In 2017, a study entitled The Geography of Prosperity created a Vitality Index for the United States combining median household income, poverty rate, life expectancy, prime-age employment (25-54), housing vacancy rate, and the unemployment rate. According to the study’s findings, growing gaps in economic growth exist between states and between counties within states.
Table 1 compares the indicators for Arkansas and the United States. Arkansas’ Vitality Index score is significantly lower than the national average and ranks among the states with the lowest Vitality Index scores. The state has a shorter life expectancy that the US, a lower median income, and a smaller percentage of people between the ages of 25-54 working. Poverty and housing vacancy rates in Arkansas exceed the national average.
Table 2 lists the counties with the five highest and five lowest Vitality Index scores. The five counties with the lower scores are in the Mississippi River delta area while the highest scoring counties are in central and northwest Arkansas. Benton and Saline are the only counties with Vitality Index scores higher than the national average. The median for Arkansas Vitality Scores is -1.3239 and corresponds to Lawrence County.
The interactive map on Figure 1 shows the Vitality Index score (orange to blue scale) and population density (how light or dark the colors are) for the entire state. While the majority of Arkansas counties are in the lowest category, Benton and Saline are in the highest.
Table 1: Vitality Index score and indicators for the United States and Arkansas (2017)
|Median Household Income||57700||43800|
|Employment Rate (Ages 25-54)||0.766||0.725|
|Housing Vacancy Rate||0.122||0.153|
Table 2: Vitality Index score for the highest and lowest ranked counties in Arkansas (2017)
|1||Benton County, Arkansas||0.3639|
|2||Saline County, Arkansas||0.3152|
|3||Lonoke County, Arkansas||-0.1591|
|4||Faulkner County, Arkansas||-0.4504|
|5||Washington County, Arkansas||-0.4979|
|38||Lawrence County, Arkansas||-1.3239|
|71||St. Francis County, Arkansas||-2.233|
|72||Chicot County, Arkansas||-2.2763|
|73||Desha County, Arkansas||-2.4359|
|74||Lee County, Arkansas||-2.5572|
|75||Phillips County, Arkansas||-2.801|
Figure 1: Vitality Index score and population density for Arkansas (2017)