Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The head of the state senate's ethics committee says it appears some lawmakers broke the law by accepting tickets from the Fiesta Bowl. But senator Ron Gould says he'll hold off taking action right now, because he doesn't want to taint a criminal investigation by the Maricopa County attorney's office.
The new census data released today shows the median age in Arizona has gone up. At the same time, the state has added more young, working age people, reducing Arizona's dependency ratio. Here to talk about the new census numbers is Arizona state demographer, Bill Schooling. Thanks for joins us.
Bill Schooling: Thank you for having me.
Ted Simons: In general, what do these numbers show? What do they tell us?
Bill Schooling: Well, we know that Arizona grew very rapidly during the decade. Second only to Nevada we grew by almost 25%. And we aged, as you indicated, but not as fast -- less than two years in the median age.
Ted Simons: Ok. The median age increases slightly but the proportion of very young people, that proportion dropped yet the number is still increasing, correct?
Bill Schooling: That's correct.
Ted Simons: Is that the same for the upper end as well?
Bill Schooling: In the upper end, we've increased proportionally, yes.
Ted Simons: What is that telling us here?
Bill Schooling: That we are getting older. The baby boomers although were not in the 65-plus in 2010, they soon will be.
Ted Simons: Everything increased?
Bill Schooling: That's right.
Ted Simons: The young working age, 20-34, that decreased?
Bill Schooling: We did see a decrease. That's to be expected because we're seeing the youngest baby boomers move into those age groups from the younger working age population.
Ted Simons: The next is 45-64. That group increased. Not a surprise?
Bill Schooling: Not a surprise.
Ted Simons: Ok. As far as the -- we talked about this earlier, the dependency ratio. What the heck is that?
Bill Schooling: It's a term that economists like to use. There are two choices. Some of them use a combination of the 65 and older population, plus the under 18 population or the under 15 population. Those two divided by the working age population represents how many people are being supported by those in the -- theoretically, within the working age group.
Ted Simons: So basically, looking at folks who might need social services and health services more than the middle group?
Bill Schooling: Correct.
Ted Simons: All right. The median age, let's go county -- it's interesting to watch this by way of county. Highest median age, La Paz. Why is that?
Bill Schooling: There's a lot of retirement folks in La Paz and it has retirement communities.
Ted Simons: Yavapai and Mojave also in the top three.
Bill Schooling: That’s correct.
Ted Simons: Now, the youngest median age, where was that?
Bill Schooling: That’s Coconino.
Ted Simons: Why is that?
Bill Schooling: Because you have a university, and there are dorm populations and students in dorms don't age. They're simply replaced.
Ted Simons: So in general, as far as counties, did -- were those the things that stood out the most, do you think, by county?
Bill Schooling: Those were some of the things we found interesting by county, yes.
Ted Simons: All right. Let's move on. Racial makeup. What are we seeing there in Arizona?
Bill Schooling: Racial makeup, we had an increase in the Hispanic population. We had an increase in the Asian population though the base isn't as large. The African American community also increased. Proportionally, although the numbers went up, the white and native Americans populations went down.
Ted Simons: So the other groups went up but everybody increased.
Bill Schooling: Everybody increased, so it was only the proportional portion of the population that shifted.
Ted Simons: And we'll get more numbers -- what's going on there?
Bill Schooling: This was what would be considered a teaser file. It has age and race data but doesn't combine the two and we need to be able to look at race and ethnicity by age group in order to fully; calculate things like fertility rates and look at life tables and see how our population is doing and project where we're going. But this certainly, we find intriguing.
Ted Simons: From what we’ve talked about so far, we've talked about age and racial makeup. We'll get to households and homeownership in a second. But from what we've talked about so far, how does Arizona differ from other parts of the country?
Bill Schooling: It's a little bit unique. We have a bifurcated population. Meaning we have a lot of people who are 65 and older and a substantial population under 18. We had a lot of births, we have young working families here who have children. We attract retirement individuals and they enjoy living here so we're continuously reformed. We don't age the way many states do.
Ted Simons: Family households down, single mom households up. What are we looking at here? What's going on?
Bill Schooling: I think that's kind of a general trend that you see nationwide. That we continue to have family divorces and other changes in the families.
Ted Simons: Is that why -- I noticed the numbers of householders living alone. That number was slightly up. Is that also because of the aging population?
Bill Schooling: Partly and partly because of divorces and separations.
Ted Simons: And, again separating Arizona from other states, we've been a state who attracted folks a lot of times, looking to start over, looking to reinvent themselves or just looking for a fresh start. Sometimes they come out by themselves looking for that fresh start.
Bill Schooling: That's absolutely right.
Ted Simons: And that's a single household right there.
Bill Schooling: That's correct.
Ted Simons: Households with people under 18 down, over 65 up, no real surprise there.
Bill Schooling: I don't think that's a surprise, maybe the only surprise that we've seen is that we believe that there has been some out-migration of young families. We had a tremendous number of births during the last decade but we believe there's an out-migration of families with young children.
Ted Simons: Have we seen that in previous decades?
Bill Schooling: No, it's something that’s just new and has a lot do with the economy, yeah.
Ted Simons: Alright, let's talk about housing and -- that doesn't look good. 400 some odd thousand vacancies, that’s not good.
Bill Schooling: Vacancy has certainly gone up and we know that the foreclosure situation -- it isn't good.
Ted Simons: As far as the vacancy rate, in some counties, remarkably high. But those are places with second homes and you count those, don’t you?
Bill Schooling: That's right. They are counted as seasonal or recreational or secondary homes, and so they're counted as a vacant unit.
Ted Simons: So what’s a normal vacancy rate and what are we at right now?
Bill Schooling: We're at 16% as of the census and we were in the 13% in 2000. And that does include the vacant units and I think bringing it back down into the 12-13 range would be where we would want to go.
Ted Simons: Again, compare that and what we are with what you're seeing elsewhere around the country.
Bill Schooling: We're certainly one of the states that had the most difficulty with the housing boom, especially the housing bust and the recovery will bring better days.
Ted Simons: Ok. In general, everything we've talked about today sounds like there's no real big surprise out there. No exploding bomb. But this is fascinating stuff and you must love doing this.
Bill Schooling: Oh, we do.
Ted Simons: But what do we take from all of this?
Bill Schooling: Well, we're just kids in a candy store. Demographers love numbers and applied demographers especially and we're having a great time and even though we may not be shocked about the numbers, it's intrigue and there's teasers and the total fertility rate has only changed very marginally and dropped very slightly between 2000 and 2010 and that's despite the fact we had a very large increase in births during the decade and they tailed off at the end of the decade.
Ted Simons: What do you make of that? What's going on?
Bill Schooling: Some of that is because of the different composition. Different racial groups have different fertility levels and so we would have expected with the increasing Hispanic population that fertility might come up although the general trends are in the other direction. But with the economy, people may be delaying births for a year or two or a couple of years, and then with migration playing a factor, we're just anxious to see the details.
Ted Simons: Last question here. From what you've seen from the past 10 years -- you know, you can look back at previous census -- census numbers as well -- can you -- can you get a good look at where we're going or because the economy was so bad here for the past few years, everything, everything that was Arizona seemed to change for a few years. How do you factor all that -- that's a big variable, isn't it?
Bill Schooling: It is a huge variable and we're focused on trying to understand that. There are indicators of change that we'll be looking at and trying to tell which of those indicators are pointing in which direction and it's not going to be easy but we'll manage to get through it.
Ted Simons: Alright, very good. Bill, thanks for joining us.
Bill Schooling: Thanks for having me.