Southern Arizona Communities Snapshot 2020

Beatriz Del Campo-Carmona, Research Economist

The Southern Arizona communities snapshot provides an overview of how the 41 largest cities, towns, and census-designated places (CDP) within Cochise, Pima, Pinal, Greenlee, Graham, Santa Cruz, and Yuma counties are performing. Due to the importance of mining in Greenlee County, we also include three nearby communities in New Mexico. Hereafter, when discussing multiple cities, towns, or census-designated places, the general term communities will be used. Select measures from MAP’s core indicators were chosen to illustrate the most recent year of data available for the Southern Arizona communities. Special features providing greater detail on select indicators will be published on the MAP Dashboard throughout the year. For example, upcoming special features may include the poverty rate explored by race, family type, and age. You can find these special features in the MAP library under the Southern Arizona Communities category

In 2020, the city of Tucson was the largest Southern Arizona community with a population of 545,340, reflecting a population growth of 12.0% since the year 2000 (see Figure 5). The next four Southern Arizona communities were significantly smaller with populations between 50,000 and 98,000 residents. These communities include the city of Yuma (97,428), census designated places Casas Adobes (70,516) and Catalina Foothills (50,631), and the city of Casa Grande (57,318). The town of Hurley had the smallest population with 1,393 residents, followed by the Morenci CDP with 1,494 residents. Median age varied from place to place, with the city of Somerton posting the lowest median age at 27.6 years and the Green Valley CDP posting the highest at 72.9 years. Green Valley is unique in the sense that it is a retirement community with a median age that is 35.0 years higher than the median age for the state of Arizona. Table 1 displays the population and median age for each Southern Arizona community.

Table 1: Southern Arizona Communities Population and Median Age (2020)

How are we doing?

In 2020, the poverty rate for the U.S. was 12.8%. There were 16 Southern Arizona communities that had poverty rates below the U.S. rate. The lowest rates were posted by the census designated places Tanque Verde (2.8%), Corona de Tucson (2.9%), Vail (4.1%), and Morenci (4.7%). The city of South Tucson had the highest poverty rate of the 41 communities in Southern Arizona at 38.6%. Figure 1 illustrates these poverty rates as well as those for the other communities.

Figure 1. Southern Arizona Communities Poverty Rate (2020)

Despite posting a low poverty rate in 2020, the Green Valley CDP had a low median household income at $50,511 when compared to the state and the nation. There is often a direct correlation between median household income and the poverty rate, as median household income increases the poverty rate decreases. Green Valley is unique to many of the other communities in Southern Arizona as it has a low median household income and a low poverty rate. The median age of the community may explain the low levels of poverty coupled with a median household income that is below the average. Retirement and social security play a role in Green Valley’s low median income as well. A recent feature on Income and Earnings takes a closer look at this concept and at median household income in other Southern Arizona communities.

The Vail CDP had the highest median household income at $103,051 in 2020, followed by the Tanque Verde CDP at $101,520. Just as the city of South Tucson had the highest poverty rate of the 41 communities, it also posted the lowest median household income at $28,704. The city of Nogales followed with $29,043. Figure 2 highlights median household income by place.

Figure 2. Southern Arizona Communities Median Household Income (2020)

An educated workforce is a key component for strong economic growth. Local areas with a high concentration of educated workers tend to generate faster long-run income, population, and job growth. Figure 3 explores each Southern Arizona community’s college attainment rate. During 2020, the Catalina Foothills CDP had the highest percentage of those who were 25 years and older with a bachelor’s degree or better at 68.9%. The Tanque Verde CDP and the town of Oro Valley were both second at 55.4%, more than 13.5 percentage points behind Catalina Foothills, but nearly double the state of Arizona which had a college attainment rate of 30.3%. The cities of South Tucson and Willcox posted the lowest percentage of those with a bachelor’s degree or better that were 25 years and older at 7.9%.

Figure 3. Southern Arizona Communities College Attainment Rate (2020)

Enrollment in a quality early education program is often thought of as a precursor to later success in school. The Vail CDP had the highest percentage of three-to-four year olds enrolled in early education with 74.0% and the Catalina Foothills CDP was second with 62.7%. Early education enrollment for the U.S. in 2020 was 47.3%, significantly higher than the state of Arizona’s figure of 37.6%. Out of 41 communities in Southern Arizona, 15 had early education enrollment rates less than the state of Arizona’s rate, the lowest of which being the city of Eloy with 17.7%. The town of Sahuarita followed with 21.7% of three-to-four year olds enrolled in an early education program. Early education enrollment for each Southern Arizona community is illustrated in Figure 4. . 

Figure 4. Southern Arizona Communities Early Education Enrollment (2020)


What are the key trends?

The percent change in population between 2000 and 2020 for the 41 Southern Arizona communities is provided in Figure 5. There were 19 Southern Arizona communities out of the 41 that posted population growth rates surpassing the U.S. rate of 16.0% between 2000 and 2020. The city of Maricopa posted a remarkable increase in population at 4,742.1%, by far the fastest increase in population of any of the Southern Arizona communities. The Corona de Tucson CDP and the city of Sahuarita also posted very high population growth rates with 1067.5% and 846.3% respectively. The Vail CDP and the town of Marana, more than tripled their populations, with increases of 467.5% and 247.9% respectively. Fourteen communities decreased in total population between 2000 and 2020. The Ajo CDP posted the largest loss in population at 27.4% and was followed closely by the Morenci CDP at 20.5%. All three New Mexico geographies (Bayard, Hurley, and Silver City) saw population losses. The remaining communities with population losses were the census designated places of Catalina Foothills, Catalina and Tanque Verde, the towns of Duncan and Miami, and the cities of Bisbee, Willcox, Nogales, and Globe. Decreases in population for several of the places explored here were due to decreases in natural resources & mining employment. Most Southern Arizona communities, as well as the state of Arizona, posted a substantially larger increase in population over this 20-year period than did the U.S.

Figure 5. Southern Arizona Communities Population Growth Rate (2000 - 2020)

How is it measured?

All data provided for the 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 on demographic, social, housing, and economic measures. Data is only available as five-year estimate for populations smaller than 20,000. In order to compare the Southern Arizona places with the state of Arizona and the U.S. all data provided in this analysis utilized five-year estimates. Note that the ACS five-year estimates are produced over a five year time period and can only be compared to non-overlapping five-year estimates (for example: 2005-2009 and 2010-2014).