El Paso’s population growth has been essentially stagnant since 2012, with little attention from policy makers, media and others. The chief cause has been an outflow of tens of thousands of people choosing to leave El Paso.
El Paso’s population struggle is in what demographers call net domestic migration — the movement between communities in the United States. In the early part of this decade, El Paso County had a small net positive in domestic migration, meaning more people were moving here than moving away. But that changed starting in 2012 and El Paso has seen more people move away than move in each year since.
Since the 2010 census, 50,000 more people have moved out of El Paso to other U.S. communities than have moved in. When expressed as a percentage of 2010 population, El Paso’s migration loss is the largest among any urban county in the continental United States west of the Mississippi River.
El Paso’s population grew by only 5 percent between 2010 and 2018, according to the Census Bureau. El Paso is on pace to see its slowest growth rate between censuses since 1930-40, during the Great Depression.
This phenomenon is often referred to as a “brain drain,” but that’s probably too simplistic to describe what is happening in El Paso. Our community likely is losing both college-educated white-collar workers and blue-collar workers without college degrees.
Data from the Internal Revenue Service indicates that people are leaving El Paso for the largest Texas cities, led by the San Antonio area, as well as the Permian Basin oil fields.