Newest Census Report Of Arizona’s Population Comes In Far Below Estimates

By Terri Jo Neff

The 2020 U.S. Census state population results were announced Monday, and while Arizona added nearly 760,000 residents over the last 10 years, the growth was not as high as some state officials estimated. As a consequence, Arizona will not earn a 10th congressional district as many had expected.

The official increase in Arizona’s population is listed at 746,223 from April 1, 2010 to April 1, 2020.  That puts the number of residents at almost 7.16 million. What won’t be available for a few more months is the population breakdown by counties and communities.

Gov. Doug Ducey and his census taskforce pushed hard during the 2020 Census process, committing nearly $2 million to the effort which was hit hard by COVID-19. State officials previously said 99.9 percent of all households were counted.

“In 2020, countless volunteers embarked on a statewide campaign to reach underrepresented communities, resulting in AZ’s highest self-response rate in decades,” the state’s census team tweeted Monday.  “The state’s 64.1% self-response rate exceeded that from 2010 (61.3%) and 2000 (63%). 19 of the 20 land-based tribal communities in AZ had final enumeration rates of 100%.”

Many estimates by government agencies had pegged Arizona’s overall population at nearly 7.4 million going into 2020. It is unclear whether those estimates were based on overly optimistic formulas or if well-publicized concerns with how answers to census questions would be used kept some residents from being forthright.

The most immediate impact of the Census state population announcement is that those interested in representing Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives now know the state’s allotment of congressional districts will remain at nine, each serving roughly 795,500 residents.

Each state is initially assigned one of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representative. The rest are then allotted based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Arizona came in about 80,000 residents short for being considered for another congressional seat, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon added a seat. Texas added two congressional seats to its current 36.

How the boundaries of Arizona’s nine districts will look won’t be known for more than one year, as the Arizona Independent Restricting Commission must wait for the more detailed, localized census data to finalize their maps.

Long term, the biggest impact of the lesser than expected population numbers could be on Arizona’s budget, of which about 40 percent comes from federal funds. If Arizona was truly undercounted during the census process, there are some estimates it could cost the state roughly $62 million annually for every one percent undercount.