December 12th 2016 - Written by: Suzan Reagan

Very Rural Areas of New Mexico

Select Social and Economic Characteristics of New Mexico Rural Counties

The US Census Bureau has identified six New Mexico counties (Catron, De Baca, Harding, Hidalgo, Mora, and Union) as completely rural. Each of these rural counties has their own unique social and economic characteristics. According to the Census Bureau’s 2015 American Communities Survey (ACS) 5 year estimates, these counties have an older population and a lower median household income compared to New Mexico.

The New Mexico population density is about 17.0 people per square mile according to the 2015 ACS 5 year estimates. The completely rural counties comprise less than 1 percent of the New Mexico population and comprise about 17 percent of the New Mexico land area for a combined population density of about 0.9 people per square mile. In completely rural counties the population density ranged from a low of 0.3 in Harding County to a high of 2.4 in Mora County, all below the New Mexico population density (See table below).

The New Mexico median age is 37.0 according to the 2015 ACS 5 year estimates. In completely rural counties the median age ranged from a low of 49.3 in Union County to a high of 57.1 in Catron County, all above the New Mexico median age. Of the New Mexico population 27.4 percent are 55 and over according to the 2015 ACS 5 year estimates table S0101. In completely rural counties, the percent of the population age 55 and over ranged from a low of 32.0% in Hidalgo County to a high of 58.9% in Harding County, all above the New Mexico percent of population age 55 and over.

The New Mexico median household income was $44,963 according to the 2015 ACS 5 year estimates. In completely rural counties, the median household income ranged from a low of $23,822 in Mora County to a high of $42,973 in Catron County, all below the New Mexico median household income.

The New Mexico’s poverty rate is 21.0% according to the 2015 ACS 5 year estimates. For De Baca, Hidalgo, and Mora County, the poverty rates are 22.8%, 23.3%, and 23.4%, respectively. Low median household income often correlates with a high poverty rate. Surprisingly, Catron, Harding, and Union County had poverty rates (17.2%, 10.4%, and 13.4 % respectively), below the New Mexico poverty rate. This shows that while there are similarities in these rural geographies there are also specific differences affecting the economy of each of them.

Selected Characteristics for New Mexico Rural Counties
Area Name Square Miles/1 Population July 1, 2015 Estimates /2 People per Square Mile Median Age /3 Labor Force Participation /4 Emp/Pop Ratio/4 HouseholdMedian Income /5 % below Poverty
New Mexico 121,298 2,058,109 17.0 37.0 59.6 53.6 $44,963 21.0
Catron 6,923 3,456 0.5 57.1 35.2 33.6 42,973 17.2
De Baca 2,322 1,828 0.8 47.3 39.0 36.9 32,500 22.8
Harding 2,125 698 0.3 56.9 45.4 42.5 33,393 10.4
Hidalgo 3,436 4,423 1.3 41.8 58.5 50.0 34,444 23.3
Mora 1,931 4,596 2.4 42.6 33.7 31.9 23,822 23.4
Union 3,823 4,201 1.1 40.3 47.5 46.5 36,070 13.4
  1. / US Census Bureau Geography Division based on TIGER data base, calculated for use with Census 2010.
  2. / US Census Bureau Population Estimates Program
  3. / US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5 year estimates 2015 Table B01002
  4. / US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5 year estimates 2015 Table S2301
  5. / US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5 year estimates 2015 Table S1903
  6. / US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5 year estimates 2015 Table S1701


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