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8,500 Navajo have left the reservation since 2010. Jobs are a big reason why

Coverage of tribal natural resources is supported in part by Catena Foundation

September’s Census Bureau report revealed government relief helped many Americans out of poverty. In Arizona, the poverty rate fell. 

However, Native Americans in Arizona have the highest poverty rate among races. Center for American Progress data shows 28.6% of Native Americans live in poverty. That's compared to 19.1% of African Americans and 18.4% of Latinos.

According to the  National Congress of American Indians, more than 8,500 people have left the Navajo Nation reservation since the 2010 census due to the lack of jobs and economic opportunities. 

Native American poverty is driven by several factors, including a lack of resources available on the reservation, according to E.J. John, a research and policy analyst at the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University.

“One of the big factors is the lack of opportunities. Employment is really hard to come by in Indian communities, especially those who are remote,” said John. “There’s not a lot of places to find work and a lot of people end up moving away from Native American communities.” 

John says communities are able to get federal grants or funding from different resources, but it can be hard to implement them — especially for remote communities because so many people are in need.

Ayana Hamilton is an assistant producer for KJZZ’s The Show. Hamilton graduated from Arizona State University in 2023 with a bachelor’s in journalism.