APACHE & NAVAJO COUNTIES — Population growth in Apache and Navajo County continues to lag well behind the big urban counties – and even the fastest growing rural counties.
But Show Low and a few other White Mountain cities have post-recession growth rates that are at least close to the state average, according to just released state estimates.
Show Low’s population has risen by an estimated almost one percent in the past 12 months and 10 percent since 2010 to a total of 11,763.
Snowflake’s population rose by 1.8 percent for the year and 9 percent for the decade, to a total of 6,118. Taylor’s population rose 2.5 percent for the year and 8 percent for the decade, to 4,447.
Pinetop-Lakeside’s population rose 0.4 percent for the year and 6 percent for the decade, rising to 4,563.
Other White Mountain cities have either stayed about the same or actually lost population, including St. Johns (-2.2 percent in the past year), Springerville (-2 percent in the past year) and Eagar (-1.4 percent in the past year).
Winslow’s population has dropped 2 percent in the past decade to 9,500 while On the other hand, nearby Holbrook’s population dropped 0.2 percent for the year but still rose 3 percent for the decade.
Navajo County’s population has risen by 0.1 percent for the year and just 4.8 percent in the past decade. That’s less than half the statewide average of 1.6 percent for the year and 12 percent for the decade, hitting a total of 112,825.
However, it’s better than Apache County, where the population declined 2 percent for the year and grew just .02 of a percent for the decade. In 2019, 71,808 people lived in the county.
By contrast, the state’s population has risen by 1.6 percent in the past 12 months and 12.3 percent since 2010 – mirroring the population gains in Maricopa County, which has about 60 percent of the state’s population already. The state gained 111,000 residents for the 12 months ending in July. That puts the Arizona population at 7.2 million.
The latest figures from the state using an array of measurements to extrapolate Census data show the rural-urban divide continues to grow – along with the economic divide. The figures will determine how the state and federal government divide up money for everything from road construction to healthcare based on the population estimates.
The slower growing rural counties almost all have higher poverty rates than the urbanized counties. The poverty rate is 36 percent in Apache County and 30 percent in Navajo County, compared to a statewide average of 18 percent.
The new population estimates come from State Demographer Jim Chang, according to reporting by Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services.
The upcoming Census will confirm those estimates, which are based on things like current birth and death rates, Social Security and Medicare enrollment figures, housing constructions and other short-term measurements.
The figures not only determine funding for state and federal programs, but political power as well. The state will redraw state and congressional district lines after the 2020 Census. Arizona will likely pick up a 9th Congressional seat. Moreover, district lines will shift to reflect population – which means even more state and congressional representation for urban Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties and bigger legislative districts for slow-growing rural counties like Apache and Navajo.
Only a few rural areas bucked the trend, with growth rates outstripping the state average – which is largely determined by Maricopa County, with its 4.3 million residents. Neighboring Pinal County grew 21 percent to 455,000.
Yuma County has grown by 17 percent to 229,000 residents since 2010, reflecting the recovery of the agricultural sector along the Colorado River. Neighboring Santa Cruz County grew by 12 percent, nearly reaching the Maricopa County rate.
Yavapai County also grew at close to the statewide rate of 12 percent for the decade. The county’s population rose 10 percent, driven by a 7 percent rise in Prescott to 43,000 and a 20 percent jump in population in Prescott Valley to 46,458.
Some rural towns kept pace with the growth rate – notably Flagstaff, which in the past decade has surged 16 percent to 76,000. Coconino County’s population grew 9 percent.
But mostly, the big growth numbers went to cities on the fringe of Phoenix, with big increases in people linked to the job market in Maricopa County. That includes a 36 percent rise in Goodyear, 24 percent in Gilbert, 60 percent in Buckeye, 40 percent in Marana, 26 percent in Maricopa and a whooping 101 percent in Queen Creek.
Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org