May 172011

Between 2000 and 2010, Mexico’s population grew over 15% from 97.362 million to 112.337 million. While this is less than the 20% growth experienced between 1990 and 2000, it is still relatively fast. Will Mexico’s population ever stop growing? To answer such questions, demographers make population projections based on rates of births, deaths and net migration.

The most recent official population projection available from the Mexican Government’s CONAPO (Spanish acronym for National Population Commission) website estimates the Mexican population from 1990 to 2050. It estimates that the population will peak at 130.3 million in 2044 and decline gradually thereafter. 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.

In an attempt to get a better handle on Mexico’s future population dynamics until 2050, we conducted a simplified update of the CONAPO projections by using the 2010 census figures, more current net migration figures and adjusted natural population growth rates. Given the uncertain future of job opportunities in the USA for Mexican immigrants, we make the very simple assumption that net immigration from Mexico in the future will remain at 203,000 per year, the most recent figure available. (Pew Hispanic Center, “Mexican Immigrants: How Many Come? How Many Leave?” July 22, 2009, Washington, D.C.) The Pew numbers are limited to net Mexican migration to the USA, but that migration stream represents almost all Mexican migrants.

To obtain the correct 2010 census figure, the CONAPO values for natural population increase need to be upped by about 10%, an increase of only 0.122 percentage points in 2011 (from 1.222% to 1.344%), and progressively less in subsequent years. Using these two adjustments, we estimate that Mexico’s population will peak at 140.5 million in 2047. This is more than ten million more than the original CONAPO projection on 130.3 million.

With higher net emigration, the population peak will be lower and arrive earlier. For example, if net migration is set at 360,000 per year (the average for 2011 through 2050 used in the CONAPO projection, and about 66% of the net migration in 2005 before the recession), the population will peak at 134.5 million in 2043.

Without a doubt, accurate forecasts of net migration are needed for reliable population forecasting. If the CONAPO rate of natural increase is upped by only 5%, (instead of 10%), to 1.283% in 2011, the population will peak at 135.2 million in 2044. The compounding of this change of about one twentieth of one percent results in a change of over five million in Mexico’s eventual peak population.

Until CONAPO, or some other reputable demographic agency, makes a new population projection for Mexico, we can probably safely say only that Mexico’s population will peak at between 135 and 140 million sometime between 2040 and 2050.

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