Southern Arizona's Prosperity Initiative

The Prosperity Initiative is an intergovernmental effort to develop wealthier communities across Pima County through policies that reduce generational poverty and improve opportunity. It is led by Pima County and the City of Tucson, along with Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita, South Tucson, and the Tucson Indian Center.

prosperity initative


Why the Prosperity Initiative? Poverty is complex, persistent and a difficult cycle to break, which is why we need to rethink our approaches and commit to better outcomes. This is a historic moment to create the conditions for individual and community prosperity by focusing strategically on effective approaches that provide opportunities for lower income families to gain greater economic stability, which expands their capacity to engage with, benefit from, and contribute to the wider community.

Pima County has historically had high levels of poverty, measured not only by the traditional Census Bureau statistics (see maps below), but also by more recent analysis by Harvard’s Opportunity Insights that uses anonymized data on 20 million Americans and other data sources. Their analysis helps us to understand the hidden forces influencing the achievement of upward mobility – and it shows that Pima County has less economic opportunity. 

Additionally, the Child Opportunity Index, which measures child well-being using 29 indicators, places Tucson in the bottom ten metro areas out of 100 both for child opportunity and for having the highest proportion of children in very low opportunity neighborhoods. In Pima County, and across the country, a child’s race and ethnicity are strong predictors of access to opportunity. Black, Hispanic, and Native American children are much more likely to live in very low-opportunity neighborhoods, which is why many of our policies focus on positively impacting families of color.

Children suffer the most from poverty, both in terms of numbers, but also in terms of lifetime outcomes. A recent report, “Reducing Intergenerational Poverty” by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) states, “A child growing up in a low-income family experiences worse outcomes, on average, than a child from a higher income family in virtually every area.” Our children are our future in every sense: They will be our neighbors, our employees and employers, our leaders, and our taxpayers. Not only do they deserve better, our future prosperity depends on it. As Pima County Board Chair, Adelita Grijalva, said, “The Prosperity Initiative is an opportunity to be architects of change for the next generation."

Why policy? Research shows that that certain policies and investments not only directly assist those in need, but also reduce costs to the community as a whole and return greater long-term value. Policy creates a longer-term commitment and a strategic framework.

4 policy areas

The Prosperity Initiative Working Group with representation from the County, cities and towns meets monthly. For the last year, we’ve researched what policies had the best chance of reducing poverty and lifting families to stability with help from researchers at the University of Arizona. Community and expert input has been key. We met with more than 800 individuals in 180 small group meetings including practitioners, academics, business representatives, and those with lived experience. We also consulted with more than sixty local and national experts and practitioners.

We now have a set of 13 policy positions along with three cross-policy strategies covering a wide range of areas in education, critical family resources, and assets and infrastructure. Eleven guiding principles were used to ensure that these policies are as effective and equitable as possible. The chart below summarizes those policies. Read the full report.

Next Steps: These policies can be adopted or adapted by any of the governing bodies. The Pima County Board of Supervisors will vote on December 5th and in January the city of Tucson’s Mayor and Council will do the same. Other city, town and tribal councils will review these recommendations and determine what actions they will take. 

If adopted, the second stage begins in 2024 and will focus on aligning local government operations and investments to best implement those policies. We will continue to work with our community partners throughout. 

Measuring impact will also be an important but complicated aspect of the Prosperity Initiative. The County in partnership with the City of Tucson, two nonprofits, and University of Arizona’s SIROW (the Southwest Institute for Research on Women) will be working with the Urban Institute’s Mobility Action Learning Network along with 26 other teams of local leaders across the United States to receive pro bono technical assistance from the Urban Institute for advancing locally driven programs, policies, and actions that boost upward mobility from poverty and achieve racial equity. The University of Arizona has also pledged to work with us to assist with further research and implementation of these policies. 

We invite community input. If you have questions or would like to receive the Prosperity Initiative newsletter, please contact

Click here to learn more about the Prosperity Initiative's progress and long-term goals.




policy chart