Due to New Mexico’s relatively low population of approximately 2 million and top-five ranked land area in the United States with 121,700 square miles, New Mexico is one of the most sparsely populated states in the country. New Mexico became the 47th state in the Union in 1912 following U.S. annexation in 1848 at the end of the Mexican-American War.

New Mexico is known as the “Land of Enchantment” and features many unique natural features such as the White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns, Shiprock, and the Rio Grande Gorge. New Mexico is an important center of Native American culture due in part to the fact that approximately 10 percent of the state’s population consists of members of indigenous tribes.


The federal government, particularly the military, is a major driver of the economy in New Mexico, spending nearly twice as much money in New Mexico than it collects in income tax revenue. Other major economic drivers in New Mexico include oil and gas production and tourism. In 2013, the estimated gross domestic product for the state was $85 billion.

Best Places To Live in New Mexico

With a population of over 500,000, the largest city in New Mexico is Albuquerque. The next most populous city, Las Cruces, is approximately one-fifth the size of Albuquerque. Cities in New Mexico tend to be on the smaller side but have a lot to offer nevertheless. The most desirable cities in the state include the following:

  • Rio Rancho
  • Rio Rancho is a city of 92,966 located across the river from Albuquerque. It ranks as a top-ten medium city statewide for education, crime, and livability. Total crime is 53 percent lower than the statewide average, while the high school graduation rate is 11 percent higher than across New Mexico. The median household income is 13 percent higher than the U.S. average at $62,637.

  • Carlsbad
  • Located in the southeastern corner of the state, Carlsbad is a moderately sized city of 28,079. The cost of living index in Carlsbad is relatively low at 88, while the median household income is higher than both the United States and New Mexico by 5 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Residential property in Carlsbad is very affordable, with a median price of $125,300, and year-over-year crime is down by 12 percent.

  • Los Alamos
  • Los Alamos is located in northern New Mexico and has a population of 11,733. At $101,535 per year, median household income in Los Alamos is very high compared to national and statewide averages, and the crime rate is 75 percent lower than in the U.S. as a whole. Sixty-six percent of the Los Alamos population own their own homes, and 94 percent of students graduate from high school.