. And the proportion of New Mexico's aged 65 and over population is outpacing that of other states. In 2000, New Mexico ranked 37th highest among all states for percentage of the population aged 65 or over. By 2016 we'd moved up 23 spots to 14th.
The age dependency ratio is an indicator of the amount of burden that non-working individuals in society place on the working-aged population. A high ratio indicates a high proportion of non-working individuals compared to working-aged individuals. Working-aged individuals tend to pay much more in taxes, while seniors aged 65 or older and children younger than age 15 are likely to be socially and/or economically dependent on the working-age population, putting additional demands on New Mexico families and health services. New Mexico's age dependency ratio in 2016 was 56.1, compared with 51.8 in the U.S. The age dependency ratio in both New Mexico and the U.S. has been on the rise since 2011. The highest age dependency ratios are primarily in rural areas of New Mexico (Figure 3).
Race and EthnicityNew Mexico's population distribution by race and ethnicity is strikingly different from that of the United States overall, with smaller proportions of persons who are Black or Asian, and larger proportions of persons who are American Indian or Hispanic. White persons comprised a minority (39%) of the state's population in 2016.
New Mexico's American Indian population includes part of the Navajo Nation, 19 pueblos, and two Apache tribes (Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache). Most of New Mexico's American Indian tribes have lived on their current lands for hundreds or thousands of years - since before Francisco Vásquez de Coronado arrived in 1541 - and disparities in health status between American Indians and other groups in the United States have persisted throughout the 500 years since. Some have argued that American Indian health disparities are the product of the disrupted social conditions of colonization, while others emphasize socioeconomic conditions or access to health care, though the two explanations are not mutually exclusive.
American Indian and Alaska Native New Mexicans have relatively poor health outcomes on a number of important measures of health status, including life expectancy and deaths due to unintentional injuries, diabetes and alcohol. However, compared to the state, overall, American Indian/Alaska Native New Mexicans are more likely to consume fruits and vegetables, and have lower death rates from heart disease and cancer - the state's two leading causes of death.