The animated map indicates that from 1930 to 2020, Arkansas’s population grew from 1,854,482 to 3,011,524, an increase of almost 40%. However, this growth was not uniform across the state. Forty of the state’s 75 counties have fewer people today than in 1930. Most of the counties with long-term population loss are rural. Woodruff County, a rural county in north-central Arkansas, is the most extreme example, losing 72% of its population over the last century.

The majority of the state’s population growth has been in or near urban centers like Jonesboro, the Little Rock Metro area, and Northwestern Arkansas, clustered around Fayetteville, Springdale, and Bentonville. Benton, a city in Central Arkansas, has seen the state’s most significant growth, increasing in population by over 700% since the 1930 census.

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Data from the United States Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey (HPS) provides an opportunity to chart shifts in vaccine hesitancy among Arkansans compared with the United States from early February to July 2021. The information provided is an aggregate of HPS surveys completed between January 6 and February 15 and May 26 and July 5, involving unvaccinated respondents 18-44 and 45 and older.

Table 1

Table 1 shows how vaccine hesitancy (i.e., people who say they are unlikely or very unlikely to receive the vaccine) has changed between early and mid-2021 among unvaccinated respondents in the United States and Arkansas. Nationwide, hesitancy decreased around five percentage points between February and July for those in the 18-44 age cohort and 3 points among respondents 45 and older. However, in Arkansas, the rate of hesitancy in both age groups is considerably higher than the national average. In addition, resistance to vaccines among Arkansans 18-44 even increased slightly during the period monitored.

Participants chose from among ten reasons to explain their reluctance to get a vaccine, and their responses are charted in Tables 2, 3, and 4. Reasons are abbreviated to save space.

Table 2: Reasons for vaccine hesitancy in the United States and Arkansas in early and mid-2021 compared. (1/3)
Reasons for Hesitancy
• I am concerned about the possible side effects of COVID-19
• I don’t believe I need a COVID-19 vaccine.
• I don’t know if a COVID-19 vaccine will help.
• I don’t like vaccines.

From February to July 2021, the percentage of respondents concerned about possible side effects and those who believe they don’t need a vaccine declined nationally and among Arkansans in the 18-44 age group. However, the percentage of Arkansas respondents 45 and over who chose those two reasons increased substantially during the same period.

For unvaccinated respondents in Arkansas and the U.S., doubts about whether a vaccine will help remain high. Misgivings about the vaccine’s effectiveness for those 45 and older increased slightly from early to mid-2021, dropping somewhat for those 18-44. However, dislike of vaccines grew substantially over the same period, increasing an average of 10 percentage points among all age groups in Arkansas and nationally.

Table 3: Reasons for vaccine hesitancy in the United States and Arkansas in early and mid-2021 compared. (2/3)
Reasons for Hesitancy
• My doctor has not recommended it
• I think other people need it more than I do right now
• I plan to wait and see if it is safe and may get it later
• I am concerned about the cost of a COVID-19 vaccine

Since February, percentages of respondents who believe that the “vaccine has not been recommended by their doctor” held steady nationally but increased substantially among Arkansans. A “wait and see” attitude toward taking the vaccine along with “doubts about the vaccine’s effectiveness” were the reasons respondents cited most often to explain their hesitancy. Over the six months, the percentage choosing to “wait and see” grew slightly nationwide and increased noticeably among Arkansas’ age groups. This reasoning may reflect general anxiety about taking the vaccine since it has been widely available for several months.
The belief that “others need it more” has decreased among all respondent groups except Arkansans 45 and over, where the percentage citing it more than doubled. Although this response is still low, it contradicts the prevailing trend and raises concerns that 13% of unvaccinated Arkansas respondents over 45 still feel that others need the vaccine more. In addition, worries about the cost of the vaccine have remained high throughout the period, suggesting that many respondents are unaware that COVID-19 vaccines are free.

