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This dashboard dives into decennial census data to take a look at the racial/ethnic makeup of the population in Arkansas over the last 40 years. Data from all five census years from 1980-2020 are displayed by county and at the state level.

In this dashboard you can see the three included racial/ethnic groups at the same time while also being able to track changes over time. For quick reference, the Black/African American population is represented in blue, the White population in orange, and the Hispanic/Latino population in green.

In 1980, the White population of 1,890,322 was over 5 times the Black or African American population and made up 82.7% of the total state population. Most counties did not have a large population of any race other than White.  The counties in the Delta and the southern part of the state had the highest concentration of Black or African Americans. The Hispanic population was very small and only accounted for 0.8% of the population in 1980.

From 1980 to 1990 Arkansas saw an overall population increase of 2.8%. The racial composition of the state remained consistent.

In 2000, the racial composition began to shift. The Black or African American population was no longer concentrated only in the Delta also in Sebastian, Faulkner, and Garland Counties and made up 15.7% of the total population. The Hispanic/Latino population experienced growth from 1990 to 2000 and now accounted for 3.2% of the state’s total population. The counties in northwestern and western part of the state had the largest concentration of Hispanic population. The White population grew by 10.0% from 1990 to 2000, but made up less of the total population (80.0%) in 2000.

By 2010, the total population in Arkansas was 2,915,918, up 9.1% from 2000. The Hispanic/Latino population had grown to 6.4% of the total population and was more widespread into other counties in the central part of the state. Northwest Arkansas continued to have the highest concentration of Hispanic/Latino population. The highest concentration of White population remained in central Arkansas and the White population grew larger in the northwestern part of the state. Some of the Delta counties experienced population loss from 2000 to 2010, consequently the concentration of Black/African American population no longer encompassed all the counties along the Mississippi River.

From 2010 to 2020 the total population in Arkansas grew by 3.3% to 3,011,524. The racial composition of the state continued to grow more diverse. In 2020, the White population made up only 70.2% of the total population, down from 77.0% in 2010. Conversely the Hispanic/Latino population accounted for 8.5% in 2020, which is an increase from 6.4% in 2010. The Black/African American population remained pretty consistent with 15.1% of the population in 2020 compared to 15.4% in 2010. The population decline in the Delta continued this decade which can be seen in the counties adjacent to the Mississippi River when looking at the Black/African American map.

Over the past 40 years, the racial/ethnic makeup of the state has changed from a predominately White state with little diversity to one that has a larger minority population. The Hispanic/Latino population saw the largest increase in this time period, while the Black/African American population saw a big shift from the Delta and southern Arkansas to spread into the in central and western areas of the state.

According to the new population estimates released by the Census Bureau today, Tontitown was the fastest-growing city in Arkansas by percent change and Bentonville had the largest numeric gain from April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021.

Seven of the ten fastest-growing cities and seven of the ten places with the largest numeric gain were in Northwest Arkansas, specifically in Benton and Washington Counties.

Top Places for Population Growth

Tontitown experienced the largest growth of 30.0%. Tontitown was followed by Highfill (18.3%), Austin (16.0%), and Centerton (12.0%) which all increased by over 10 percent. The only three places in the top ten that are not located in Northwest Arkansas are Austin (Lonoke County), Bono (Craighead County), and Alexander (Pulaski and Saline Counties).

Bentonville topped the list of the places with the largest numeric increase, growing by 2,614 people since April 1, 2020. Behind Bentonville were Centerton (2,137), Fayetteville (1,648), Conway (1,465), Rogers (1,359), and Tontitown (1,300) which all gained over 1,000 people. The only three places in the top ten that are not located in Northwest Arkansas are Conway (Faulkner County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), and Benton (Saline County).

Three cities, Tontitown, Centerton, and Farmington, appear in the top ten for both numeric increase and percent change in population. All three of these are located in either Benton County or Washington County.

Most Populous Cities

Little Rock remains the largest city in the state of Arkansas, with its population more than double the next highest city, Fayetteville. The only change to the top ten cities from Census 2020 occurred when Conway passed North Little Rock in 2021 to become the 7th largest city.

If you are interested in exploring more city and town level estimates you can visit the interactive page or visit the population estimates page with downloadable files.

The Census Bureau released the Vintage 2021 population estimates by county last week.  These estimates show a July 1, 2021 population of 3,025,891 for the state of Arkansas.  This is an increase of 14,367 persons, or 0.5%, since the 2020 Census.  The population increase within the state is higher than the nation at 0.1% and ranks 17th among the 50 states.

From July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021, forty counties in the state gained population.  Benton, Madison, Izard, and Sharp Counties saw the highest percentage growth within the state.  All four counties increased in population by at least 2.0%.  In terms of numeric growth, Benton (7,339) and Washington (3,395) Counties topped the list.

Conversely, the other thirty-four counties experienced a population loss.  Phillips, Arkansas, Dallas, Desha, Lafayette, and Mississippi Counties all declined in population by at least 2.0%.  The counties losing the most people were Pulaski (-1,252), Jefferson (-950), and Mississippi (-842).

To see what is driving the population increases and declines, two factors need to be considered: natural change and migration.

Natural change is calculated by subtracting the number of deaths from the number of births for a given geography from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021.  If this number is positive it is referred to as natural increase, meaning that more people were born than those that died.  The opposite, when more people die than are born, is called natural decrease.

Migration can be broken down into domestic migration within the U.S. and international migration.  If this number is positive then more people moved into the given county than moved out of it from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021.

The vast majority of the counties in Arkansas (64 of 75) experienced a natural decrease.  This is a trend that occurred across the country where over two-thirds of all the counties saw more deaths than births.  The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on the mortality rate, which combined with an aging population contributed to the natural decrease.  Garland (-627) and Baxter (-539) Counties had the largest natural decreases in the state.  Conversely, Benton (1,083) and Washington (940) Counties led the counties who experienced a natural increase.

Forty-five counties saw more people moving into than out of the county, and experienced a positive net migration.  The largest positive net migration was in Benton (6,301) and Washington (2,423) Counties, and the counties with largest negative net migration were Pulaski (-1,625), Mississippi (-828), and Jefferson (-762).

Digging into the natural change and net migration for the counties that experienced a population loss will help explain what is driving the loss.  Of those thirty-four counties, twenty-six of them had both a negative net migration and a natural decrease.  Three counties (Pulaski, Crittenden, and St. Francis) experienced a natural increase, but a negative net migration.  That means that the decline in population can be attributed by people moving out of the county.  On the contrary, five counties (Van Buren, Columbia, Clark, Perry, and Little River) had more people moving into the county than out, but experienced a population loss because of natural decrease.


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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