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Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

economy

The Upper Rio Grande Region2018 Regional Report

Region Snapshot (PDF)

The six-county Upper Rio Grande Region covers about 21,700 square miles in westernmost Texas. It stretches from the extreme western part of the state, where it meets Mexico and New Mexico, along the Rio Grande past Big Bend and up to the New Mexico border around the area of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The region has a population density of 40 people per square mile, significantly lower than the state average of 108 people per square mile.

The Upper Rio Grande Region includes one metropolitan statistical area (MSA): the El Paso MSA, comprising El Paso and Hudspeth counties. Counties in the region not associated with an MSA are Brewster, Culberson, Jeff Davis and Presidio. The region’s economic center, or focus area, is the city of El Paso (El Paso County). The El Paso MSA has a population of approximately 845,000 (about 98 percent of the region’s and 3 percent of the state’s populations).

This report examines regional economic trends including population, personal income, jobs and wages, and education, as well as economic conditions unique to the Upper Rio Grande Region.

Population

The Upper Rio Grande Region’s estimated total population in 2017 was about 866,000, or more than 3 percent of the state’s total population. This is an increase of about 5 percent (almost 40,000 people) since the 2010 census. An estimated 97 percent of the region’s population is concentrated in El Paso County.

From 2010 to 2017, the region’s population grew at a slower pace than did the state’s as a whole. While the population of each county in the region experienced change during this period, Hudspeth County outpaced all others, growing by almost 27 percent – twice as fast as the state average (Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1: Upper Rio Grande Region Population by County,
2010 and 2017
County 2010 Census Estimate (as of July 2017) Percent Change
Brewster 9,232 9,337 1.1%
Culberson 2,398 2,231 -7.0%
El Paso 800,647 840,410 5.0%
Hudspeth 3,476 4,408 26.8%
Jeff Davis 2,342 2,280 -2.6%
Presidio 7,818 7,156 -8.5%
Upper Rio Grande Region Total 825,913 865,822 4.8%
El Paso MSA 804,123 844,818 5.1%
Texas Total 25,145,561 28,304,596 12.6%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Population Composition

According to a recent Census analysis, the median age of the population in the Upper Rio Grande Region’s counties is on par with the state as a whole. El Paso County has the largest population in the region. With a median age of 31.6 years, it is younger than the state’s population (median age 34.2 years). The populations in the region’s five other counties have median ages significantly higher than the state’s. Jeff Davis County residents have a median age approaching 52 years, older than any other county in the region and one of the oldest in the state. The El Paso MSA’s median age is also younger than the state’s.

Household income in Texas is more or less evenly distributed among five income levels. Of the state’s more than 9 million households, 22 percent have incomes less than $25,000, and 16 percent have incomes greater than $125,000. In every region of the state, nearly 18 percent of households have an average income between $50,000 and $75,000. Household income within the Upper Rio Grande Region is significantly lower than the state average, with 29.8 percent having incomes less than $25,000 and more than 58 percent with incomes less than $50,000. Only 8.1 percent of household have average incomes greater than $125,000. (Exhibit 2).

More than 81 percent of the Upper Rio Grande Region’s total population is Hispanic – more than double the state’s Hispanic population proportion (Exhibit 3).

Exhibit 2: Upper Rio Grande Region and Texas Household Income

Exhibit 2: Household Income Percentile, Upper Rio Grande Region vs. Texas
Income Level Upper Rio Grande Region State Total
less than $25,000 29.8% 22.2%
$25,000 to $50,000 28.3% 23.6%
$50,000 to $75,000 17.6% 17.8%
$75,000 to $125,000 16.3% 20.2%
more than $125,000 8.1% 16.1%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Exhibit 3: Upper Rio Grande Region and Texas Population by Race and Ethnicity

Population by Race and Ethnicity, Upper Rio Grande Region vs. Texas
Race and Ethnicity Upper Rio Grande Region State Total
Hispanic 81.2% 38.6%
Black (not Hispanic) 3.0% 11.6%
White (not Hispanic) 13.5% 43.4%
Other 2.3% 6.3%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Jobs and Wages

In 2017, the Upper Rio Grande Region accounted for about 2.6 percent of the state’s total employment. The region’s job growth rate increased by about 12 percent from 2007 to 2017 – slightly below the state growth rate. Employment in the El Paso MSA increased 13 percent over the same period (Exhibit 4). More than 97 percent of the region’s total jobs are in the El Paso MSA.

Exhibit 4: Upper Rio Grande Region Employment, 2007 to 2017
Area Number of Jobs, 2017 Change in Jobs from 2007 Percent Change
El Paso MSA 302,036 34,646 13.0%
Upper Rio Grande Region 309,831 33,403 12.1%
Texas 12,011,078 1,779,177 17.4%
United States 143,860,846 8,495,037 6.3%

Note: The above figures include private and public sector employees with the exception of active duty military personnel, railroad employees, religious institution employees and the self-employed.