Table 4: Reasons for vaccine hesitancy in the United States and Arkansas in early and mid-2021 compared. (3/3)
Reasons for Hesitancy
• I don’t trust COVID-19 vaccines.
• I don’t trust the government.
• Other reasons

Given the previous responses, it is noteworthy that vaccine distrust among Arkansas and U.S respondents was lower in July than in February. Less surprising is the increase in respondents that “don’t trust the government,” especially among those 45 and over. Suspicion of government and the vaccine should grow as the pool of unvaccinated respondents decreases. The percentages of those citing “other” unnamed causes behind their vaccine hesitancy remained relatively high, particularly in the U.S. where 15% of respondents 18-44, and 20% of those 45 and older, identified “other.”

While the percentage of unvaccinated respondents who worried about possible side effects or believed a vaccine was unneeded decreased since February, the rate of those citing other reasons to avoid a shot remained relatively flat or increased. Little or no growth in an indicator over several months suggests the impact of information campaigns on an ever smaller and presumably more resistant set of unvaccinated respondents.

Changing circumstances should also impact the number of respondents selecting “wait and see” or “my doctor has not recommended it,” as doctors commit to vaccinations and various vaccines receive final FDA approval.

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As the drive to vaccinate America continues, data from the United States Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey (HPS) offers insight into why many Arkansans still resist treatment. The following graphs combine data from the three most recent HPS releases to provide a statistical snapshot of vaccine hesitancy in Arkansas.

Graph 1:

Graph 1 compares the percentage of hesitant (defined as unsure about the COVID-19 vaccine or unlikely to receive it) unvaccinated adults in Arkansas and the U.S. Respondents between 18 and 44 in both Arkansas and nationwide reported a hesitancy substantially higher than those 45 and over. This discrepancy between age groups might reflect public perceptions that only the elderly are at risk from the virus; however, this premise is unsupported by data from Graphs 2 and 3.

While the gaps between younger and older age groups are similar for Arkansas, and the U.S., vaccine hesitancy among Arkansans in both age groups is approximately 8% higher than the national average.

Graph 2:

Graph 2 indicates that similar percentages from both survey groups in the 18-44 category cited the reasons for avoiding the vaccine. Worry about possible side effects, lack of trust in COVID vaccines, and a wait-and-see attitude are top concerns for both groups. However, higher percentages of respondents in the U.S. group selected these three options. This discrepancy may be attributed to the tendency of Arkansans to select fewer responses than respondents from across the country.

Graph 3:

Graph 3 shows that both groups of respondents 45 and older named the same top three reasons to avoid vaccination as the 18-44 age group, but at lower percentages than their younger counterparts. As in Graph 2, the various reasons for avoiding vaccination listed in the survey solicited comparable rates of respondents from each survey group.

HPS data shows that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among unvaccinated individuals is higher among younger respondents, both in Arkansas and nationwide. However, vaccine hesitancy among both age groups is considerably higher in Arkansas than in the U.S. Renewed efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy, especially if they speak to Arkansans’ concerns about taking the vaccine, appear warranted.

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The week of June 7 to 14 is multiracial heritage week. Over 11 million people in the United States identify as multiracial or belonging to two or more races. In 2010, Arkansas had just over 49 thousand individuals, or about 1.7% of the state’s then 2.92 million residents, that self-identified as multiracial.

As Image 1 indicates, Arkansas’ two largest multiracial groups are White and American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN), representing 44% of the state’s multiracial population, and White and Black or African American, comprising 26%. Of the remaining residents classified as multiracial, 20% identify as combinations unrecognized by the Census Bureau, 8% as White and Asian, and 1% as Black or African American and AIAN.

Table 1 shows that from 2010 to 2019, Arkansas’ multiracial population jumped from 49,157 to 83,603, an increase of 71%. Multiracial residents are now the state’s third-largest racial group and makeup 2.8% of the total population. The growth rate for multiracial groups far outpaced Arkansas’s overall population growth of 3.3% for this period, a discrepancy possibly attributable to many Arkansans’ growing willingness to declare their racial background.

As the number of residents in the state identifying as multiracial increased, the percentage of individuals within the racial groupings designated by the Census Bureau shifted. Table 1 indicates that by 2019, 38% of multiracial individuals identified as White and AIAN, 32% White and Black or African American, 11% White and Asian, 3% Black or African American and AIAN, and 15% in unofficial combinations.

