Southern Arizona Communities Snapshot 2021

Beatriz Del Campo-Carmona, Research Economist

Pinpoint Shadow  Snapshot Report for Southern Arizona Cities, Towns, and Census-Designated Places

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 2021, the city of Tucson was the largest Southern Arizona community with a population of 538,167, reflecting a population growth of 10.6% since the year 2000 (see Figure 5). The next four Southern Arizona communities were significantly smaller with populations between 50,000 and 96,000 residents. These communities include the city of Yuma (95,154), census-designated place Casas Adobes (70,224), and the cities of Maricopa (57,075) and Casa Grande (53,488). The Morenci CDP had the smallest population with 1,307 residents, followed by the town of Hurley, NM with 1,650 residents. Median age varied from place to place, with the town of Clifton posting the lowest median age at 30.3 years and the Green Valley CDP posting the highest at 73.0 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 (2021)

How are we doing?

In 2021, the poverty rate for the U.S. was 12.6%. There were 15 Southern Arizona communities that had poverty rates below the U.S. rate. The lowest rates were posted by the census-designated places Corona de Tucson (2.2%), Tanque Verde (2.6%), Vail (3.3%), and Catalina Foothills (4.1%). The city of South Tucson had the highest poverty rate of the 41 communities in Southern Arizona at 35.6%. Figure 1 illustrates these poverty rates as well as those for the other communities.

Figure 1. Southern Arizona Communities Poverty Rate (2021)

The Vail CDP had the highest median household income at $107,470 in 2021, followed closely by the Tanque Verde CDP at $107,358. 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 $31,907. The city of Nogales followed with $31,997. Figure 2 highlights median household income by place.

Despite posting a low poverty rate in 2021, the Green Valley CDP had a low median household income at $54,262 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 feature on Income and Earnings takes a closer look at this concept and at median household income in other Southern Arizona communities.

Figure 2. Southern Arizona Communities Median Household Income (2021)

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 four-year college attainment rate. During 2021, the Catalina Foothills CDP had the highest percentage of those who were 25 years and older with a bachelor’s degree or better at 69.2%. The Tanque Verde CDP was second at 57.2%, 12.0 percentage points behind Catalina Foothills, but nearly double the state of Arizona which had a four-year college attainment rate of 31.2%. The city of Willcox posted the lowest percentage of those with a bachelor’s degree or better that were 25 years and older at 6.7%.

Figure 3. Southern Arizona Communities Four-Year College Attainment Rate (2021)

Enrollment in a quality early education program is often thought of as a precursor to later success in school. Early education enrollment for the U.S. in 2021 was 45.9%, significantly higher than the state of Arizona’s figure of 36.3%. Of the 41 communities in Southern Arizona where early education data is available, 13 communities had enrollment rates higher than the state of Arizona’s rate, the highest of which was the Flowing Wells CDP with 64.3%. The town of Florence had the lowest percentage of three-to-four-year-olds enrolled in early education with 19.2%. There is limited data available for smaller communities, due to large margins of error within the data. To view the data available, click on the geography names. Early education enrollment for each Southern Arizona community is illustrated in Figure 4. 

Figure 4. Southern Arizona Communities Early Education Enrollment (2021)


What are the key trends?

The percent change in population between 2000 and 2021 for the 41 Southern Arizona communities is provided in Figure 5. There were 20 Southern Arizona communities out of the 41 that posted population growth rates surpassing the U.S. rate of 17.2% between 2000 and 2021. The city of Maricopa posted a remarkable increase in population at 5,388.0%, 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 1084.1% and 934.1% respectively. Twelve communities decreased in total population between 2000 and 2021. The Morenci CDP posted the largest loss in population at 30.4%, followed by the Ajo CDP at 20.5%. Among New Mexico geographies, only Hurley saw population increases. The remaining communities with population losses were the census-designated places the Catalina Foothills, Catalina and Tanque Verde, and the cities of 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 - 2021)

How is it measured?

All data provided for the 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 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).