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Sept 2010: Arizona Summary:  Census Releases 2009 Poverty Data

In September 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau released new data on 2009 poverty levels, income and health insurance, which collectively show the ill effects of the recession on poverty and hunger compared to 2008 data.
In general, Arizona’s rural areas were hit the hardest, but no part of the state was immune to the devastating effects of poverty and median household income decreases.  Federal poverty guidelines are set at an annual gross income of $10,080 for an individual and $22,050 for a family of four.


Median household income in Arizona dropped 3.5% from 2008 to 2009 ($50,489 to $48,745). Nationwide, median household income dropped 2.9% ($51,726 to $50,221). Michigan had the largest median household income decline at 6.2%.


Census data released on September 16 showed a striking one in five (19.6%) of Arizonans lived in poverty over 2008-09, a staggering 37% increase over the compared to 14.3% in 2007-08. This new poverty level resulted in Arizona being second only to Mississippi for the number of individuals living poverty.

The data shows almost one in four Arizona children aged 18 and under lived in poverty in 2009. Specifically, child poverty increased 12.5% to 23.4% in 2009, up from 20.8% in 2008. Nationwide, child poverty in 2009 was exactly 20%. By county, Apache County had the highest child poverty rate at 45.2%, followed by Navajo County at 38.2%. For comparison, 21.9% of children in Maricopa County and 26.0% of children in Pima County lived in poverty in 2009.

For the general population, by county, Apache (36.4%), Navajo (27.3%) and Pima Counties (19.3%) had the highest levels of poverty in 2009, with increases of 6.4%, 28.8% and 23.7% respectively from 2008. Pinal (13.7%), Yavapai (13.8%), and Cochise Counties (15.0%) had the lowest levels, with Pinal County actually decreasing 5.5%. For comparison, 15.2% of those in Maricopa County lived in poverty in 2009, a 13.4% increase from 2008.

By metropolitan area, Tucson (23.4%), Phoenix (21.1%) and Tempe (19.2%) had the highest levels of poverty in 2009, while Surprise (6.5%), Gilbert (7.0%) and Peoria (7.4%) had the lowest levels. Child poverty rates mirrored these general population rates closely, but were typically higher. Phoenix (30.8%), Tucson (30.7%) and Avondale (26.0%) led Arizona cities in child poverty rates, while Peoria (7.2%), Surprise (8.6%) and Gilbert (10.2%) had the lowest child poverty rates.

One bright spot reflected in the new figures was a slight decrease in the number of Arizona seniors living in poverty: 8.4% of those aged 65 or older lived in poverty in 2009, down from 8.6% in 2008.


Statewide, one in three Native American (36.6%), one in four Hispanic (26.2%) and one in five African American (22.4%) residents lived in poverty in 2009, compared with one in seven non-Hispanic whites (14.7%).

Compared to 2008, poverty increased in these three groups by 20.1% among Native American, 7.9% among Hispanic and 10.6% among African American residents. Poverty among non-Hispanic whites decreased 1.3%, while all other racial and ethnic groups listed by the Census experienced an increase in poverty.

Only two counties experienced statistically significant changes in poverty levels. Maricopa County had an overall poverty rate of 15.2% in 2009, with 26.7% of Hispanic residents living in poverty, a 10.7% increase over 2008 (13.2%). Yuma County also had a statistically significant change, with a surprising 40.2% decrease in poverty among Hispanic residents in 2009. Still, almost one in four (23.5%) lived in poverty.

By counties with the highest overall poverty rates in 2009, Navajo County (27.3%) showed 22.2% of its Hispanic residents and 41.5% of its Native American residents living in poverty. Pima County had the second highest poverty rate in Arizona (19.3%), with 26.5% of its Hispanic residents, 48.5% of Native American residents and 24.4% of African American residents living in poverty. By comparison, only 17.5% of non-Hispanic whites in Pima County lived in poverty, even though that was the highest figure for any Arizona county.