Figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau Thursday show Pinal County grew faster than any other in the state between 2000 and 2010, with the tiny town of Maricopa leading with a giant 4,000 percent population increase.
The phenomenal growth in small towns that were on the outskirts of suburban Phoenix a decade ago was not unexpected, but the sheer numbers surprised even demographers who had been expecting big increases.
Arizona’s Hispanic population also continued the large percentage gains it showed in the previous census. Hispanics now make up nearly 30 percent of the state’s residents, up from slightly more than 25 percent during the 2000 census.
The U.S. Census Bureau and state Commerce Department estimated in 2009 that about 31 percent of the state’s residents were Hispanic, so it is likely the recession and the state’s crackdown on illegal immigration led some to leave the state. The estimates were off by the most in the state’s major urban areas of Pima, Pinal and Maricopa County, said longtime Arizona State University economics and demographer researcher Tom Rex.
“There’s lots of things that may have caused all that, but clearly the thought was how much of the influx of Hispanic was into the major urban areas,” Rex said. “Therefore it would make sense that the combination of the recession and the employers sanctions law bear that out.”
The state’s white, non-Hispanic population as a proportion of the total population fell to less than 58 percent from nearly 64 percent in 2000. The number of whites grew by more than 420,000 from 3.27 million to 3.69 million, but its 13 percent growth rate failed to keep up with the surge in Latinos.
The Census Bureau counted 6.39 million Arizonans last year, up from 5.13 million in 2000. That put Arizona in the No. 2 spot in the nation for growth, behind Nevada.
Hispanics made up 1.89 million of the population, up from 1.29 million a decade earlier. The census does not tally citizenship.
Pinal County added slightly more than 196,000 residents and had 375,770 people when the census was taken last year. The town of Maricopa grew from just 1,040 residents to 43,482 as it became a poster child for suburban growth. Other counties that showed large growth were Mohave with 29 percent and Yavapai with 26 percent.
Other top cities or towns for percentage gains were Surprise with 281 percent and Buckeye with 678 percent.
Thursday’s detailed breakdown will be used by an independent redistricting commission to draw nine congressional districts and 30 state legislative districts. Each congressional district must contain about 710,000 people. Arizona earned its ninth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives because of a population surge that added 1.26 million residents to the state in the last decade.