The Santa Fe New Mexican, Natalie Guillen, Associated Press
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico's Hispanic population over the next 100 years will grow to be the majority ethnic group, regardless of federal immigration policy, a local researcher and pollster predicts.
At the same time, the number of senior citizens in the state who depend on government services will increase, as budgets for programs to help them will shrink.
And, more residents will move to urban areas looking for jobs, while others will work from home to avoid congested roads, said Brian Sanderoff, head of Research and Polling in Albuquerque.
Sanderoff said all of those changes will come against a backdrop of a state budget that is heavily dependent on oil and gas revenues — something that will wither as alternative energy sources become more common and fewer people use the fossil fuels that help the state pay its bills.
That means New Mexico needs to prudently manage its permanent funds, money that is set aside for future economic crises.
"As I think 100 years down the road, I think about the fact that as we diminish or eliminate the nation's dependency on carbon-based fuels, that will have a tremendous impact on the state and our economy and means of providing services to the public," Sanderoff said.
He added that New Mexico will become a more attractive place to live as people in other parts of the country tire of cold weather, expensive cities and small places to call home.
"People want a place with good climate and good air quality, lots of room to grow. And New Mexico has all those things. Over the next 100 years, we will continue to grow at a pace that is greater than the nationwide rate."
The ratio of the number of people tapping into social benefits compared to the number working and paying into the system will also change dramatically, Sanderoff suggested. "That is something we will have to grapple with," he said.
The state also will have to consider what it can offer to attract working-age residents. Jeffrey Mitchell, a senior research scientist at the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at The University of New Mexico, said that he predicts the state, like the rest of the country, will see a rise in people who work with information more than material goods.
"As we transition from a material-producing economy to much more of an idea-based economy, the jobs are going to be in creating, managing and distributing idea and information rather than stuff," he said. "What that appears to mean is that a relatively small portion of the workforce is well-skilled to offer a great deal of productivity, and (those workers) tend to get paid much more. ... You're going to see an increasing amount of jobs in the information area, and increased polarization in terms of the few who are able to produce ideas earning more, and the other people earning less."
Those types of jobs tend to be clustered around urban areas, and in New Mexico's case, along the Rio Grande, Mitchell said.
"Place does matter, and those places tend to be urban and tend to be the places associated with rich intellectual infrastructure or that are otherwise culturally unique."
While the state's urban areas are predicted to grow, the state overall in the last 100 years blossomed beyond the Rio Grande.
A century ago, fewer than 400,000 people lived here. Now, the state's overall population is 2.06 million.
Projections by the UNM bureau show the state's total population is expected to top 3 million by 2035 with almost 1.7 million people in Bernalillo County, 309,279 in DoÑa Ana and 176,612 in Santa Fe County.
Jack Baker, a senior research scientist at the bureau, said there are few surprises when it comes to predicting the state's population growth, as it generally tends to follow historical trends.
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