El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico – 1960-1980

Ethnic Makeup and Demographics

By Sharon Cornet

Spring 2007, Urban Anthropology, Dr. Gina Nunez

      El Paso, Texas city                    Star on Franklin Mountain

Demographics include birth rates, mortality (death) rates, marriages, divorces, and other factors.  I used many sources, but mostly the U.S. Census files (online) to compile these charts, beginning with El Paso…

The local Tigua tribe in Ysleta, El Paso is likely covered in the “American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut” category that the U.S. Census had for 1960, 1970, and 1980.  Any other tribal affiliations would have been placed in this section as well.

Note from the information above that the categories for all three decade delineations were separated into “White” and “Black” and based on the Hispanic percentages within these categories (62.5%) it is evident that they had to place themselves as “White.”  These kinds of ethnic identifiers placed limits on how the census was taken, and altered future forms of the U.S. Census.

            Information between 1960 and 1980 was sparse in the areas named in the above chart.  I have included them here wherever the information fell by year.  The difference in poverty rates in 1973 between “Anglos” and “Chicanos” shows a 18.6% difference, with the latter having a higher incidence of poverty.

            As with most of (recent) history, the gender rates are close to 50%, with females being slightly higher at 51.87% (showing that a slightly higher percentage of women live inside the city limits compared to the county).

The table above shows that Black infant mortality rates is almost double for neonatal (compared to Anglo or Spanish Surname), and much lower in the postneonatal category.   Infant mortality rates are also highest among Blacks, at a whopping 41.5% between 1970-1972.

            Transportation for those who worked within El Paso county, and outside of the county are shown.  Automobiles were used as the primary source of transportation, while railroad, subway were used the least.   More people walked to work than rode on buses or streetcars.

            Languages spoken in El Paso in 1980 show more than just linguistic preferences; it also most certainly applies to and points to associative households and ethnic minority populations within the El Paso area.  Where Spanish obviously is spoken more than English, both of them are the dominant languages during this time.  German (likely due to military and Ft. Bliss?) and “Other specified language” (not named) fall in line after that.  All other languages (named and unspecified) are fairly rare.

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

            Having covered a few of the basics within El Paso, and not being done with that section, I decided to go ahead and cover some demographics and statistics for El Paso’s sister city across the Rio Grande, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

            Minimum wage in 1970, 1975, and 1980 are given (in pesos) for both urban and rural areas.  Note that the general minimum wage shown is in smaller increments than the urban and rural amounts.   This is because the sources 27-37 years ago were not as ideally accurate as they are today.  The information for the general minimum wage is from an alternate data source.   Unemployment rates were actually fairly low (we also don’t know about accuracy levels in this area as well).

            Employment in Maquiladoras during 1975-1980 were about one-third of the Juarez population.  Commuters holding green cards in 1969 were early 14,000 in number.  In the chart that you will see soon (below) it shows the 1970 Juarez population at 407,370.  This would put green card holders at approximately 3% of the population at that time.


Juarez food stand


            The chart above is a comparison chart for the historic population of both El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.  The years range between 1960 and 1980.  Growth is shown for both cities, although the rates are obviously higher for Juarez, showing a much faster-growing city.  By 1980 there were over 1 million residents living on this bi-national border, all breathing the same air, and obtaining much of their water from the Rio Grande river, which they also shared.   This trend follows on into today (2007).

            Although population information on ethnic diversity is hard to find for Juarez, I was able to locate it for El Paso – being listed as “White” and “Non-White” for 1960 (1970 statistics were not available), and a much wider categorization theme in 1980.  It is clear that the majority of the people in El Paso during this time were from North and Central America, and Mexico.  The second largest were of “European origin” with the third largest group claiming no specific country, so were therefore lumped into that one category of “unknowns.”




Education levels in El Paso are shown in the chart above for people over the age of 24 and by ethnic distribution.  It is quite evident that rates of those who were educated, specifically at the college level, increased between 1970 and 1980 (all ethnic groups).

It is also important to note that high school education rates also increased between 1970 and 1980, although in the “Less than 9 years” and “9-11 years” categories the rates went down.  There is no explanation given as to why this is so.

In the next chart, some changes are apparent (ages 25 and above, although lower ages are shown in this chart too); this chart clarifies that from ages 0-4 (Preschoolers) the education rate goes up between 1970-1980, and 5-8 years it goes down, matching the above chart.  High school rates are shown differently as well… with both slight increases and very slight decreases.   The college level shows an increase, again, however.



In the next chart, the El Paso population by age group is shown (1960-80).

            In Juarez (and a comparison with all border cities in Mexico), the population is shown by state of origin.  This chart is for 1970.

Tarahumara Indian from Mexico

            The last chart on Juarez, Mexico is shown above.  This covers the population growth rates in actual numbers as well as percentages, and shows increasing urban population numbers per hectare (ha/hectare: 10,000 square meters of surface area).  Population density shows a marked decrease, however. 

Note that even though the population rate was decreasing between 1960 to 1980, the per capita water consumption was fluctuating quite a bit.  Pre-1960 there was a 1.03 cmpcy (cubic meters per capita per year) for Juarez, but by 1960 it went down to .78, and .71 in 1970.  In 1980 it jumped up to 1.10 cmpcy.  This may have been due to water lines being placed in peripheral areas and/or new boundary delineations, as well as other unknown factors.

Overall, in both El Paso and Juarez, the sister cities grew in both numbers and size.  The socio-cultural and ethnic gaps also decreased as people from both sides and multiple ethnic groups continued to blend.  Spanglish was becoming popular, and all areas and facets of life were changing to meet the demands of a growing metropolis who shared more than just space on a map, but also shared cultures, air, water, industrialization and education increases, as well as shared values.  Time is on the favorable side of border cities such as these.



U.S. Census. 2005. Table 44. Texas - Race and Hispanic Origin for Selected Large Cities and Other Places: Earliest Census to 1990. U.S.

Howard, Cheryl. 2007. Personal communication (Notes from file labelled Foreign Born and population counts for El Paso, Texas, and copies of Table 82 (Social Characteristics of the Population, For Counties),                and Table 172 (Nativity and Language for Counties), in 1960, and 1980, respectively. "45-826                Texas" General Social and Economic Characteristics (accessed February 21, 2007).

El Paso Texas Government. 2003. El Paso - Juarez Regional Historic Population Summary Development Services Department, Planning Devision. City of El Paso. http://www.elpasotexas.gov/_documents/demographics/El%20Paso%20Ciudad%20Juarez%20Facts/Historical%20Population%20El%20Paso-Ciudad%20Juarez.pdf (accessed February 21, 2007). 

Lorey, David E. 1990. United States-Mexico Border Statistics Since 1900. Los Angeles, California: UCLA Latin American Center Publications.

Salinas, Carlos S. 1989. Statistical Abstract of El Paso, Texas, Diamond Jubilee Issue. Texas: Bureau of Business and Economics Research, College of Business Administration,  the University of Texas at El Paso.

• Southwest Consortium for Environmental Research and Policy (SCERP). 2003. Ciudad Juarez. Van Schoik, D. Rick/SCERP. http://www.scerp.org/bi/BIV/Juarez.pdf pg. 12 (accessed February 21, 2007).

Pena, Sergio, Fuentes, Cesar, and Forster, Craig B. 2000. Border Plus 20 Project. http://www.borderplus20.sdsu.edu/english/publications_norte/dynamic_of_human_environment_interactions/pdf/Chapter%202-6.pdf (accessed March 1, 2007).

• U.S. Census. 1989. Income. U.S. Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/hhes/income/histinc/histincb.html (accessed March 1, 2007).