Southern Arizona Communities Poverty Report 2017

Katelyn Chamarro, Research Economist

In 2017, the poverty rate varied substantially for communities located in Southern Arizona. This article explores 38 of the largest communities within Cochise, Pima, Pinal, Greenlee, Graham, Santa Cruz, and Yuma counties. Due to the importance of mining in Greenlee County, we also include three nearby communities in New Mexico. For the purpose of this article when discussing multiple cities, towns, or census designated places (CDP) the general term communities will be used.

Several communities reported poverty rates that were significantly below the U.S. rate of 14.6%. The Corona de Tucson CDP posted the lowest rate at 1.8%. The Tanque Verde and Green Valley CDP’s followed with 5.1% and 5.5%, respectively. Other communities with low poverty rates included the towns of Oro Valley (5.8%), Clifton (5.9%), and Sahuarita (6.5%), and the Morenci (5.8%) and Catalina Foothills CDP’s (6.2%). Conversely, more than half of the communities exceeded the U.S. poverty rate. The city of South Tucson reported the highest rate at 46.2%, more than 13 percentage points above the Ajo CDP, with the second highest rate of 32.8%.  Figure 1 highlights the total poverty rate for the 41 communities examined.

Figure 1: Poverty Rate (2017)

Why is it important?

The poverty rate is one measure, among many, that we use to gauge the well-being of a region. It identifies what percentage of a community’s residents may have financial difficulties. Those individuals or families whose income falls near or below the poverty level may have a hard time acquiring basic necessities such as housing, food, and healthcare.

How do we compare?

In 2017, the poverty rate for children under 18 was above the U.S. rate of 20.3% for 24 communities. The city of South Tucson reported the highest rate with 66.6% of children under 18 living in poverty. The town of Duncan followed with a rate of 56.7%. Of the 41 communities, 14 fell below the U.S. poverty rate. Of those 14, the Tanque Verde CDP posted the lowest rate at 3.8%, followed by the town of Clifton at 7.4%. The Catalina Foothills CDP and the town of Oro Valley had poverty rates for children under 18 that were 7.8% and 8.1% respectively. When reviewing these results keep in mind that the estimated poverty rate for very small areas may not be very precise, thus in some cases differences may not be statistically significant. Figure 2 below illustrates the poverty rate for children under 18 and children under five.

Figure 2: Poverty Rate for Children (2017)

In general, men had a lower poverty rate than women in Southern Arizona. This is consistent with what was reported for the U.S. and the state of Arizona. Across the city of Tucson, state of Arizona, and the U.S., the poverty rate was on average two percentage points higher for women, a significant difference. The city of Eloy posted the most substantial difference when comparing genders, with the poverty rate for women 13.7 percentage points higher. The city of Douglas had the second largest difference at 10.4 percentage points. Figure 3 explores the differences in poverty rates by gender.

Figure 3: Poverty Rate by Gender (2017)

In 2017, several communities reported poverty rates that were higher for the Hispanic and Latino population than the white, non-Hispanic population. The poverty rate for Hispanics and Latinos in the Flowing Wells CDP was 34.9%, while white, non-Hispanics reported a rate of 16.0%, an 18.9 percentage point difference. The cities of Maricopa and Somerton and the town of Thatcher reported poverty rates for white, non-Hispanics and those who are Hispanic or Latino that were nearly identical. Many of the 41 communities reported differences similar to the U.S. and state of Arizona. Figure 4 highlights the differences in poverty rates between the white, non-Hispanic population and the Hispanic and Latino population for the Southern Arizona communities.

Figure 4: Poverty Rate by Ethnicity (2017)

Families with children under 18 tend to have higher poverty rates, especially single-headed households, when compared to the overall poverty rate for a region. The exception is married coupled households with children under 18. The city of South Tucson posted the highest poverty rate for families with children under 18 at 58.3%, while the town of Oro Valley had the lowest rate at 4.0%. The poverty rate was substantially higher in all areas for female-headed households with children under 18 and no spouse present. The town of Oro Valley had the lowest poverty rate for female-headed households with children under 18 at 10.0%. All but six communities had poverty rates exceeding 25.0% for female-headed households with children under 18, with the cities of San Luis and South Tucson near 70.0% in 2017. To explore the vast differences among family types with children under 18 see Figure 5.

Figure 5: Poverty Rate by Family Type (2017)

What are the key trends?

The poverty rate decreased in 12 of the 41 communities between 2000 and 2017. The city of Maricopa posted the most significant decrease of 15.3 percentage points, ranging from a poverty rate of 23.4% in 2000 to only 8.1% in 2017. Maricopa is a located in Pinal County, just south of the Phoenix city center, and has experienced rapid population growth as well as increasing median household income over the past decade. The city of Benson reported a substantial rise in the poverty rate during this period with an increase of over 12 percentage points. The town of Duncan and the Ajo CDP followed with an increase of 10.5 percentage points. The poverty rate for the state of Arizona and the nation increased by 3.1% and 2.2%, respectively, during this time-period.  Figure 6 illustrates the trend in poverty rates for Southern Arizona communities.

Figure 6: Poverty Rate Trend

Location   2000 2017   Location 2000 2017   Location 2000 2017
Ajo 22.3% 32.8%   Eloy 31.9% 32.5%   Sahuarita 5.7% 6.5%
Bayard, NM 24.1% 22.7%   Florence 7.0% 14.6%   San Luis 35.8% 27.5%
Benson 13.7% 25.9%   Flowing Wells 17.1% 25.4%   Sierra Vista 10.5% 14.2%
Bisbee 17.5% 26.3%   Globe 11.4% 20.2%   Silver City, NM 21.9% 31.9%
Casa Grande 16.0% 17.9%   Green Valley 3.0% 5.5%   Somerton 26.6% 29.2%
Casas Adobes 5.3% 10.0%   Hurley, NM 15.6% 7.3%   South Tucson 46.5% 46.2%
Catalina 9.7% 9.9%   Marana 6.2% 8.2%   Tanque Verde 2.4% 5.1%
Catalina Foothills 4.3% 6.2%   Maricopa 23.4 8.1%   Thatcher 20.2% 15.8%
Clifton 11.5% 5.9%   Miami 23.6% 28.6%   Tucson 18.4% 24.1%
Coolidge 24.7% 24.2%   Morenci 3.0% 5.8%   Vail 6.3% 8.9%
Corona de Tucson 1.0% 1.8%   Nogales 33.9% 29.4%   Willcox 27.0% 22.7%
Douglas 36.6% 31.9%   Oro Valley 3.1% 5.8%   Yuma 14.7% 16.9%
Drexel Heights 12.1% 19.9%   Picture Rocks 7.5% 13.7%   Arizona 13.9% 17.0%
Duncan 16.5% 27.0%   Safford 17.3% 17.2%   United States 12.4% 14.6%

How is it measured?

All data provided for Southern Arizona communities, state of Arizona, and the U.S. come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is a nationwide rolling-sample survey that produces one and five-year estimates for demographic, social, housing, and economic measures.  Data are only available as five-year estimates for areas with populations smaller than 20,000. In order to compare the Southern Arizona cities, towns, and census designated places with the state of Arizona and the U.S. all data provided in this analysis utilized five-year estimates.