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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Based on women’s age-specific fertility rates in their child-bearing years, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) indicates the average number of children a woman could potentially bear during her reproductive age span (15-44). A TFR rate of 2.1 (2.1 children per woman) is considered replacement level fertility. If this rate persists over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself.

Obtaining an accurate TFR for Arkansas and its 75 counties for 2017-2019 required using a three-year average of statewide birth and population data to address discrepancies from small population groups and substituting the state TFR for data that was unattainable or too far outside the norm. From to 2017-2019, Arkansas had an average Total Fertility Rate of 1.87. This rate falls below the replacement fertility rate of 2.10. and will lead, if it persists for a sustained period, to a decrease in the population achieved through natural growth since the number of deaths exceeds the number of births.

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

Map 1 shows the average TFR for every county in Arkansas. Rates range from a low of 1.40 in Clark County to a high of 2.49 in Chicot County. Only 25 counties are above the 2.10 needed to obtain replacement level fertility, which leaves almost two-thirds of the state’s counties unable to maintain their current populations through births alone. Higher birthrates are concentrated in the Delta and northeast Arkansas, although some counties in the eastern part of the state have a TFR rate just below 2.10.

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

Map 2 focuses on the average TFR rate by county for the state’s White population. The values range from 1.37 in Clark County to 2.43 in Randolph County. Seven western counties close to or bordering Oklahoma have high TFR rates for white residents. Other counties where the TFR rates for Whites surpass 2.10 are in the Delta and northeast Arkansas. Despite these higher TRF rates, the average statewide TFR rate for whites of 1.783 is well below the 2.10 TFR replacement rate.

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

African Americans in Arkansas, represented in Map 3, have an average TRF rate of 1.94. Although several counties with TFR rates that exceed the replacement rate are scattered throughout the state, the counties with the highest fertility rates for Blacks are concentrated in the Delta. The lowest TFR in the state, 0.75, is in Pike County, and the highest, 2.77, in Chicot County. The unusually low rate in Pike County is likely attributable to the small number of resident Blacks.

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

For the state’s Hispanic population, shown in Map 4, the higher TFR rates are in counties located in central and southern Arkansas. Cross County has the lowest rate at 0.92, and Arkansas County the highest, at 4.11. These rates may reflect fewer women of reproductive age and an unusual number of births occurring during the period indicated. The average statewide TFR rate of 2.32 for Hispanics exceeds the replacement rate and surpasses the average rates for all other population groups.

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

Map 5 shows TFR rates by county for the rest of the state’s population, primarily Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. The counties with high TFR rates for this population group are more scattered geographically than the previous groups and mainly located in southwestern, northwestern, and northeastern Arkansas. Randolph County has the highest TFR at 5.71, and fertility rates for this group in Randolph, Green, Clay, and Cleburne counties are above 4.00. The average TFR for this group is 1.984.

Historically, raising low fertility rates in economically developed regions is unlikely since circumstances contributing to higher birth rates, like high infant and child mortality rates, are of less concern. Also, factors linked to lower fertility rates, including education for girls and women, availability of contraceptives, and higher living costs, are characteristic of more prosperous urban areas.

Should the trends evident in the 2017-2019 Total Fertility Rates persist over the next few decades it could indicate a steadily decreasing population for Arkansas. Reversing these trends would require the state to supplement its population by encouraging people to migrate to the state and reducing the number of residents leaving to live and work elsewhere. These efforts would also need to be replicated at the local level since so many counties have birth rates well below the natural replacement rate.

It is also important to note that the relatively high fertility rates for some or all of the state’s minority populations may eventually trend downwards as more generations are born and the counties they inhabit experience greater economic growth and development.

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Thanks to the Household Pulse Survey, an ongoing effort by the U.S. Census Bureau to chart the pandemic’s social and economic effects on American households, we can track how the first phase of the crisis impacted the household employment income of Arkansans.

Image 1:

Image 1 compares the percentage of females and males who have reported losses in household employment income with the state’s total adult population. Nearly forty percent (39.6%) of adult women reported losing income compared with (48.3%) of adult males who saw their income shrink.

While these percentages appear consistent with the total number of Arkansas adults (43.8%) who suffered employment income loss, the almost 9% difference between males and females is harder to explain. The discrepancy could be attributable to more women working in essential jobs or employed in positions more easily transferable to ‘work from home models.’

Image 2:

Image 2 charts the percentage of household employment income loss among different Arkansas racial and ethnic groups. Whites suffered income loss comparable to the state as a whole. By contrast, losses reported by Blacks and Hispanics were significantly higher than the state average.

This disparity could reflect higher numbers in both groups working in businesses that have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. According to data from the 2019 American Community Survey, about 50% of Arkansan’s Hispanic population works in service, production, transportation, or material moving industries vulnerable to temporary or permanent closures during the pandemic.

Image 3:

Image 3 examines the loss of household employment income among Arkansans with differing levels of education. Residents in the ‘some college’ and ‘high school or less’ categories report a similar proportion of lost income, about 3 or 4 percentage points above the state average. This result comes as no surprise since the two groups combined comprise over half the state’s working population.

