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Demographics

The wide-open spaces of the Upper Rio Grande region are sparsely populated except for the city of El Paso, home to nearly all of the region’s population and income growth. The region is largely Hispanic and young compared both to Texas as a whole and the U.S. Its residents’ average educational attainment is lower than Texas and U.S. averages, as are their income levels.

The Upper Rio Grande region consists of six counties and includes the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) of El Paso, contained entirely within El Paso County. As defined by the federal government, an MSA is a core urban area of 50,000 or more residents accompanied by adjacent communities that have a high degree of economic and social interaction with that core (as measured by commuting to and from work).1

In 2008, the El Paso MSA had a population of 744,940, or 96.8 percent of the region’s total population of 769,859. Exhibit 8 illustrates the region’s counties and their county seats.

Exhibit 8

Upper Rio Grande Metro Counties

There is one metropolitan county in the Upper Rio Grande Region.
El Paso County has El Paso as its county seat.  Source: Office of Management and Budget.

Sources: Office of Management and Budget and Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

In 2008, the El Paso MSA had a population of 744,940, or 96.8 percent of the region’s total population of 769,859.

Exhibit 9

Upper Rio Grande Actual and Projected Population Increase, 2003-2013
(percent)

see alternative

Source: Economic Modeling Specialists Inc.

View Table for Actual and Projected Population Increase

Population Growth

El Paso also accounts for most of the region’s population growth. Exhibit 9 shows growth indices for Texas and the region, with 2003 as a base year. Between 2003 and 2013, El Paso’s population is projected to rise by 12.5 percent, or 1.2 percent annually. Outside of El Paso County, the region’s population should remain roughly unchanged at its 2003 level. By contrast, the state population is expected to increase by nearly 17 percent, or 1.6 percent annually, over this period.2

Ethnicity

The Upper Rio Grande population is predominately Hispanic, with an 81 percent share in 2008. Anglos accounted for 14 percent of the population and African Americans 2.4 percent. The remaining 2.6 percent fell in the “other” category, including persons of American Indian, Asian and Native Hawaiian descent and those claiming descent from two or more races (Exhibit 10).3

Exhibit 10

Upper Rio Grande Region, Texas and U.S. Population by Ethnicity, 2008
(percent)

see alternative

Source: Economic Modeling Specialists Inc.

View Population by Ethnicity Table

Exhibit 11

Upper Rio Grande Region, Texas and U.S. Population by Age, 2008
(percent)

see alternative

Source: Economic Modeling Specialists Inc.

View Population by Age Table

Age

The region’s ethnic makeup has significant implications for its age distribution. In 2000, the median age of Texas Hispanics was 25.5 years, compared to 29.6 years for African-Americans and 38.0 years for Anglos.7

With its large Hispanic population, the Upper Rio Grande’s population is very young compared to those of Texas as a whole and the U.S. More than 42 percent of the region’s residents were under the age of 25 in 2008, compared to 37.7 percent in Texas and 34.1 percent in the U.S. Furthermore, nearly 10 percent of the region’s residents were under the age of five, compared to 8 percent in Texas and 7 percent in the U.S. (Exhibit 11).


Educational Attainment

The average educational attainment of Upper Rio Grande residents is lower than both Texas and U.S. averages. Thirty-two percent of Upper Rio Grande residents above the age of 25 have less than a high school diploma, versus 22 percent for Texas as a whole and just 14 percent for the U.S. Only 23 percent of the region’s residents have earned an associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree, compared to 31 percent of all Texans and 34 percent of U.S. residents (Exhibit 12).11

Exhibit 12

Educational Attainment for Population Over the Age of 25, Upper Rio Grande, Texas and U.S. Averages, 2008
(percent)

see alternative

Source: Economic Modeling Specialists Inc.

View Educational Attainment Table


Income

Exhibit 13

Median Household Income, Upper Rio Grande Counties, 2007

see alternative

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

View Median Household Income Detail

The region’s average income levels also fall below the state’s. In 2007 (most recent data available), the median household income for a Texas family of four was $47,563. Within the Upper Rio Grande region, Jeff Davis County had the highest median household income at $38,850, while Hudspeth County’s was lowest at $25,095 (Exhibit 13). El Paso County’s median household income was $35,116 in 2007.12

Such comparisons, however, do not take the cost of living into account. A cost-of-living adjustment facilitates a more accurate comparison of income.

For instance, a person earning an annual salary of $35,000 in El Paso has the same purchasing power as a person living in Dallas earning $40,646, a difference of about 16 percent. In Austin, the equivalent purchasing power would be $42,046.13

The region’s income per person averaged $26,491 in 2007, or 71 percent of the state average of $37,083. Brewster County had the region’s highest per capita income at $29,103, followed by El Paso County at $26,585. Total personal income in the region rose by 36.4 percent between 2002 and 2007, compared to 41.1 percent for the state as a whole (Exhibit 14).14

Exhibit 14

Upper Rio Grande Personal Income Percent Increase 2002-2007

see alternative

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis.

View Personal Income Table

Total personal income in the region rose by 36.4 percent between 2002 and 2007, compared to 41.1 percent for the state as a whole.

University of Texas at El Paso Classroom

PHOTO: University of Texas at El Paso, University Communications

Endnotes

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