Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Arizona: Population and Labor Force Characteristics, 2000-2006

Fact Sheet

I. Overview

Arizona is the first state in the nation to enact a law that penalizes businesses for knowingly hiring unauthorized immigrants. The Legal Arizona Workers Act took effect on Jan. 1, 2008.

In previous research, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that there were 400,000 to 450,000 unauthorized migrants living in Arizona in 2005. The Center estimates that 65% of this population participates in the labor force,1 suggesting the presence of 260,000 to 292,500 unauthorized workers in Arizona in 2005. Based on these estimates, unauthorized migrants accounted for about 7% to 8% of Arizona’s population and about 10% of its labor force.

This fact sheet presents a demographic profile of Arizona’s Hispanic and foreign-born populations in 2006. It is based on the Pew Hispanic Center’s analysis of the 2006 American Community Survey and the 2000 Decennial Census, both conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Hispanics accounted for 29.1% of Arizona’s population in 2006, about double their share of the U.S. population (14.8%) that year. Arizona’s residents also included 926,000 foreign-born persons in 2006. These immigrants comprised 15.0% of the state’s population, slightly higher than the 12.5% share of immigrants in the U.S. population in 2006.

One notable aspect of Arizona’s immigrant Hispanic population is that it is disproportionately of Mexican origin. Because migrants from Mexico are more likely than migrants from other countries to be unauthorized (Passel, 2006), the large Mexican population boosts the share of undocumented workers in Arizona’s labor force. In the United States, it is estimated that 4.9% of the labor force is undocumented (Passel, 2006). As noted above, the estimated share of undocumented workers in Arizona’s labor force is double the national share.

In several other respects, however, the demographic trends in Arizona with regard to immigration are similar to those in the nation as a whole. For example, the proportion of the Latino population in Arizona that is foreign born is similar to the proportion of Latinos nationally. And while the Hispanic native- and foreign-born populations grew at a faster pace in Arizona than in the nation from 2000 to 2006, so did the non-Hispanic population. Consequently, on a percentage basis, Hispanics have contributed no more to population growth in Arizona than they have to the growth of the U.S. population.

The following sections of this fact sheet highlight key characteristics of Arizona’s population in 2006; changes in Arizona’s population from 2000 to 2006; and the key characteristics of Arizona’s labor force in 2006. Unless otherwise noted, all estimates are derived by the Pew Hispanic Center from the 2006 American Community Survey (ACS) and the 2000 Decennial Census. The tables in this fact sheet highlight key demographic and labor market characteristics of all Arizonans, all foreign-born persons, all Hispanics, native-born Hispanics and foreign-born Hispanics in total and by period of arrival.1 Some estimates for the United States also appear in the text for the sake of contrast with trends in Arizona. An Appendix includes detailed tables that are also the source for many of the estimates discussed below.

A Note on the Data Sources and Estimates

[Machine-readable database]

The estimates in this fact sheet are subject to sampling error. Also, estimates in this fact sheet will differ from estimates that may be published by the Census Bureau because of differences between the data used by the Census Bureau and the data it releases for public use. Further information on Census data and on sampling error in the data is available at and

Arizona’s Hispanic and Foreign-Born Populations in 2006

Arizona was home to 6.2 million residents in 2006. Those residents included 1.8 million Hispanics. Thus, Hispanics represented 29.1% of Arizona’s population, about double their share of the U.S. population (14.8%). Arizona was also the residence of 926,000 foreign-born persons in 2006. They accounted for 15.0% of the population, slightly higher than the 12.5% share of immigrants in the U.S. population.

The Latino population in Arizona was made up of 1.1 million native-born persons and 666,000 who were foreign born. Thus, 37.0% of the Hispanic population in Arizona was foreign-born, slightly lower than the proportion for the country as a whole (39.9%). However, foreign-born Hispanics represented 10.8% of Arizona’s population, nearly double the nationwide share of 5.9%. Foreign-born Hispanics also dominated the immigrant population in Arizona. They represented 71.9% of all foreign-born residents in the state, much higher than the share of Hispanics (47.2%) in the total foreign-born population in the United States.

Most of the foreign-born Hispanic population in Arizona is recently arrived. About one-third—217,000 of 666,000—arrived in 2000 to 2006. Another third, 231,000, arrived in 1990 to 1999. In this respect, Arizona does not differ significantly from the nation, as about 60% of all Latino immigrants in the United States have arrived since 1990.

A distinguishing feature of Arizona’s immigrant population is that it is much more likely than the immigrant population of the nation at large to be of Mexican origin. The 610,000 foreign-born persons of Mexican origin accounted for 65.9% of all immigrants and 91.7% of immigrant Hispanics in Arizona. Nationwide, the corresponding proportions in 2006 were 30.4% and 64.3%.