Sources: JobsEQ and Bureau of Labor Statistics


The average wage in the Upper Rio Grande Region was $37,966 in 2017, well below the state and national averages (Exhibit 5). Adjusted for inflation, individual wages in the region increased nearly 3 percent during this period.

Exhibit 5: Upper Rio Grande Region Wage Trends, 2007 to 2017
Area Average Wage, 2017 Change in Wages from 2007 Nominal Rate of Change, 2007 to 2017 Real Rate of Change,* 2007 to 2017
El Paso MSA $37,920 $6,554 20.9% 2.3%
Upper Rio Grande Region $37,966 $6,720 21.5% 2.8%
Texas $55,801 $11,106 24.9% 5.6%
United States $55,375 $10,917 24.6% 5.4%

* The constant or “real” rate adjusts average wages for the effects of inflation in the value of a particular base year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices in 2017 are 18.22 percent higher than prices in 2007.

Sources: JobsEQ and Bureau of Labor Statistics


Industry Concentration

Exhibit 6 lists the Upper Rio Grande Region industry subsectors most highly concentrated according to location quotient (LQ) — a measure of how concentrated an industry is in the region relative to the nation — and by share of total state jobs in each subsector. Industries are described according to the federal government’s North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which is used by federal statistical agencies to classify business establishments.

The Upper Rio Grande Region’s most highly concentrated industries involve manufacturing and public safety. The region’s third most highly concentrated industry subsector – justice, public order and safety activities – has real individual wages rising almost 13 percent from 2007-2017.

Exhibit 6: Upper Rio Grande Region’s Most Highly Concentrated Industries, 2007 to 2017
Industry Description (NAICS1) Job Concentration Job Trends Wage Trends
Location Quotient2 Share of State's Jobs Number of Jobs Change, 2007 to 2017 Average Wage Nominal Rate3 of Change Real Rate3 of Change, 2007 to 2017
Leather and Allied Product Manufacturing (316) 13.17 18.8% 805 -11.7% $29,618 4.1% -12.0%
Apparel Manufacturing (315) 4.44 22.0% 1,158 -14.2% $33,877 6.6% -9.8%
Justice, Public Order and Safety Activities (922) 2.57 4.7% 10,553 7.1% $80,711 33.5% 12.9%
Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing (324) 2.57 2.7% 629 56.7% $114,645 -25.9% -37.3%
Truck Transportation (484) 2.49 5.6% 7,847 14.8% $41,431 13.5% -4.0%
Museums, Historical Sites and Similar Institutions (712) 1.96 3.4% 1,054 41.3% $33,588 11.2% -6.0%
Primary Metal Manufacturing (331) 1.68 6.9% 1,346 -4.7% $56,288 26.2% 6.8%
Administration of Housing Programs, Urban Planning and Community Development (925) 1.66 6.0% 334 112.2% $44,780 16.4% -1.5%
Electronics and Appliance Stores (443) 1.63 3.9% 1,777 68.2% $35,377 71.4% 45.0%
Clothing and Clothing Accessories Stores (448) 1.60 3.8% 4,804 3.5% $15,626 8.4% -8.3%
Upper Rio Grande Region - 2.6% 309,831 12.1% $37,966 21.5% 2.8%

Note: The figures above include private and public sector employees with the exception of active duty military personnel, railroad employees, religious institution employees and the self-employed.

  1. NAICS codes are the standard used by federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy.
  2. The higher the location quotient, the more concentrated the industry subsector is in the region compared to nation.
  3. The constant or “real” rate adjusts average wages for the effects of inflation in the value of a particular base year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices in 2017 were 18.22 percent higher than prices in 2007.

Sources: JobsEQ and Bureau of Labor Statistics


Education

A strong educational foundation is the cornerstone for growth and competitiveness in the global economy. As the Texas economy diversifies, becoming more knowledge based, a well-educated workforce offers possibilities for workplace advancement and prospects for business expansion.

In 2016, 85.9 percent of the Upper Rio Grande Region’s class of public high school students graduated, lower than the state rate of 89.1 percent (Exhibit 7). Despite increasing almost 5 percent since 2010, the region’s high school graduation rate has remained consistently lower than the statewide rate.

Many high school graduates enroll in postsecondary programs, offering greater job prospects and the possibility of earning higher wages. Residents of the Upper Rio Grande Region enjoy a variety of options for higher educational achievement (Exhibit 8).

