Nobody expected Arizona to be the wealthiest state in the country, but it may be poorer than most people would have predicted. According to new research from the Washington-based Economic Innovation Group, 22% of Arizonans — or more than one in five state residents — live in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
Ten Arizona ZIP codes are on the list of America’s poorest 100 neighborhoods, according to the Phoenix Business Journal; one of these ZIP codes is located in Phoenix, while the other nine are located on Native American reservations.
In fact, it’s hard to ignore the connection between Arizona’s poorest communities and its Native American communities. In Yuma and Apache counties, two out of every three residents lives at or below the poverty line.
In the town of Blackwater, which is located in southern Arizona’s Gila River Indian reservation, the median household income is $12,723 a year; for comparison, the national median income in the U.S. (as of 2012) was nearly $54,000 a year. According to The Guardian, Blackwater scrapes by mostly on revenue brought in through nearby casinos.
Despite high poverty levels, residents in Arizona’s poorest communities often choose to stay put rather than relocate to a bigger city.
Although people most often cite employment opportunities as the primary reason for moving to a different city, just as many people cite close connections with family and friends in the community as their reason not to move away from home.
For Americans who trace their lineage back to one of the regional Native American tribes, staying connected to their land and their culture is perhaps more important than other Americans could understand.