The predominance of Mexicans in Arizona’s foreign-born population is significant because it suggests a higher proportion of its foreign-born population is unauthorized than in the United States generally. Passel (2006) estimated that 80 to 85% of the Mexican immigrants who arrived in the U.S. from 1995 to 2005 are unauthorized and that migrants from Mexico are the majority (56%) of the unauthorized population. Consistent with these estimates, the Pew Hispanic Center’s estimate of 400,000 to 450,000 unauthorized migrants in Arizona in 2005 indicates that 45.0 to 48.0% of its immigrant population and 6.9 to 7.7% of its total population are unauthorized. Those figures are considerably higher than Passel’s (2006) estimate that 30.6% of the foreign-born population and 3.8% of the total population in the United States in 2005 were unauthorized.

Most foreign-born Hispanics in Arizona (79.7%) are non-citizens. That figure compares with 72.3% of all foreign-born Latinos in the U.S. who were non-citizens in 2006. The majority (55.0%) of Hispanic immigrants in Arizona who arrived before 1990 also are non-citizens, compared with 47.2% in the United States.

The English-speaking ability of Latino immigrants (ages 5 and older) in Arizona is similar to that in the nation as a whole. Just 3.2% of foreign-born Hispanics in Arizona report speaking only English at home. Of the remainder, 23.4% say they speak English very well and 19.1% say they speak it well. The majority of foreign-born Hispanics say they speak English either not well (29.6%) or not at all (24.7%). The main difference between Arizona and the nation is that somewhat fewer (19.6%) foreign-born Hispanics in the United States say they “speak English not at all.”

Males constitute the majority of the immigrant Latino population in Arizona. While Arizona’s overall population is equally divided between males and females, 55.1% of its foreign-born Hispanic population is male. The share of males is higher among newer arrivals—60.4% among Latino immigrants who arrived in 2000 or later years. In these respects, the foreign-born Latino population in Arizona does not differ significantly from the nation’s immigrant Latino population.

The age distributions of the native-born and foreign-born Hispanic populations are very different from each other and from the overall Arizona population. Native-born Latinos in Arizona are very young—nearly half (47.4%) are less than 16 years old. That compares with just 9.4% of the foreign born Hispanic population and 23.3% of the general population in Arizona. Looking at this another way, there were 1.4 million children younger than 16 in Arizona in 2006. Of that number, 599,000, or 41.7%, were Hispanic, the vast majority native born.

Most foreign-born Hispanics (69.4%) in Arizona are in their prime working years, ages 25 to 64. That compares with 51.4% of Arizona’s total population.

Hispanic heads of households in Arizona are less likely than non-Hispanic household heads to live in owner-occupied homes (56.2% versus 68.3% for all Arizonans). Reflecting general trends in economic assimilation, homeownership among foreign-born Hispanics increases with time in the United States. In particular, the homeownership rate increased from 17.9% among immigrant Latinos who arrived in 2000 or later to 72.0% among those who arrived before 1990.

Hispanics in Arizona are more likely than non-Hispanics to live in family arrangements and in bigger families. Some 90.3% of Hispanics lived in family households, compared with 83.4% of all Arizonans. Latinos are less likely to live in two-person families (14.1% versus 29.2%) and more likely to live in families with five or more persons (43.3% versus 28.7%).

Population Change Since 2000

Population growth in Arizona from 2000 to 2006 was much higher than the national average. In total, Arizona’s population increased from 5.1 million in 2000 to 6.2 million in 2006, or 20.1%. That was considerably higher than the 6.4% increase in the nation’s population over the same period.

The non-Hispanic population in Arizona increased from 3.8 million to 4.4 million from 2000 to 2006, an increase of 13.7%. That also was a much higher increase than the 3.6% change in the nation’s non-Hispanic population.

The Hispanic population in Arizona increased from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.8 million in 2006, including 301,000 more native-born Hispanics and 204,000 more foreign-born Hispanics. In percentage terms, the Hispanic population increased 39.0%, higher than the nationwide increase of 25.8%. Also, the native-born and foreign-born Hispanic populations in Arizona increased at a faster pace than nationally—36.2% versus 26.3% for the native born and 44.1% versus 25.2% for the foreign-born.

The proportion of Arizona’s population that is Hispanic increased from 25.2% in 2000 to 29.1% in 2006. The share of native-born Hispanics went up from 16.2% to 18.3%, and the share of foreign-born Hispanics increased from 9.0% to 10.8%. Nationally, Hispanics accounted for 12.5% of the U.S. population in 2000 and 14.8% in 2006.

Arizona’s population of male immigrants increased more than its population of female immigrants. Among foreign-born Latinos, the male population increased 48.8% from 2000 to 2006, compared with an increase of 38.7% in the female population. Among all foreign-born persons in Arizona, the male population increased 44.2%, compared with 35.4% for the female population. The gender gap in population growth is also present among immigrants in the United States as a whole, but it is much less pronounced.

