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Arizona’s Demographic Changes

A Look at the State’s Emerging Communities of Color

SOURCE: AP/Matt York

Voters exit and arrive at their polling station in September 2004 in Phoenix to cast their ballot for the Arizona primary.  

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Arizona is experiencing significant demographic shifts, with a population growth of approximately 25 percent from 2000 to 2010. Below are some startling facts about how the emerging communities of color have impacted the political electorate and influenced the local economy.

1. Arizona is at a demographic tipping point. 42.2 percent of the state’s population is nonwhite, and the Hispanic population alone makes up 30 percent of the state’s residents. People of color are already the majority in four other states, and Arizona is one of nine others where people of color make up 40 percent to 50 percent of the population—suggesting that it is on its way to being a minority-majority state.

2. The child population is becoming majority minority. In 2010 Arizona was already one of seven states where the majority of children were children of color, with a high percentage of children of American Indian and Alaska Native decent. In 2008 Arizona had one of the largest racial-generational difference gaps in the country.

3. People of color make up a substantial portion of Arizona’s population. In 2010, 29.6 percent of the population was Hispanic or Latino, 4.1 percent was African American, and 4.6 percent was American Indian or Alaska Native. Asian Americans made up 2.8 percent and 3.4 percent of the population that identified with more than one race. Non-Hispanic whites made up 57.8 percent of the population.

4. Arizona has one of the largest racial demographic gaps in the country. In 2010, 80 percent of American seniors were white while only 54 percent of youth were white. Arizona has one of the top two highest generational gaps in the country. In 2010, 26.3 percent of those aged 5 to 17 in Arizona were Hispanic, and 21.2 percent were African American.

5. Individuals in communities of color face significant economic hurdles. The median income for non-Hispanic whites in Arizona in 2010 was $51,642. The median income for African Americans and Hispanics was roughly 70 percent of that amount. In 2010, 27.5 percent of Hispanic households and 41.8 percent of African American households with children under the age of 5 lived below the poverty line, compared to only 13.5 percent of non-Hispanic white households. In 2010, 63,436 African Americans and 494,637 Latinos in the state lived in poverty. That same year 15.3 percent of African Americans and 27.4 percent of Hispanics in the state lacked health insurance, compared to only 10.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

6. Unemployment hits communities of color harder than non-Hispanic whites. In 2010, 10.4 percent of African Americans, 9.3 percent of Hispanics, and 11.8 percent of mixed-race individuals in Arizona were unemployed, while only 5.8 percent of non-Hispanic whites were unemployed.

7. The electorate of Arizona is changing. In 2000 Hispanic adults made up only 21.3 percent of the state’s population. In 2010 they made up 25 percent. From 2000 to 2010 the state’s Hispanic population increased by 48.4 percent. In 2010 Arizona had 766,000 eligible Hispanic voters—approximately 18 percent of eligible voters in the state.

8. In 2008 Latinos and African Americans voted heavily for then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) over Arizona Sen. John McCain (R). Although McCain led Obama by almost 8 percentage points in the state, this trend was more than reversed among voters of color. Fifty-six percent of Hispanic voters cast their ballots for Obama, while only 41 percent voted for McCain. Although specific voting data for Arizona’s African American population are unavailable, nationally Obama received 96 percent of the African American vote. In the 2008 election 291,000 Hispanics and95,000 African Americans voted in Arizona.

9. The increase in the Latino population will soon translate into political power. In 2008 Latinos were 9 percent of the voting electorate. The pressure to turn those numbers into political power is only increasing, as the Latino share of the electorate reached 18 percent of all eligible voters in the state in 2010.

10. As Arizona’s population grows, the political electorate will change. Arizona is projected to have a 108.8 percent population increase from 2000 to 2030.

Vanessa Cardenas is the Director of Progress 2050, Sophia Kerby is the Special Assistant for Progress 2050, and Rachel Wilf is the Intern for Progress 2050 at American Progress.

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