Arizona suburbs outgrow central cities
Cottonwood passes Camp Verde population; Sedona shrinks
PHOENIX -- The suburbs are where the action -- and the growth -- is.
New figures Thursday from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the areas just outside the state's major cities grew far faster than the long-established communities they surround. In fact, if the trend continues, they could overwhelm them.
Consider the case of Prescott Valley. The area was not even a city until 1978.
As of last April 1, when the government did its official decennial count, there are 38,822 people living there, 60 percent more than at the time of the 2000 census.
By contrast, Prescott, one of Arizona's first cities, exceeds Prescott Valley now by barely more than 1,000.
In the southern part of the state, Sahuarita, incorporated in 1994, has ballooned in the last decade by a factor of close to six, to 25,259.
And Tucson? It managed less than a 7 percent growth in the entire decade, with its official population now at 520,116.
The pattern also shows that the farther out you go from the central cities, the faster the growth.
In the East Valley area of Maricopa County, Chandler, for example, grew by about a third. Gilbert shot up by 83 percent. And Queen Creek ballooned from 4,400 in 2000 to more than 26,000 now.
That is not surprising as there is more available land.
But there may be limits in how far people whose jobs still are likely in the major cities are willing to drive: Florence, further down the road from those East Valley cities, managed to grow by only 47 percent during that same period.
Census numbers released last December said there were 6,392,017 people living in Arizona last April 1. That does not include another 20,683 people who are considered Arizona residents but living overseas.
That final statewide tally also showed that the annual estimates done by the federal government overstated the population increase.
The City of Cottonwood bypassed the population of the Town of Camp Verde during the last 10 years, growing to 11,265, a rate of 21.6 percent. (Unincorporated outlying areas such as the Verde Villages and Bridgeport do not count toward Cottonwood's population). Camp Verde's growth was at 15 percent, with a 2010 population of 10,873.
Clarkdale's census showed 4,097, gaining 726 people, a growth rate of 21.5 percent during the decade. Jerome picked up 115 people for a total of 444. However, Sedona registered a population loss of 161 people.
By comparison, Flagstaff's head count is 65,870, up 24.5 percent compared to 2000. Prescott's population is listed as 39,843, an increase of just 17 percent.
The figures released Thursday provide the first look not only at where and how Arizona grew but also the change in the state's overall demographics.
Arizona is nowhere close to becoming a "majority minority' state. Hispanics still make up less than 30 percent of the population.
But the Census Bureau reports that the growth in the number of those who identify themselves as Hispanic is close to three times that of other groups.
Looking at the population by race, the figures show that more Arizonans are refusing to put themselves into a single category.
While the percentage who say they are of two or more races is still small -- just 3.4 percent -- that is up by 49 percent from the same time a decade earlier.
A total of 73 percent of Arizonans list themselves as being white alone. Another 4.6 percent said they are American Indian, 4.1 percent are blacks, 2.8 percent Asians -- and 11.9 percent who said on their census forms they were some other race.
The new figures have political implications.
Arizona is made up of 30 legislative districts all of which are supposed to be relatively equal population. But the data shows there have been major changes since those lines were drawn in 2000.
Looking at county-by-county figures, those new lines are likely to mean more legislative representation for the residents of Maricopa and Pinal counties, both of which grew far faster than the statewide average. Northwest Arizona also showed fast growth in Mohave and Yavapai counties.
The loser in all of this could be Southern Arizona, with Pima County's decade-over-decade growth just 16.2 percent. And Greenlee County actually lost population.
Less clear is how the growth patterns will affect congressional representation.
The statewide numbers announced last December were large enough to entitle Arizona to a ninth member in the U.S. House of Representatives. Here, too, the requirement of the Independent Redistricting Commission is to craft districts with equal population.
A decade ago the redistricting commission managed to draw a map that virtually assured there would be two members of Congress from the Tucson area. But given the below-average growth in the area -- and the huge population gains elsewhere -- it may be impossible to draw two congressional districts that each have a center of population in or around Tucson.