Phoenix is nation’s fastest-growing big city

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Phoenix is officially America’s fastest-growing major city.

The U.S. Census Bureau released its official data Thursday, reflecting its 2020 headcount. It confirms estimates showing Arizona’s capital city grew faster than any other of the country’s major population centers.

Phoenix grew by 11.2% from 2010 to 2020, trading places with Philadelphia for the fifth-largest city in the nation. There also was a trend of the fastest-growing municipalities being located just outside of a major population center. Buckeye, Arizona, grew faster than any other city with a population more than 50,000. The Phoenix suburb grew by nearly 80%, to 91,000, over the past decade.

Data on the nation’s more than 331 million residents was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and arguments over deadlines at the federal level. The Census Bureau released information about each state’s number of Congress members earlier in the year. Officials originally planned to release the final data from last year’s headcount “near the end of September,” but a lawsuit from the state of Ohio led to a negotiated release date of Aug. 12.

The data reflects earlier releases, describing slowing population growth at a national level, with the Southwest and Mountain West regions gaining population at the highest rates. The Midwest and Northeast regions saw the most stagnant growth.

West Virginia, Mississippi and Illinois were the only states to lose population over the past decade. Arizona’s official population is now 7,151,502.

The nation’s slowing growth rates were more pronounced at the county level, according to census officials.

“Metro areas are even more prominent this decade as the locations of population growth amidst otherwise widespread population decline,” said Marc Perry, senior demographer in the bureau's Population Division.

Thursday's data release is in “legacy format” that is abstract to anyone but the most experienced census data users. This format requires special templates a pedestrian spreadsheet user couldn’t easily manipulate. The agency will release a more user-friendly form of the information next month.

The latest census data uses a new technique called “differential privacy,” which creates what officials call “statistical noise” at a granular level that keeps an individual’s personal data from being deduced using census information.

“The data we are releasing today meet our high quality standards,” said James Whitehorne, chief of the Redistricting & Voting Rights Data Office.

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