Image 1

Table 1 – Multi-racial population in Arkansas by combination and year, 2010-2019

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The U.S. Census Bureau released the first data from the 2020 Census last month. This information, delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, includes state totals for apportioning the 435 seats in the House of Representatives and is typically delivered to the President by December 31 of the Census year.

Arkansas’s resident population on April 1, 2020 was 3,011,524, an increase of 3.3%, (see Figure 1), or 95,606 persons, since 2010. Overall, the United States experienced an increase of 7.4% over the last decade, reaching a total resident population of 331,449,281. Utah’s growth rate of 18.4% made it the nation’s fastest-growing state, while three states, West Virginia (-3.2%), Mississippi (-0.2%), and Illinois (-0.1%), lost population. Arkansas ranked 35th in percent change among the states.

Figure 1

Arkansas’s total resident population, 32nd among the states in 2010, dropped to 33rd in 2020. Figure 2 shows California (39,538,223) and Texas (29,145,505) remain the country’s two most populous states, while Wyoming (576,851) and Vermont (643,077) have the smallest number of residents.

Figure 2

Figure 3 shows that from 1910 to 1940, Arkansas experienced declining growth, culminating in a substantive population loss from 1940 to 1960. The state achieved its most significant percentage growth (18.9%) from 1970 to 1980, saw a drop in growth to 2.8% from 1980 to 1990, followed by an increase in growth from 1990 to 2000 to 13.7%. The 3.3% increase in 2020 caps two decades of slowing growth rates that began in 2000.

Figure 3

Based on the 2020 apportionment counts, Arkansas will maintain the four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives it has held since 1960. In 1940, the state had seven Congressional seats but dropped to four after losing population two decades in a row. Figure 4 shows that in the 2020 Census seven states lost one seat (California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia). Five states gained one seat (Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Montana, Oregon), and Texas gained two.

Figure 4

Although apportionment counts determine the number of congressional seats each state receives, the 2020 Census redistricting numbers used for redrawing congressional districts are the most eagerly awaited and should be released in a user-friendly tabular format by September 30. These counts will also provide communities with the composition of their populations by race, ethnicity, and age. This data will be available earlier, in mid-to-late August, in a legacy format summary data file that requires user processing.

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AEDI’s Data Center has created a series of Tables detailing Arkansas’s estimated life expectancy and mortality rates for 2019. The Institute used data from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) that draws on death certificates from the International Classification of Diseases and population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau to present estimates by age, gender, and race.

Table 1: Arkansas’s life expectancy at birth and at age 45 (2019)

Table 1 shows that in 2019, the life expectancy for Arkansans at birth was 76.2 years, 2.6 years behind the United States’ average of 78.81. Females tend to live longer than males, and Arkansas is no exception. The life expectancy at birth for male residents was 73.5 compared with 79 for female residents.

Blacks in Arkansas have lower life expectancies than their white counterparts. White Arkansans, statistically speaking, can expect to live 2.7 years longer than Black Arkansans, White males 3.9 years longer than Black males, and White females 2.0 years more than Black females.

Life expectancy at 45 years and above for all groups exceeds life expectancy at birth. Residents in this older group have escaped the comparatively high mortality risk facing children between birth and age five. In 2019, Arkansans 45 and older had an overall life expectancy rate 3.0 years higher than residents in the at birth category. This age difference extends life expectancy for those 45 and older by 2.9 years for Whites and 4.5 years for Blacks, although the gaps in life expectancy between genders and races persist.

Table 2: Arkansas’s age-specific mortality rates (2019)

Table 2 shows the age-specific mortality rates (per 10,000 people) used to calculate the life expectancy by age, race, and gender for Arkansans in Table 1. Mortality rates for all groups start at an elevated level for children under 12 months, drop to their lowest level for children between the ages of 5-14, then increase steadily with each age grouping. Higher life expectancies for women are no surprise considering that females in the aggregate have lower mortality rates in every age group except for children between the ages of 1 and 4.

In every category except for residents age 85 and above, Black Arkansans have substantially higher mortality rates than Whites. The most significant disparities are children under 12 months old and children between 1 and 4 years old, and adults in the 45 to 54 age group. Mortality rates for Blacks in these categories range 65% to 75% higher than Whites, while also running markedly above Whites in other groupings, including 51% in the 15-24 age group.

