Phoenix is the largest and most populous city in the state of Arizona. It is also the state capital and the largest state capital in the United States in terms of population. Phoenix is the only state capital with a population of more than a million. It is also the county seat of Maricopa County. It is the largest city in the Mountain Time Zone as well as the second largest city in the Western United States after Los Angeles, California. It is the region's primary cultural, economic, and financial center, while its airport is a major transportation hub. Phoenix is located on the banks of what is now the normally dry Salt River (with the exception of Tempe Town Lake). The city was incorporated on February 25, 1881. The city's metropolitan area is also known by its nickname, "The Valley of the Sun" or the shortened "The Valley," because the city is surrounded by mountains on all sides. Residents of the city are known as Phoenicians.
The city is currently the fifth largest city in the United States in terms of population with a 2007 estimated population of 1,552,259. Its city proper is the tenth largest for land area in the United States at 517 square miles (1,340 km2). As of 2008, the Phoenix Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was the thirteenth largest in the United States, with an estimated population of 4,579,427.
By 1950, over 100,000 people lived within the city and thousands more in surrounding communities. There were 148 miles (238 km) of paved streets and 163 miles (262 km) of unpaved streets.
Over the next several decades, the city and metropolitan area attracted more growth. Nightlife and civic events concentrated along Central Avenue. By the 1970s, however, there was rising crime and a decline in business within the downtown core.
Arizona Republic writer Don Bolles was murdered by a car bomb in the city in 1976. It was believed that his investigative reporting on organized crime in Phoenix made him a target. Bolles' last words referred to Phoenix land and cattle magnate Kemper Marley, who was widely regarded to have ordered Bolles' murder, as well as John Harvey Adamson, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1977 in return for testimony against contractors Max Dunlap and James Robison. Dunlap was convicted of first degree murder in the case in 1990 and remains in prison, while Robison was acquitted, but pleaded guilty to charges of soliciting violence against Adamson. Street gangs and the drug trade had turned into public safety issues by the 1980s. Van Buren Street, East of downtown (near 24th St), became associated with prostitution. The city's crime rates in many categories have improved since that time, but still exceed state and national averages.
After the Salt River flooded in 1980 and damaged many bridges, the Arizona Department of Transportation and Amtrak worked together and temporarily operated a train service, the "Hattie B." line, between central Phoenix and the southeast suburbs. It was discontinued because of high operating costs and a lack of interest from local authorities in maintaining funding.
The "Phoenix Lights" sightings took place in March 1997. The Baseline Killer and Serial Shooter crime sprees occurred in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. Steele Indian School Park was the site of a mid-air collision between two news helicopters in July 2007.
Phoenix has maintained a massive growth streak in recent years, growing by 24.2% since 2000. This makes it the second-fastest-growing metropolitan area in the United States following only Las Vegas, whose population has grown by 29.2% since 2000.
According to the 2000 census, there were 1,321,045 people, 865,834 households, and 407,450 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,782 people per square mile (1,074/kmē). There were 895,832 housing units at an average density of 1,044 per square mile (403/kmē).
There were 865,834 households out of which 35.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.9% were married couples living together, 12.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.0% were non-traditional families. 25.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.79 and the average family size was 3.39.
In the city the population age distribution was 28.9% under the age of 18, 10.9% from 18 to 24, 33.2% from 25 to 44, 18.8% from 45 to 64, and 8.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 103.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $41,207, and the median income for a family was $46,467. Males had a median income of $32,820 versus $27,466 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,833. 15.8% of the population and 11.5% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 21.0% of those under the age of 18 and 10.3% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
As of 2000, the racial makeup of the Phoenix was 71.1% White, 5.1% African American, 2.0% Native American, 2.0% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 16.4% from other races, and 3.3% from two or more races. 34.1% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. Since the 2000 census, the non-Hispanic White population in Phoenix dropped below 50%, according to William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution