Two southeast New Mexico mayors argued their cities did not receive an accurate population count during the 2020 Census.
The allegations contradicted the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) which contended the State did have an accurate count based on data from a U.S. Census Bureau Post-Enumerations Survey (PES) released May 19, read a news release from the DFA on Wednesday.
Along with the PES, the Census Bureau published a report on the accuracy of individual state efforts. The report cited New Mexico had the most accurate count nationwide, according to the DFA release.
New Mexico’s population grew 2.8 percent to 2.1 million people from 2010 to 2020, read Census data.
“This news further underscores the successful efforts led by the New Mexico Complete Count Commission and our partners with NM Counts 2020,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “Because of the work by so many residents, New Mexico received the quality count it deserves.”
Democratic Party of New Mexico Spokesperson Daniel Garcia said Lujan Grisham and other New Mexico Democrats should be credited for the accurate census count.
“Because of the Governor’s efforts, every New Mexican community will have the representation and allocation of government resources they deserve,” he said.
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway alleged the city’s population was actually higher than the Census numbers reflected.
“We still believe that there were issues within the Census process at the federal level that did not accurately capture the number of people living and working near Carlsbad,” he said.
Carlsbad grew from 27,000 people in 2010 to more than 32,000 people in 2020, Census figures read.
Janway said Carlsbad, Eddy County and southeast New Mexico had of oil and gas employees who worked temporarily in the area, but had families – and permanent residences – elsewhere.
“We believe these individuals were marked as being with their families in the Census count, despite the fact that they spend most of their time in Carlsbad,” Janway said.
The COVID-19 pandemic and a drop in crude oil prices in 2020 prompted some exits from Carlsbad for several months, according to Janway.
The price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI), a grade of crude oil used as a domestic pricing benchmark, dropped as low as -$40 a barrel on April 20, 2020.
The slump, analysts said, was brought on by decreased fuel demand as travel and business restrictions were imposed by the State in an effort to slow the spread of the deadly virus.
Janway said relaxing of pandemic restrictions and increased oil prices to more than $100 a barrel prompted a return of oil and gas workers to the Carlsbad area, people who use roads, utilities and other services in the city.
“We believe other sources of data continue to show that the population of Carlsbad and the surrounding area is significantly higher than what is indicated by the Census,” he said.
Eddy County and neighboring Lea County were the two fastest growing counties in New Mexico in 2020, Census data stated, increasing in population by 15.8 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
Jal Mayor Stephen Aldridge, like Janway, asserted the southernmost Lea County community also had a higher population than the Census reflected for reasons similar to Carlsbad’s.
The 2020 Census data noted Jal’s population increased to 2,219 people from the 2010’s count of 2,048 residents.
“We question the count here on a couple of points,” Aldridge said.
“We do not think an accurate count was made in the local man camps. We also question the percentages that say the population here is 92 percent Anglo,” he said.
“Man camps” typically refers to temporary housing used by seasonal oilfield workers near their work site.
Aldridge said City of Jal figures suggested 60 percent of the community’s population was Hispanic and 40 percent was Anglo-American, or white.
“We understand how difficult the job was in conducting the Census in the midst of COVID-19. But there are some numbers that need to be rectified, “Aldridge said.
How much money is at stake?
New Mexico was considered one of the most difficult-to-count states in the nation and was projected to see many residents missed in the Census county due to its rural nature and diverse minority communities, stated the DFA release.
According to DFA, an accurate count for the state ensured a share of federal resources for various services.
It was estimated for every person counted in the census, New Mexico received $36,000 in federal funds, per the DFA.
A count just one percent less than the actual population could result in a loss of $780 million over the next 10 years across New Mexico, cited DFA’s release.
“Nonprofit and philanthropic organizations played a significant role in fighting an undercount in New Mexico,” said Allan Oliver, executive director of the Thornburg Foundation.
Based in Santa Fe, the Thornburg Foundation invests in solutions to help solve problems affecting people and the Earth, per the foundation’s website.
“Bringing public, private and non-profit resources together to support hard-to-count communities efforts to count themselves was critical to preventing an undercount, and serves as an example of what can be done on other statewide issues,” Oliver said.
New Mexico State Demographer and Director of the University of New Mexico Geospatial and Population Studies program Robert Rhatigan said an accurate count was ensured through various government and private partnerships.
“Our collective efforts had a positive impact on our state,” he said.
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