In 2019, the poverty rate varied substantially for communities located in Southern Arizona. Of the 41 Southern Arizona communities explored, 14 reported poverty rates below the U.S. rate of 13.4%, while 27 reported poverty rates in excess of the national average. The Corona de Tucson CDP posted the lowest rate at 2.3% while the city of South Tucson posted the highest at 43.7%.
Hereafter, when discussing multiple cities, towns, or census-designated places (CDP) the general term communities will be used. This article explores 41 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.
The 41 communities explored are broken into two graphs to illustrate the poverty rate. Figure 1a includes the top 20 communities ranked lowest to highest. The remaining 21 communities are included in Figure 1b, also ranked lowest to highest. For example, Globe city had a poverty rate of 15.8% in 2019 which placed it 20th among the 41 communities or last in Figure 1a, while Drexel Heights CDP with a poverty rate of 17.6% was 21st among the 41 communities but placed first in Figure 1b.
In 2019, the Corona de Tucson CDP posted the lowest poverty rate at 2.3% followed by the Tanque Verde and Morenci CDPs at 3.2% and 3.9%, respectively. Other communities with low poverty rates included Vail, (4.9%) Catalina Foothills (5.8%), and Green Valley CDPs (5.9%), and the towns of Oro Valley (6.1%) and Marana (6.3%).
Figure 1a: Poverty Rate (2019)
On the other hand, of the 27 communities with poverty rates exceeding the U.S. average, the city of South Tucson reported the highest rate at 43.7%. The town of Miami, and the cities of Douglas, Nogales, and Eloy, all reported poverty rates between 29.1% and 30.9%, nearly 14 percentage points lower than the city of South Tucson.
Figure 1b: Poverty Rate (2019)
Why is it important?
The poverty rate is an important indicator of financial distress among households. Families whose income is near or below the poverty level have difficulty accessing necessities such as housing, food, and healthcare. Local poverty rates are also important drivers of government decisions related to spending on programs such as affordable housing, free and reduced school lunches, and other forms of public assistance. Further, poverty rates have been linked to undesirable social outcomes, reduced regional homeownership rates, as well as a decreased likelihood of attending college
How do we compare?
In 2019, the poverty rate for children under 18 was higher than the U.S. rate of 18.5% for 28 Southern Arizona communities. The city of South Tucson reported the highest rate with 58.8% of children under 18 living in poverty. The city of Eloy followed with a rate of 53.6%. Of the 41 communities, 11 posted poverty rates below the U.S. rate. Of those 11, the Tanque Verde CDP posted the lowest rate at 1.7%, followed by the Vail CDP at 4.3%.
The poverty rate for children under five increased slightly across many Southern Arizona communities when compared to the rate for children under 18. This was consistent with the state of Arizona and the nation. The national poverty rate for children under five was 20.3%, while the state of Arizona posted a rate slightly higher at 23.6%. Of the communities examined, the city of South Tucson posted the highest poverty rate for children under five at 69.4%, while the town of Oro Valley posted the lowest at 5.2%.
The average poverty rate for the working age population (18-64 years old) for all 41 communities was 24.8% in 2019. The highest poverty rate was posted by the city of South Tucson (41.2%), and the lowest by the Corona de Tucson CDP (3.1%), for a difference of 38.1 percentage points. The city of Somerton posted the highest poverty rate (32.9%) for the population 65 years and older. Figure 2 illustrates the poverty rate by age.
Figure 2: Poverty Rate for Children (2019)
In general, men had a lower poverty rate than women in Southern Arizona. This is consistent with the U.S. and the state of Arizona. Across the state of Arizona, and the U.S., the poverty rate was on average 2.2 percentage points higher for women, a substantial difference. The city of Eloy posted the largest difference when comparing genders, with the poverty rate for women 10.9 percentage points higher. The town of Duncan had the second-largest difference at 9.6 percentage points. On average, across the 41 communities, the poverty rate for males was 16.0% and for females, it was 18.5%. Figure 3 explores the differences in poverty rates by gender.
Figure 3: Poverty Rate by Gender (2019)
In 2019, 30 communities reported poverty rates that were higher for the Hispanic and Latino population than for the white, non-Hispanic population. The town of Florence reported a rate that was 21.3 percentage points higher for the Hispanic and Latino populations. The town of Miami reported the smallest difference with a rate that was 0.4 percentage higher for the Hispanic and Latino populations Many of the 41 communities reported differences similar to the U.S. and the 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 (2019)
Families with children under five 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. The city of Eloy posted the highest poverty rate for families with children under five at 59.7%, which outpaced the state (16.0%) and the U.S. (14.4%). Numerous other communities in Southern Arizona also had a higher poverty rate when compared with Arizona and the U.S., including the city of Nogales (46.2%) and the town of Thatcher (39.6%). The town of Marana had the lowest rate at 7.9%. The poverty rate increased substantially in the communities, the state of Arizona, and the U.S. for female-headed households with children under five and no spouse present. The town of Marana had the lowest poverty rate for female-headed households with children under five at 23.7%, followed by the Casas Adobes CDP (24.3%). The city of Sierra Vista posted the highest rate at 64.6% for female-headed households with children under five in 2019. To explore the vast differences among family types with children under 18 see Figure 5.
Figure 5: Poverty Rate by Family Type (2019)
What are the key trends?
The poverty rate decreased in 11 of the 41 communities between 2000 and 2014, and in 24 of the 41 communities between 2014 and 2019. Of the 11 communities that saw a decrease in poverty between 2000 and 2014, only four of those (the town of Clifton and the cities of Douglas, San Luis and South Tucson) continued to decrease through 2019, whereas the other seven saw an increase in poverty. During the 2014 to 2019 timeframe, the Ajo CDP posted the largest decline in the poverty rate falling from 34.0% to 19.1%. The city of Maricopa which is located in Pinal County just south of the Phoenix city center, has experienced rapid population growth, significant increases in median household income, and the steepest decline in poverty (14.4%) among the 41 communities between 2000 and 2019.
The town of Miami reported a substantial increase in the poverty rate between 2014 and 2019 with a rise of over 11.2 percentage points. The poverty rate for the state of Arizona and the nation decreased by 3.1% and 2.2%, respectively, during this time period (2014-2019). Figure 6 illustrates the trend in poverty rates for Southern Arizona communities.
How is it measured?
All data provided for Southern Arizona communities, the 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 on demographic, social, housing, and economic measures. Data are only available as five-year estimates for populations smaller than 20,000. In order to compare the Southern Arizona communities with the state of Arizona and the U.S. all data provided in this analysis utilized five-year estimates.