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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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According to new data released from the U.S. Census, New Mexico saw relatively little population growth, and the growth that did happen varied widely across the state.

The biggest spots in population growth centered around already established urban centers and counties that have experienced an oil boom. According to the census data, New Mexico’s overall population grew by 1.8 percent or by 58,343 people. Three counties led the way in population growth: Eddy, Lea, and Sandoval County. Within Sandoval County lies Rio Rancho, one of the fastest-growing cities in New Mexico. Eddy and Lea County are newcomers to the list. Eddy County county experienced an 8.6 percent population increase from 2010 as of 2019. Lea county surpassed Eddy County with an increase of 9.8 percent. Sandoval County once again claimed the top spot in population growth with an 11.8 percent increase since 2010.

Bernalillo County had a modest population growth of 2.6 percent. Santa Fe also observed a sizable population growth of 4.2 percent. Bernalillo and Santa Fe County added 13,880 and 10,653 people, respectively.

Twenty out of New Mexico’s 33 counties reported a population loss. Rural counties across New Mexico saw significant migration. Hidalgo saw the largest net migration since 2010, losing 14.3 percent of their population, bringing their already modest population down to just over 4,000. Hidalgo was followed by De Baca and Mora County, with a population loss of 13.6 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.

The population loss will result in less state funding and a decrease in representation at a state level for those counties.

Lea and Eddy Counties both lie in Southeastern New Mexico, which has experienced an oil boom in the past decade. The oil boom has made New Mexico one of the top oil-producing states in the U.S. Both counties lie in the Permian Basin, which has been transformed into one of the largest producing oil regions in the U.S. thanks to fracking.

On the other end of the spectrum, San Juan County, another oil-producing center in the state, recorded the greatest population loss, losing 8,383 people, or 4.3 percent of their population. The sizable population loss is a result of the county’s declining oil industry, which saw a bust earlier in the decade.

The recent census shows that New Mexico’s rural exodus shows no signs of slowing down. This trend may continue, especially in counties with limited job prospects and growth potential.

The census data will be used to redraw voting districts nationwide—potentially helping determine control of the U.S. House in the 2022 elections and providing an electoral edge for the next decade. New Mexico is currently in the process of determining how to redraw its own districts, which are recommendations made to the Legislature by an independent council. The Legislature can chose to accept the recommendations or draw their own district maps.

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