In 2020, the poverty rate varied substantially for communities located in Southern Arizona. Of the 41 Southern Arizona communities explored, 16 reported poverty rates below the U.S. rate of 12.8%, while 25 reported poverty rates in excess of the national average. The Tanque Verde CDP posted the lowest rate at 2.8% while the city of South Tucson posted the highest at 38.6%.
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 from 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 15.9% in 2020 which placed it 20th among the 41 communities or last in Figure 1a, while Yuma city with a poverty rate of 16.7% was 21st among the 41 communities but placed first in Figure 1b.
In 2020, the Tanque Verde CDP posted the lowest poverty rate at 2.8% followed by the Corona de Tucson and Vail CDPs at 2.9% and 4.1%, respectively. Other communities with low poverty rates included Morenci, (4.7%) Catalina Foothills (4.8%), and Green Valley CDPs (5.6%).
Figure 1a: Poverty Rate (2020)
On the other hand, of the 25 communities with poverty rates exceeding the U.S. average, the city of South Tucson reported the highest rate at 38.6%. The cities of Douglas, Nogales, and Eloy, all reported poverty rates between 28.2% and 29.0%, nearly 10 percentage points lower than the city of South Tucson.
Figure 1b: Poverty Rate (2020)
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 2020, the poverty rate for children under 18 was higher than the U.S. rate of 17.5% for 24 Southern Arizona communities. The town of Silver City, NM reported the highest rate with 52.3% of children under 18 living in poverty. The city of Eloy followed with a rate of 48.7%. Of the 41 communities, 12 posted poverty rates below the U.S. rate. Of those 12, the Tanque Verde CDP posted the lowest rate at 2.0%, followed by the Catalina Foothills CDP at 5.7%.
The poverty rate for children under five was slightly higher 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 19.1%, while the state of Arizona posted a higher rate at 21.6%. Of the communities examined, the city of South Tucson posted the highest poverty rate for children under five at 69.1%, while the city of Maricopa posted the lowest at 6.2%
The average poverty rate for the working-age population (18-64 years old) for all 41 communities was 15.9% in 2020. The highest poverty rate was posted by the city of South Tucson (38.9%), and the lowest by the Tanque Verde CDP (3.0%), for a difference of 35.9 percentage points. The city of Nogales posted the highest poverty rate (28.3%) for the population 65 years and older. Figure 2 illustrates the poverty rate by age.
Figure 2: Poverty Rate for Children (2020)
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 2.1 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 16.8 percentage points higher. The Drexel Heights CDP had the second-largest difference at 9.2 percentage points. On average, across the 41 communities, the poverty rate was 15.1% for males and 17.8% for females. Figure 3 explores the differences in poverty rates by gender.
Figure 3: Poverty Rate by Gender (2020)
In 2020, 30 communities reported poverty rates that were higher for the Hispanic and Latino population than for the white, non-Hispanic population. The city of Nogales reported a rate that was 17.4 percentage points higher for the Hispanic and Latino population. Maricopa city and the town of Marana reported the smallest difference with a rate that was 1.2 percentage points higher for the Hispanic and Latino population. Many of the 41 communities reported differences resembling those of 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 (2020)
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-couple households. The city of Eloy posted the highest poverty rate for families with children under five at 56.5%, which outpaced the state (14.0%) and the U.S. (13.5%). 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 (42.1%) and the Drexel Heights CDP (40.5%). The town of Marana had the lowest rate at 4.4%. 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 Casas Adobes CDP had the lowest poverty rate for female-headed households with children under five at 23.0%, followed by the city of Tucson (38.4%). The city of Yuma posted the highest rate at 61.8% for female-headed households with children under five in 2020. To explore the vast differences among family types with children under 18 see Figure 5.
Figure 5: Poverty Rate by Family Type (2020)
What are the key trends?
The poverty rate decreased in 11 of the 41 communities between 2000 and 2015, and in 31 of the 41 communities between 2015 and 2020. Of the 11 communities that saw a decrease in poverty between 2000 and 2015, only eight (the towns of Clifton, Marana, and Thatcher and the cities of Douglas, Nogales, San Luis, Maricopa, and Willcox) continued to decrease through 2020, whereas the remaining three saw an increase in poverty. During the 2015 to 2020 timeframe, the Ajo CDP posted the largest decline in the poverty rate falling from 33.6% to 12.9%. The city of Maricopa, 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 (15.9%) among the 41 communities between 2000 and 2020.
The town of Miami reported a substantial increase in the poverty rate between 2015 and 2020 with a rise of over 14.3 percentage points. The poverty rate for the state of Arizona and the nation decreased by 4.1% and 2.7%, respectively, during this time period (2015-2020).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.