Nestled in the heart of the American Southwest, Arizona’s journey to statehood is a tale of historical transitions and transformations. It became the 48th state to join the Union, a momentous event that took place on February 14, 1912. This marked the completion of the contiguous United States. Arizona’s story began as part of Alta California in New Spain, and later, in 1821, it transitioned to be a part of independent Mexico. The Mexican–American War brought significant changes to the region, leading to Mexico ceding much of this land to the United States in 1848. This land then became part of the New Mexico territory. The southernmost part of what is now Arizona was added through the Gadsden Purchase in 1853.
Arizona is a land of contrasts, with its southern regions characterized by a desert climate. Here, residents and visitors alike experience scorching summers and mild winters. In contrast, northern Arizona is a tapestry of pine, Douglas fir, and spruce forests, interspersed with majestic mountain ranges like the San Francisco Mountains and the vast expanses of the Colorado Plateau. This region is also home to deep, awe-inspiring canyons. The climate here is more temperate, with cooler summers and snowy winters. This diversity in landscape allows for a variety of activities, including skiing in Flagstaff, Sunrise, and Tucson. Arizona is also globally recognized for the Grand Canyon National Park, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, along with numerous other national forests, parks, and monuments.
Since the 1950s, Arizona has seen a dramatic increase in its population and economy, largely due to inward migration. This growth has transformed Arizona into a pivotal part of the Sun Belt, with cities like Phoenix and Tucson expanding into vast suburban areas. The state has become a hub for major corporations, including PetSmart and Circle K, and is home to renowned educational institutions like the University of Arizona and Arizona State University. Politically, Arizona has a history of conservatism, with notable politicians such as Barry Goldwater and John McCain. However, since the 1990s, it has emerged as a swing state.
Arizona’s demographic landscape is as diverse as its geography. Approximately a quarter of the state is comprised of Indian reservations, home to 27 federally recognized Native American tribes. This includes the Navajo Nation, the largest in both the state and the United States. The state has also seen a significant increase in its Hispanic population since the 1980s, primarily due to migration from Mexico. The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a substantial following among the state’s residents.
Economically, Arizona boasted a gross state product of $373 billion in 2020. The state’s economy is diverse, with health care, transportation, and government being the largest sectors. Arizona’s per capita income stands at $40,828, placing it 39th in the nation, and it has a median household income of $50,448. The state’s early economy was built on the “five C’s”: copper, cotton, cattle, citrus, and climate (tourism). Copper mining remains a significant industry, contributing two-thirds of the nation’s output.
The state government is Arizona’s largest employer, while Banner Health leads as the largest private employer. As of August 2020, the state’s unemployment rate was 5.9%. The largest employment sectors include trade, transportation, utilities, education and health services, government, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, financial activities, manufacturing, construction, and others, reflecting the state’s diverse and dynamic economy.