New census estimates reveal population declines, shifting demographics in tri-county

TRI-COUNTY – The program that estimates populations across the United States has announced its 2020 numbers, estimating population declines in Presidio and Jeff Davis counties, and a nominal increase in Brewster County over the past 10 years.

Between the official U.S. Census data collection every 10 years, the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program attempts to accurately predict the changing populations across the United States through yearly estimates.

Although the 2020 Census demographics data won’t be announced until later this year, data releases of the 2020 estimates are underway, providing the public with a peek into what the forthcoming official census data might look like.

Once official numbers from the 2020 Census are released, the bureau will use both data sets to figure out how close their estimation calculations got and how to improve estimates for the next 10 years. Until we reach the 2030 Census for Far West Texas, the 2020 estimate data reveals the area has a stagnant to declining population compared to the 2010 Census data collected 10 years ago. While much of Texas’ urban and suburban populations have exploded over the past 10 years – even leading the state to gain two seats in the House of Representatives – the rural areas of West Texas have stagnated or declined this past decade.

The number of people calling Presidio County home declined in the past decade according to estimates, dropping by 1,310 residents, from 7,818 people to an estimated 6,508. The population estimates program suggests Marfa lost 390 residents, leaving the town at a population estimate of 1,591 this year. Meanwhile, Presidio is estimated to have dropped by 656, leaving it with 3,770 residents, and residents living outside of city limits declined from 1,411 to 1,147 residents.

In neighboring Jeff Davis County, the declines continued. The city of Valentine is estimated to have lost 5 residents, while unincorporated areas of the county, including Fort Davis, lost 117 residents since 2010.

Brewster County was the only one of the tri-county to show an increase, and it was slight, growing from 9,232 in 2010 to an estimated 9,237 in 2020, a 5-person increase. Looking into the breakdown by residence, Alpine grew, while the rest of the county shrank. Unincorporated Brewster County, which includes Marathon and Terlingua, is estimated to have lost 126 residents, while the city of Alpine added 131.

The Population Estimates Program accounts for births, deaths and migration to determine its population estimates, and tracks the male and female populations and the racial and ethnic makeup of areas as they change over time. Every county saw women leaving the area, and the same can be said for men, except in Brewster County, where a net influx of 82 men moved into the area over the past decade.

By race and ethnicity, each of the tri-counties saw increases in the American Indian and Asian populations, while Brewster and Presidio counties both grew their Black populations to some degree.

Presidio County, which saw the steepest decline in residents, lost an estimated 337 non-Hispanic white residents and 1,085 Hispanic residents over the course of the 2010s. Jeff Davis County also saw declines across its non-Hispanic white and Hispanic populations, but Brewster County saw a net decrease of 424 non-Hispanic white residents, while gaining 238 Hispanic residents over 10 years.

According to national and state-wide data, the U.S. population grew 7.4% in the official 2020 Census count, and Texas grew 15.9%. While official data that reaches the county and city level won’t be released until at least August, the estimates for the tri-county reveal a .05% population increase for Brewster County, a 5.2% decrease for Jeff Davis County and a 16.8% decline in Presidio County over the past 10 years.