According to the 2010 Census, the state of AZ’s population dropped by over 270,000 people. For those of you who don’t know why this is important, let me explain. The Federal Govt uses the Census population count of “people” (notice that’s not “citizens”) to distribute federal funds. Now if one were to take the total amount of funds that the Federal Govt has to distribute and divides it by the number of people, it works out to about $2,800 per person. That would mean that AZ with that loss in population would be out about $775 million. Which is nothing to scoff at, especially since the state ran into a slight budget problem this past year (something like $2.6 billion in the red).
Now, the question is why did we lose so many people or did the Census get it wrong? Here’s what we know for certain. Over the last couple of decades Arizona and the Phoenix area has been one of the fastest growth areas in the nation–this includes legal migration as well as illegal immigration. The likelihood that this growth in population reversed itself during the recession is very small. Why? Well, population movement on that scale doesn’t simply reverse itself in that brief of a time period unless something major happens. And by major I mean, a war breaks out (taking place in that particular location or nearby) or a true Depression occurs.*
Within the larger picture of a state faced with the problems of a population explosion the next statistic is even more telling. Approximately 100,000 illegal immigrants and their families left AZ after the passage of SB1070 due to their fears of being challenged on the street for their papers. Evidence suggests that many of those people simply moved to other U.S. states.**
If we subtract the illegal immigrants that left, what can account for the remaining 176,000 people lost? Perhaps they were citizens who left the state to find jobs elsewhere? However, I caution that this is too simple an answer for a number of reasons***. First, the entire nation was in a recession, so where could almost 200,000 people move to find a job in the first place. Second, in those areas where jobs were easy to find (e.g., North Dakota), they still weren’t able to entice enough people willing to relocate there to take the jobs. Third, that’s a pretty huge number of unemployed people to be absorbed and statistically speaking it doesn’t look plausible. So we can be pretty sure the 176,000 can’t be accounted for as simply “people leaving to find work elsewhere”. Surely some of them would fit in that category. The best way to estimate that would be to look at population migrations for other states. From those estimates we can safely estimate that about 29,000 people fit into this category****
Okay, so that leaves us with accounting for the loss of the remaining 147,000. Some bloggers and articles speculate that the loss is not really due to actual population loss but due to a refusal to respond to the Census. This would include anyone who is here illegally****** and those against it in principle (read this as anyone on the far right, of which AZ has more than you can stake a stick at). We have more than our fair share of tax protesters, militia members and FDLS polygamists. On the other hand, we don’t have 147,000 of them. Could we still have 147,000 illegal immigrants in AZ that were afraid of filling out the Census? Sure we could.
If that is the case, then we can plausibly conclude that the state will lose federal funding for approximately 247,000 individuals, amounting to about $692 million, as a direct result of SB1070. Now add to that the lost revenue due to a drop in legitimate tourists from Mexico and other Latino countries to AZ, which totals around $460 million.******* We get a total loss of $1.152 billion to the Arizonan economy when we need it the most and all due to bigotry.
Now it looks like bigots across America are willing to double down on these economic losses. 25 other states are looking to pass SB1070 clone laws. Will the effect be the same? Not exactly, but there is no doubt that it will affect their state and local economies if the laws are passed.
I’ve always known that the costs of bigotry affected our national reputation, ours souls (if you believe in that kind of thing), and our collective zeitgeist. However, I find it somewhat comforting that it also affects our economy because there is nothing more effective than changing cultural defects than practical, pocketbook concerns. Unfortunately, the bigots won’t be the only ones that suffer and if you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ll know that I’ve been pointing that out for a while now.********
*I’m pretty sure we haven’t engaged in any armed conflict in the Southwest recently, small border incidents notwithstanding. The recent economic downturn was a recession that apparently ended in June 2009 even though it doesn’t feel like it to the average American.
**BTW, the job situation in AZ did NOT improve. So the argument that the immigrants were taking jobs from citizens can be demonstrably proven to be false. There was no rush of the unemployed to fill the empty positions of departed immigrants. 100,000 job openings or even 50,000 would have had a significant impact on the state and no one has touted that as a benefit or noticed an uptick in employment numbers in AZ.
***I couldn’t find a source for the number of legal citizens who left AZ to find jobs in other states.
****California, a much bigger state than AZ with 33 million people with a much bigger debt and reduced services, lost about 144,000 people, that’s about .44%. If AZ’s population is 6.5 million then let’s assume that same rate would produce a loss of 28,600.
******Again due to fear of being found out by authorities (although the Census tried very hard to reassure them that was not the purpose of the Census and they would not turn anyone in)
*******Mexican tourists spend about $2.7 billion per year and that has dropped 17% immediately following the passage of SB1070
********See my posts on Brewercare, education, utilities, and much more.