Arizona’s total foreign-born population increased from 662,000 in 2000 to 926,000 in 2006—a change of 264,000, or 39.9%. That was nearly double the rate of the nationwide increase of 20.4% in the immigrant population. Arizona’s native-born population also increased rapidly, from 4.5 million to 5.2 million, or a change of 17.2% compared with 4.7% in the nation. Thus, the share of Arizona’s population that was foreign born did not increase sharply, climbing from 12.9% in 2000 to 15.0% in 2006. That compared with the share of population in the United States that was foreign born increasing from 11.1% in 2000 to 12.5% in 2006.

Despite several differences in population growth trends between Arizona and the nation, there was one key similarity. The share of Hispanics in Arizona’s population growth was virtually no different than their share in the nation’s population growth. More specifically, Hispanics accounted for 48.9% of the total increase in Arizona’s population from 2000 to 2006. That was similar to the 50.6% of total U.S. population growth that Hispanics accounted for over the same time. Similarly, native-born and foreign-born Hispanics accounted for no more of the growth in Arizona’s population than in the nation generally. These similarities exist because the non-Hispanic and native-born populations in Arizona also increased at a rapid rate from 2000 to 2006.

Characteristics of the Labor Force in Arizona, 2006

The characteristics of Arizona’s labor force, not surprisingly, resemble the characteristics of its population. Foreign-born workers, especially of Mexican origin, play a larger role in Arizona than in the nation. These workers tend to have lower levels of education and are concentrated in blue-collar industries and occupations, such as construction and building and grounds cleaning and maintenance.

The civilian working-age population (16 and older) in Arizona was 4.7 million in 2006. Some 25.4% of the working-age population—1.2 million—was Hispanic. In the U.S. as a whole, Hispanics accounted for 13.2% of the working-age population in 2006. The Latino working-age population in Arizona is almost equally divided between the native born (592,000) and the foreign born (603,000). Nationally, a slight majority (53.5%) of the Hispanic working-age population is foreign born.

The Latino working-age population is less educated than average. Some 70.2% have a high school diploma or lower level of education, compared with 46.6% of Arizona’s total working-age population. Only 7.8% of working-age Hispanics have a college degree, compared with 22.2% of all working-age Arizonans. Thus, more than half of the 949,000 Arizonans (ages 16 and older) without a high school diploma were Hispanics—504,000, or 53.1%.

Not all working-age persons are part of the labor force, i.e., either employed or unemployed but actively looking for work. Arizona’s labor force in 2006 was 2.9 million—2.8 million employed and 147,000 unemployed. About 1.8 million working-age persons did not participate in the labor force.

There were 800,000 Hispanics in Arizona’s labor force in 2006. Of that number, 754,000 were employed (27.0% of total employment in Arizona) and 46,000 were unemployed (31.2% of total unemployment in Arizona). About half of the Hispanic labor force—410,000—was foreign born. They represented 13.9% of the entire labor force in Arizona.

The vast majority of foreign-born Hispanics in the labor force—325,000 of 410,000—are not U.S. citizens. Hispanic non-citizens represent 11.0% of Arizona’s labor force, double the nationwide share of 5.5%.

The construction industry is an important employer of foreign-born Hispanics. Some 28.3% of foreign-born Hispanics work in this industry alone, compared with 11.3% of all employed workers in Arizona. Looking at this another way, 34.9% of all workers in the construction industry in Arizona in 2006 were foreign-born Hispanics. Other industries in Arizona with relatively high shares of foreign-born Hispanics in their work forces include agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (47.1%); non-durable goods manufacturing (20.0%); arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodations and food services (19.3%); and other services (17.8%).

There are five major occupations in Arizona in which foreign-born Hispanics account for at least one-fifth of employment: farming, fishing and forestry (64.2%); building and grounds cleaning and maintenance (49.7%); construction trades (43.3%); production (26.4%); and food preparation and serving (25.7%).

A Note on Labor Force Estimates From the American Community Survey

Labor force estimates in this fact sheet are derived from the ACS and they will differ from the labor force estimates released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS estimates are derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program that surveys businesses about their payrolls. Estimates released by the BLS are considered more reliable and are the official indicators of employment and unemployment trends. See and for additional details.

  1. Persons born in Puerto Rico and other outlying territories of the U.S. are included in the native-born population. The terms “foreign born” and “immigrant” are used interchangeably in this fact sheet, as are the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino.”
  2. Persons born in Puerto Rico and other outlying territories of the U.S. are included in the native-born population. The terms “foreign born” and “immigrant” are used interchangeably in this fact sheet, as are the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino.”
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