Exhibit 7: Upper Rio Grande Region and Texas Public High School Graduation Rates, 2010 to 2016
Year Upper Rio Grande Region Texas
2010 81.0% 84.3%
2011 82.4% 85.9%
2012 84.3% 87.7%
2013 83.9% 88.0%
2014 83.6% 88.3%
2015 84.4% 89.0%
2016 85.9% 89.1%

Source: Texas Education Agency


Exhibit 8: Upper Rio Grande Region Institutions of Higher Education, 2017

Universities

  • Sul Ross State University
  • The University of Texas at El Paso

Junior and Community Colleges

  • El Paso Community College District

Health Science Schools

  • Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center - El Paso

Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Regional Economy

The Comptroller's office has analyzed data pertaining to the Upper Rio Grande Region, examining the region’s dynamics and competitiveness.

Sales Tax Revenue

Sales receipts subject to state sales tax directly attributed to the Upper Rio Grande Region trended upward in the past decade (Exhibit 9), with consistently positive movement since the 2009 recession (trend lines depict trends in data, either upward, downward or flat, over an extended period of time). This region reached its pre-recession number fastest, and 2017 receipts indicate that this steady climb is continuing. For 2017, receipts subject to state sales tax directly attributable to businesses in the Upper Rio Grande Region approached $7.8 billion, contributing about 1.6 percent to the state’s overall sales tax revenue collections. The El Paso MSA directly accounted for $7.6 billion of this total.

A review of two-digit NAICS codes allows for a broad analysis of industry sectors within the region. The retail trade and the food services and accommodation sectors contributed most to taxable sales, with the two accounting for more than 84 percent of the region’s state sales tax collections. Another industry of note is the utilities sector, accounting for 4 percent of the region’s reported sales tax contributions.

Exhibit 9: Revenue Subject to Sales Tax, 2007 to 2017
Year Upper Rio Grande Region
2007 $6,009,324,227
2008 $6,114,500,773
2009 $5,908,965,400
2010 $6,230,045,104
2011 $6,429,204,261
2012 $6,678,408,895
2013 $6,935,699,064
2014 $7,227,787,382
2015 $7,484,966,828
2016 $7,615,047,345
2017 $7,791,072,923

Note: Numbers shown are for reported revenue subject to sales tax and directly attributed to the region.

Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts


U.S. Military Installation Impact

Texas has 13 U.S. military installations within its borders. In 2017, these bases directly employed more than 224,000 and supported nearly 625,000 jobs. The U.S. military installations in Texas contributed about $62.3 billion to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Military installations in the Upper Rio Grande Region have a positive impact on the Texas economy, supporting an estimated 136,000 jobs and contributing about $14.2 billion to the state’s GDP (Exhibit 10).

Exhibit 10: Estimated U.S. Military Impact on the Upper Rio Grande Region, 2017
Region Total Jobs Supported U.S. Military Contribution to State GDP
State of Texas 624,690 $62.3 billion
Upper Rio Grande 136,395 $14.2 billion

Sources: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, TMPC, REMI


Upper Rio Grande Region vs. the U.S.

Based on data from the World Bank and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, if Texas were a nation, it would rank as the world’s 10th largest economy in terms of GDP. Exhibit 11 shows how the Upper Rio Grande Region ranks with other states and the nation on a number of demographic and economic measures. For example, the region would be the 42nd largest state in terms of land mass (square miles) and have the 47th largest population.

Exhibit 11: Upper Rio Grande Region Compared to the U.S.
Measure Upper Rio Grande Region Rank if Region
was a State
Texas State Rank U.S.
Population 865,822 47 28,304,596 2 325,719,178
Population age 25+ with at least a high school diploma 76.3% 51 82.4% 49 87.0%
Population age 25+ with Bachelor’s degree or higher 21.8% 48 28.1% 29 30.3%
Population under 18 years 27.3% 2 26.0% 2 22.6%
Population 65 years and older 12.2% 49 12.3% 48 15.7%
Age dependency ratio* 65.5% 38 62.1% 20 61.9%
Per capita income $33,117 51 $46,204 25 $49,204
Unemployment rate 4.6% 35 4.3% 26 4.4%

* The age dependency ratio is the share of dependent-age persons compared to the working-age population minus the sum of those under 18 years and 65 and older divided by the population age 18 to 64. In other words, for every 100 working-age people in Texas there are about 62 dependent-age people.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis


Conclusion

The Upper Rio Grande Region is predominantly rural with a strong urban core and a steady, consistent economy. El Paso County, with El Paso at its center, is the economic hub of the region.

As this report notes, the region and its six counties have many economic variables and challenges that are unique. El Paso County is home to 97 percent of the region’s population, which is significantly younger than the statewide average age. However, this is offset by the less populated counties, whose populations are all significantly older than the rest of the state. Of the region’s households, 58 percent have average incomes less than $50,000.

Over the past decade, this region’s economy has been the most consistent with a gradual yet continuously positive trajectory. There has been solid job and wage growth at rates slightly below the state averages. While the region’s most highly concentrated industries primarily revolve around manufacturing and public safety, the U.S. military base at Fort Bliss has played a key role in keeping the region’s economy robust.


Questions?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material on this page, please contact the Comptroller's Data Analysis and Transparency Division.

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