These disparities continue when comparing both racial groups by gender, with Black males and females having higher mortality rates than their White counterparts in ten of eleven age groupings. This trend is starkly apparent in the earliest stage of life, where mortality rates for Black males in Arkansas are 98% higher than White males and 94% higher for Black females than for White females. The one exception to this pattern is the mortality rate for residents 85 and older, which is 21% lower for Black Arkansans than White Arkansans.

These tables were produced from period life tables available here.

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). U.S. Life Expectancy Increased in 2019, Prior to the Pandemic. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from

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As part of the ongoing Arkansas EDA COVID-19 Recovery & Resiliency Initiative, the Arkansas Economic Development Institute (AEDI) has updated its COVID Dashboard with new information from the United States Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey on post-secondary education.

Click here to see how the pandemic shaped Arkansans’ participation in the state’s colleges and universities.

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The latest iteration of the United States Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey provides an opportunity to observe what Arkansans think about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Residents vaccinated or intending to be vaccinated and those hesitating about receiving a vaccine are viewed through the lens of age, race, and gender.

Graph 1:

According to Image 1, a smaller percentage of Arkansans received or planned to receive a COVID-19 vaccine compared to the United States as a whole. Put another way, roughly 1 in every 3 Arkansans are currently unlikely to be vaccinated, compared to 1 in every 5 Americans.

Graph 2:

Image 2 indicates at least 60% of Arkansans, regardless of age, race, or gender, have been or plan to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Respondents age 65 or over are substantially more likely to have received or plan to receive the vaccine than individuals in the other age subgroups. These results possibly indicate that younger respondents see vaccination as unnecessary or possess doubts about its efficacy.

The percentage of Arkansans vaccinated or intending to get vaccinated varied little across racial lines. Approximately 70% of Whites and individuals in the Other subgroup (primarily those self-identifying as Hispanic) said they received or planned to take a vaccine. Black or African Americans trailed slightly behind at 65%. Males are almost 10% more likely than women to be vaccinated or seek vaccination.

Responses from Arkansans hesitant to receive a vaccine are charted in Graphs 3, 4, and 5. Participants selected any of the ten reasons provided on the survey to explain their reluctance. Reasons are abbreviated to save space.

Original reasons on the survey:

  • I don’t like vaccines
  • I am concerned about the possible side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • I don’t know if a COVID-19 vaccine will help
  • I don’t believe I need a COVID-19 vaccine
  • My doctor has not recommended it
  • I don’t trust COVID-19 vaccines
  • I am concerned about the cost of a COVID-19 vaccine
  • I plan to wait and see if it is safe and may get it later
  • I think other people need it more than I do right now
  • I don’t trust the government
  • Other

Graph 3:

Vaccine safety was the top concern for respondents in Chart 3. 50% of individuals surveyed cited Possible side effects and 39% selected Will wait and see if it is safe as reasons for hesitating. Other prominent reasons included mistrust of the vaccine and government and questions about the vaccine’s usefulness. Safety concerns and distrust of the vaccine effort may diminish as vaccines prove effective and become widely available.

Graph 4

As indicated in Graph 4, all age groups cite safety concerns and mistrust of government and vaccines as the top reasons for not getting vaccinated. However, there is considerable variation among subgroups. Respondents in the 45-64 age group distrust the vaccine and the government, while almost 60% of 18-44-year-olds fear possible side effects from taking the vaccine, nearly 12 percentage points higher than those age 45-64 and 25 points higher than those 65 and over. The youngest group is also more likely to dislike vaccines and believe they are unnecessary.

Graph 5

Blacks are the only subgroup of Arkansans surveyed that did not select government mistrust as one of their top reasons for resisting the vaccine. A higher percentage of African Americans doubted the vaccine’s effectiveness (22%), and 48% of Blacks, close to ten percentage points more than the other subgroups, supported the Will wait and see if it is safe approach to taking the vaccine.

A noticeably smaller percentage of individuals in the Other subgroup named Don’t trust COVID-19 vaccines than Black and White respondents and Whites had the highest rate of individuals citing mistrust of government as a reason for delaying or avoiding a vaccine. Despite some notable differences, similar percentages of Arkansans chose similar reasons for hesitating, regardless of racial identity.

