Wed, April 01

Arizona population swells by 111,000 through June 30
Queen Creek, Buckeye lead statewide surge

PHOENIX -- Arizona gained nearly 111,000 residents in the 12 months ending June 30.

But you'd be wrong to think they spread out pretty evenly among the state's 91 cities.

New figures Thursday from the state Office of Economic Opportunity find Queen Creek and Buckeye the biggest year-over-year gainers, each boosting population by more than 7 percent. Maricopa was not far behind at 5.1 percent with growth exceeding 4 percent in Goodyear, San Luis, Marana and Clarkdale.

That compares with a statewide average of less than 1.6 percent.

The new list also points up some losers in the battle for residents.

At the top -- or, if you will, the bottom -- of that list is Clifton whose loss of 158 residents translates out to a drop of nearly 3.5 percent.

Sierra Vista also shed more than 1,300 residents, a drop of close to 2.9 percent.

In fact, that loss coupled with strong growth elsewhere allowed Prescott Valley, Queen Creek and Oro Valley to leap ahead of Sierra Vista on the population list.

The numbers and the growth rates are more than just bragging rights.

Population figures are used to divide up some forms of state aid. And while that is computed using the Census figures, these annual estimates by the state provide some indication of where the growth is and who will be winners and losers after the official decennial count.

It's not just fiscal power that comes with new residents. So does political power.

Arizona is divided into 30 legislative districts, each of which is supposed to have roughly equal population.

If some areas of the state grow faster than others, the lines have to be redrawn. And areas that don't keep pace with the average population growth will find that they have to share their state senator and two representatives with an ever-larger geographic area.

At the current pace, look for more lawmakers from Maricopa and Pinal counties after the 2021 redistricting -- meaning fewer representing the rest of the state.

Those population figures also are used to determine congressional districts.

But how those lines are drawn will be dependent on how Arizona's population growth overall compares with the rest of the nation as membership in the U.S. House of Representatives is fixed at 435.

The state picked up a ninth congressional seat after the 2010 Census. It likely will get one more after the end of the decade -- and possibly two.

Since there is no actual person-by-person count in off-census years, that requires Jim Chang, the state demographer, to make estimates.

It starts on the county level using various sources depending on the age group.

For example, to determine those younger than age 5 he uses birth and death records. School enrollment becomes the basis for those 5 through 17, with driver's licenses and ID cards used to figure those up through age 64.

For those older than that, there are Social Security and Medicare enrollment records.

At city levels the process becomes a bit more complex, with estimates based largely on new housing units.

And all that is further adjusted with figures about the number of people migrating into and out of each county.

Looking at the growth picture on a longer term, Queen Creek is at the top.

The 2010 figures put total population at 26,448. By June 30 of this year it had more than doubled, with the lion's share of the growth in the Pinal County portion of the community.

Buckeye's population is up by 60 percent since 2010, with a 48.3 percent growth rate in San Luis, 40.7 percent in Marana and 35.9 percent in Goodyear.

On the other side of the equation, the big losers are in Cochise County.

The population of Douglas is down by 4.3 percent, with a 3.4 percent drop in nearby Bisbee, 3.1 percent decline in Tombstone, 3.0 percent in Huachuca City, 2.9 percent in Willcox and 2.2 percent for Sierra Vista. Benson also shed residents in the past decade, but at a rate less than 0.9 percent.

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