May 122011

Making population projections is risky business. Birth and death rate trends can change unexpectedly. Perhaps more difficult to forecast accurately, in Mexico’s case, are international migration rates. The most recent official population projection available from the Mexican Government’s CONAPO (Spanish acronym for National Population Commission) website estimates that the Mexican population will peak at 130.3 million in 2044, before declining gradually thereafter. However, this projection is many years old, and does not incorporate the data from the 2010 Mexican census, nor the impact on immigration of the employment recession in the USA.

CONAPO projected that Mexico’s total population in 2010 would be only 110,619,340, about 1.7 million fewer than the 2010 census figure of 112,336,538. Their estimate for net migration for 2005 to 2009 was 2,012,904, which is quite close to the more recent Pew Hispanic Center figure of 2,036,000 (“Mexican Immigrants: How Many Come? How Many Leave?” July 22, 2009). The Pew numbers are limited to net Mexican migration to the USA, but that migration stream represents almost all Mexican migrants.

However, the two sources have very different values for individual years. The CONAPO net migration projection gradually increased from 400,000 in 2005 to 405,000 in 2009, peaking at 406,000 in 2011 and gradually declining to 303,000 in 2050. The more current Pew estimates reached 547,000 in 2006-2007, before declining to 374,000 for 2007-2008 and only 203,000 for 2009-2009. Current evidence and continued lack of real job opportunities for Mexicans in the USA suggests that net migration has stayed at about this level for the past few years.

The CONAPO projection forecasts that the Mexican rate of natural population increase would decline gradually from 1.39% per year in 2005 to 0.06% per year in 2050. The average of the values they used for 2005 to 2010 was 1.313% per year. Using the actual 2010 census figure and the Pew migration numbers, we calculate that the actual average rate of natural increase for 2005 to 2010 was 1.443%. This suggests that the actual rates of natural increase were about 10% higher than the values used in the CONAPO projection. Apparently, birth rates in Mexico did not decline as fast as expected by CONAPO, consequently their estimate of Mexico’s 2010 population was significantly less than the census figure.

In a later post, we will attempt to update the existing CONAPO projection using the 2010 census figure, more recent net migration values and adjusted natural increase rates.

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