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Boomtown U.S.A.

The American Southwest’s population growth is en fuego — well, with two exceptions.

The latest population-estimate data from the U.S. Census Bureau confirm that our region is a growth behemoth. As scholar Randal O’Toole observed, between 2021 and 2022, “Texas grew by 470,000 residents” and “Arizona by 94,000” — No. 1 and No. 5, respectively, in total expansion. (The Lone Star State ranked fourth in percentage increase, narrowly behind Florida, Idaho, and South Carolina.)

But the Institute wanted to see the impact on population change in the era of COVID-19 lockdowns. So we looked at the last two years. Using that yardstick amplifies the role the American Southwest is playing in the country’s dramatic regional shift.

While U.S. growth was a mere 0.536 percent between July 1, 2020 and July 1, 2022, Utah ballooned by 2.954 percent — five and a half times greater. Texas (2.727 percent) and Arizona (2.497 percent) notched impressive gains as well. Nevada (1.994 percent), Oklahoma (1.384), and Colorado (0.952) soundly beat the national mark.

California has Hollywood. Silicon Valley. Aerospace. Oil and gas. Tremendous scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. What it didn’t have, between 2020 and 2022, was population growth. The state lost 1.196 percent of its residents. (Los Angeles County more than doubled California’s disappearing act, driving away 2.713 percent of its residents.)

New Mexico was the region’s second loser, with a 0.238 percent drop.

The blue-state model may be hobbling the Golden State and the Land of Enchantment, but in the rest of the American Southwest, growth is impressive — and evidently, sustainable. Our region remains on two tracks. One keeps government in its place, welcomes entrepreneurs and investment, and embraces education freedom. The other pursues public policies founded on eco-utopian, social-justice fantasies.

Which approach do you think is working better?

By D. Dowd Muska

Dowd brings nearly 30 years of research and writing experience to the Institute. A veteran of several think tanks, he is an expert on government at the municipal, county, state, and federal levels.

Raised on an apple orchard in the Connecticut River Valley, D. Dowd Muska is a researcher, writer, editor, and commentator. His focus is the nexus of fiscal policy, economic development, and technology.

Mr. Muska is the author of numerous policy studies, and his writing has appeared in newspapers throughout the nation, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Detroit News, the Orlando Sentinel, the Cape Cod Times, the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Hartford Courant, the Waco Tribune-Herald, the Albuquerque Journal, the New Haven Register, and The Oklahoman. A graduate of The George Washington University, he lives in the Albuquerque metro area, but has started (very) early planning for a relocation to the Sierra Blanca in Lincoln County, New Mexico. He recently launched the Substack platform No Dowd About It.

2 replies on “Boomtown U.S.A.”

One of the most telling statistics about NM is its population. In the 1930 census, AZ had 12,00 more residents than NM (435,000 to 423,000). Today AZ has a population of 7.3 million while NM has just 2.1 million. Why such anemic pop growth in NM (and NM has fabulous oil and natural gas resources which AZ does not)? In most parts of the country pop growth follows job growth and 90 years of single party Dem rule in NM has scared away private business. The last time Republicans held a majority in both houses of the NM state legislature was 1930 and the last time they held a majority on the state Supreme Court was in the 1920s.

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