Counties in Arizona With the Most Rapid Population Decline

Exploring the 5 Counties in Arizona With the Most Rapid Population Decline

Arizona is characterized by its diverse landscape, culture, and economy, presenting a state of contrasts. Positioned among the top ten fastest-growing states in the nation, Arizona reflects a dynamic environment marked by continual expansion.

Despite its overall growth, not all regions in Arizona are witnessing the same surge in population. Some counties, in fact, are grappling with a decline in population, a trend that holds considerable consequences for their social and economic prosperity.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Arizona’s population surged by 11.9% between 2010 and 2020, reaching a total of 7.15 million people. However, this growth was not uniformly distributed across the state.

While certain counties, like Maricopa and Pinal, experienced substantial double-digit percentage increases, others observed a contraction in their populations.

How Does the Population Decline Affect the Economy of These Counties?

The decrease in population within these counties can bring about adverse effects on their economy, including:

1. Loss of tax revenue: A smaller population translates to reduced income and sales tax collected by local governments, limiting their capacity to deliver public services and invest in infrastructure.

2. Reduction of public services: Population decline may lead to the closure or consolidation of schools, hospitals, libraries, and other public facilities, impacting the quality of life and access to education and healthcare for the remaining residents.

Counties in Arizona With the Most Rapid Population Decline

3. Deterioration of infrastructure: A shrinking population often results in decreased maintenance and investment in essential infrastructure like roads, bridges, and water systems, affecting the safety and efficiency of transportation and communication.

4. Decrease in political representation: The declining population can diminish the number of seats and votes these counties have in state and federal legislatures, thereby reducing their influence and bargaining power in policy-making.

Other than that, the following are the five Arizona counties that experienced the most rapid population decline from 2010 to 2020, based on percentage change.

County2010 Population2020 PopulationPopulation ChangePercentage Change
La Paz20,489.0015,378-5,111-24.95%
Santa Cruz47,959.0047,744-215-0.68%

Cochise County

Situated in the southeastern corner of the state, bordering Mexico and New Mexico, this county experienced the most significant population decrease in Arizona.
It lost 5.84% of its residents from 2010 to 2020, with the population dropping from 131,346 to 123,677—a decrease of 7,669 people. Cochise County is notable for being home to Fort Huachuca, a major military installation, and the historic towns of Tombstone and Bisbee.

La Paz County

Situated in the western region of the state along the Colorado River, this county experienced the second-largest population decrease in Arizona, with a 24.95% decline from 2010 to 2020. The county’s population fell from 20,489 to 15,378, representing a decrease of 5,111 residents.

La Paz County is among the least populated and least developed counties in the state, with a significant portion of its land owned by the federal government or Native American tribes.

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Santa Cruz County

Situated in the southern region of the state, sharing a border with Mexico, this county experienced the third-largest decrease in population in Arizona, with a 0.68% decline from 2010 to 2020.

The county’s population went from 47,959 to 47,744, reflecting a decrease of 215 residents. Santa Cruz County holds the distinction of being the smallest county in the state by area and is characterized by a predominantly Hispanic population.

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Gila County

Situated in the central region of the state and covering portions of the Tonto National Forest and the San Carlos Apache Reservation, this county experienced the fourth-largest decrease in population in Arizona, with a 0.79% decline from 2010 to 2020.

The county’s population decreased from 53,597 to 53,176, marking a drop of 421 individuals. Gila County is characterized as a rural area, with a notable concentration of Native American residents.

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Navajo County

Situated in the northeastern region of the state, encompassing sections of the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Reservation, and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, this county experienced the fifth-largest decrease in population in Arizona. Between 2010 and 2020, it saw a 0.89% decline in residents.

The county’s population went from 107,449 to 106,498, marking a decrease of 951 individuals. Navajo County is characterized by its rural nature and has a significant Native American population.

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Final Words

The declining population in these counties brings forth various challenges for their future, including the loss of tax revenue, reduced public services, crumbling infrastructure, diminished political representation, and the erosion of social capital.

Nevertheless, these counties possess assets and opportunities that could help reverse this trend, such as their natural and cultural resources, proximity to larger markets, potential for renewable energy, and a strong entrepreneurial spirit.


With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.