CASA GRANDE — The 2020 census results released Thursday contained a number of unusual results for Pinal County, with some cities losing population since 2010 and others whose totals are lower than previous estimates. As a result, Maricopa has overtaken Casa Grande as the most populous city located entirely in the county.

The trend of lower-than-expected totals is consistent with Arizona as a whole, which did not grow enough in population to get a 10th congressional district, as had been expected.

Casa Grande’s reported population for 2020 was just over 53,600, about 10% lower than 2019 estimates. Many had expected the city’s reported population to top the 60,000 mark after a recent housing boom. Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland said he hadn’t been able to look over numbers or discuss their context with other city officials, but he did say that he found the 53,000-plus total “ridiculous.”

Eloy showed an even steeper gap between estimates and official totals, losing nearly 1,000 residents to 15,600, a 6% drop over the previous decade. The unincorporated area of nearby Arizona City also lost roughly 600 residents, dropping below 10,000 individuals.

Eloy Mayor Micah Powell said he was “shocked” by the census totals and suggested the lower numbers were possibly due to changes in the number of detainees and workers in prisons within Eloy, particularly during and after the pandemic.

“It’s troubling, because we thought we’d be closer to 20,000,” Powell said. “It hurts our state revenues. But we have had some construction of new homes. We’re definitely getting new residents.”

Coolidge Economic Development Director Gilbert Lopez also said he thought Coolidge’s census numbers were low. The city has also seen a recent boom in housing construction. Lopez suggested the count may have occurred too early to reflect some of the new housing numbers.

“We hadn’t gotten into the swing of people actually occupying houses when they took the census,” Lopez said. “We don’t know what the true number is, but we’ve had a lot of growth.”

2020 census results

Select Pinal County cities and towns

City/place 2010 population 2019 estimates 2020 population 10-year percent change
Arizona City 10,475 NA 9,868 -5.8%
Casa Grande 48,571 58,632 53,658 +10.4 %
Coolidge 11,825 13,130 13,218 +11.7%
Eloy 16,631 19,625 15,635 -6.0%
Florence 25,536 27,422 26,785 +4.9%
Maricopa 43,482 52,127 58,125 +33.7%
San Tan Valley 81,321 NA 99,894 +22.9%

Lopez noted that potential developers and businesses have their own calculus and would take the new rooftops into account when potentially looking to move into the city. Lopez also said Coolidge city officials would look into the prospect of a mid-term census count for 2025, if they thought the city was growing fast enough for that to be relevant.

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price said he was pleased by his city’s rapid growth but that the high totals weren’t completely unexpected, noting that the numbers of new homes being built “speak for themselves.”

Still, despite the positive results, Price said that there were concerns going into the census about how it would be conducted during the pandemic.

“I certainly think the count could have been better all around,” Price said, “but regardless, it is what it is. We keep chugging along, and we’ll continue to see a lot of business coming in, opportunity and growth if we stay on this path.”

Despite describing Maricopa as a “hyper-growing” city, Price said it wouldn’t be necessary at the moment to utilize a midterm census count, as his understanding was the state included annual estimates for allocating state money, among other things.

Although Maricopa is now the largest city whose boundaries lie entirely within Pinal County, with just over 58,000 individuals, the unincorporated San Tan Valley is more populous with 99,894 residents. Other cities that are partially within the county, such as Queen Creek and Marana, saw sizable population increases as well, jumping to over 50,000 residents.

There is a Census Count Question Resolution program that allows local governments to request a review of the results. There will be a 30-day comment period for the public that opens in the fall, and the Census Bureau plans to notify local officials of their eligibility to file such cases sometime in December.

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Aaron Dorman is the Casa Grande reporter at PinalCentral, covering government, schools, business and more. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.

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