Graph 6

While Graph 6 shows that both genders share safety concerns and mistrust of government and vaccines as their top reasons for avoiding vaccination, percentages between men and women sometimes varied widely. Almost 60% of women compared with 39% of men named Possible side effects and only 28% of men versus 49% of women opted to Wait and see if it is safe. Percentage differences in responses to the other reasons provided are far less pronounced. However, men edged out women in the percentage of respondents who felt they did not need the vaccine and distrusted government.

Despite differences across racial, age, and gender lines, most Arkansans hesitant about COVID-19 vaccines cite vaccine safety and mistrust of government and the vaccine process as chief reasons behind their concerns. Vaccination efforts that address these fears should be more effective.

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A measure of the number of deaths, the mortality rate is the incidence of deaths in a given population during a defined period typically expressed per 1,000 or 100,000 individuals. In 2018, the US reported 2,839,205 deaths out of an estimated population of 326,687,501. Graph 1 shows a national mortality rate of 8.69 for 2018, indicating close to 9 deaths for every thousand people.

Graph 1: Mortality Rate in the United States and Arkansas by Race, 2018

Arkansas’s mortality rate for 2018, and the rates specific to Black and White residents, exceeded the national average. In contrast, mortality ratios for Hispanics and other ethnic groups in the state fell below the US rate. In part, these results are a reflection of age differences between Arkansas and the country as a whole. While the state’s Non-White residents are younger, White residents are older than the White population nationwide and form a higher percentage (76.7%) of Arkansas’s overall population.

Map 1: Average Mortality Rate for the Population of Arkansas by County (2017-2019)

Map 1 shows the total mortality rates for Arkansas’s counties. The data was aggregated from 2017-2019 to address discrepancies from small population groups and remove counties from which information was unattainable or skewed. The state’s mortality rates ranged from 7.02 per 1,000 residents in Benton County to just over 17 per 1,000 in Monroe County. Comparing county mortality rates with median age data reveal the 15 counties with the lowest median ages have mortality rates below the state average and that 10 of the 15 counties with the highest median age rank among those counties with the highest mortality rates.

Map 2: Average Mortality Rate for the White Population of Arkansas by County (2017-2019)

Map 2 shows that Benton County’s mortality rate of 8.89 is the lowest for the state’s non-Hispanic White population, and Monroe County’s ratio of 20.92 is the highest. Counties with the highest mortality rates for White residents are in the Delta and southern parts of the state and several counties in north-central Arkansas, clustered around Fulton County, a popular retirement area.

Map 3: Average Mortality Rate for the Black and African American Population of Arkansas by County (2017-2019)

Mortality rates for the state’s Black residents, shown in Map 3, range from 2.12 in Benton County to 16.11. in Calhoun County. Counties with the highest mortality rates are concentrated mostly in the Delta and Southern regions of Arkansas. Many of these same counties have relatively low median incomes.

Map 4: Average Mortality Rate for the Hispanic Population of Arkansas by County (2017-2019)

Hispanic residents have low mortality rates compared to the other population groups in Arkansas. The low ratios for Hispanic residents, which range from 0.39 to 6.32, according to Map 4, are probably linked to the fact that the state’s Hispanic population has a median age of about 25 and represents just 7.5% of the total population.

Map 5: Average Mortality Rate for the Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American Population of Arkansas by County (2017-2019)

The mortality rates for the rest of Arkansas’s population, primarily Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans, are shown in Map 5. For counties where data was available, mortality rates for this group range between 1.05 to 8.15. Like the mortality rates for Hispanics, these relatively low ratios are likely attributable to the group’s small population and median age.

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As part of the Arkansas EDA COVID-19 Recovery & Resiliency Initiative, the Arkansas Economic Development Institute (AEDI) created a COVID 19 dashboard that compiles data from various sources to help Arkansans understand the impact of the pandemic on their state. We added a new section examining how various socio-economic indicators by race and gender have changed since the early stages of the pandemic and the end of 2020. Indicators include perceived loss of household income since March 13, residents that self-report being in fair or poor health, and computer availability for children’s education. Click here to access this new information!

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