While the proportion of residents who lack a college degree and reported employment income losses approaches 50 percent, only a third of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher reported a loss. This significant gap demonstrates that residents with lower educational attainment levels are more exposed to the economic dislocation triggered by the pandemic.

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Two weeks ago, the Census Bureau announced that the deadline for finishing the 2020 Census Operations, delayed initially to cope with the coronavirus outbreak, will be rescheduled from October 31 to September 30. This sudden change has forced the Bureau to re-plan, shorten, and cancel some of its scheduled operations.

Time allotted to the Non-Response Follow Up (NRFU) project, which sends census takers to housing units that failed to respond to earlier queries, has been reduced from three to two months. This change will almost certainly reduce the number of Arkansans counted since the time allowed census workers to visit households and conduct follow-ups is significantly shortened. Phase two of the Count Review Operation, which ensures the accuracy of counts in group quarters like colleges and nursing homes, has been canceled altogether.

These and other programs are primarily aimed at ‘hard to count’ populations challenging to reach and reluctant to respond to census questions. Often dependent on large scale federal social programs for assistance with medical expenses, food costs, housing, and education, these groups include people with lower incomes, racial and ethnic minorities, rural residents, immigrants, and children. Since census numbers determine funding levels for these programs, any undercount adversely affects the welfare of those in underrepresented communities.

In 2016, according to the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy, Arkansas received close to $9.9 billion in federal funds distributed through various Federal programs, including Medicaid, SNAPS, Pell Grants, the National School Lunch Program, and different housing initiatives. This figure, taken from the 2010 Census count, equals approximately $3,300 per resident for each year from 2010 to 2020. Since the census bureau estimates an average of 2.5 residents in each housing unit, a single uncounted housing unit deprives the state of $8250 in federal funding.

Image 1:

Before the NRFU project’s launch last week, just over 890,000 housing units or 58.3% of the 1.5 million housing units in the Census Bureau’s address file for Arkansas have responded. This percentage compares unfavorably with the 62.3% self-response rate for the state in the previous census, particularly since the current census offered two participation options unavailable in 2010. Table 1 shows only three counties with better response rates than the last census and only 16 counties, almost four percentage points shy of their 2010 performance. A single percent undercount, equating to just 30,000 people, would cost the state $990 million in lost funding over the next ten years.

The new time constraints will not automatically result in serious undercounts if the pace of reporting rates improve. The Bureau, census supporters, and stakeholders like the Arkansas Counts Coalition are redoubling their efforts to ensure an accurate count, but they face an uphill battle.

The United States Census Bureau recently launched the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) to chart the social and economic effects of COVID-19 on American households. HPS is a 20-minute online survey sent to households scientifically chosen to represent the entire population. Selected individuals are asked questions to determine how their lives and livelihoods and those they live with have been affected by the ongoing crisis.

Created in collaboration with five other federal agencies, HPS provides weekly data reports on employment status, food security, population health, and other critical metrics. Begun in late April, these reports make it possible to track the impact of COVID 19 on Arkansas’s working-age population from early May to early July.

Table 1

Table 1 shows a substantial increase in the percentage of working-age Arkansans reporting a loss in household employment income since March 13. From May 19 to July 7, working households reporting losses in employment income increased steadily from 41.5% to 46.9%.

Table 2

Although the overall percentage of working-age adults in Arkansas who reported working in the last seven days increased slightly from 38% to 40.9%, the report rate fluctuated significantly during the nine weeks covered by Table 2. During June 2-9, the percentage of those who reported working fell to 33% but jumped to 43% three weeks later before plateauing at just above 40% by July.

Table 3

Table 4

Table 3 indicates that the percentage of working-age adults who report that their household sometimes or often does not have enough to eat varies widely from week to week but does not appear to follow any specific pattern. In contrast, Table 4 charts a steady increase in the rate of Arkansans that report that they have a harder time accessing food since March 13 despite some volatility in the fourth and fifth weeks of the reporting period.

Table 5

High rates of working-age adults in Arkansas believe themselves to be in fair or poor health. Table 5 places the percentage at 29.7% for the end of the reporting period, a 13% increase since mid-June, and nearly ten percentage points above the national average for the same period.

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In mid-March, the United States Census Bureau began publishing self-response rates for the 2020 Census. The self-response rate tracks the number of residents who have responded to the 2020 Census by mail, online, or telephone. It is calculated by subtracting the number of housing units that have responded from the total of housing units solicited.

As of July 15, 2020, 56.8% of all households in Arkansas have responded. Although residents have until October to respond to the Census, the current response rate for Arkansas is unlikely to change significantly, given the current slowdown in responses.

The 2010 mail response rate is used to compare the 2010 and 2020 Census self-response rates since mail-in forms were the only self-response option available in 2010. The mail response rate is calculated by dividing the housing units that mailed back their census forms by the total amount of housing units that received forms. In 2010 the mail response rate for Arkansas was 62.3%, 5.5. percentage points above the current self-response rate.

Image 1

Image 2

Image 1 and 2 show the response rates of Arkansas counties in 2010 and for July of 2020. The areas of the state with high and low response rates are similar for each census year despite differences in individual counties. Calhoun County had one of the lowest self-response rates in 2010 and 2020 while Faulkner, Benton, and Greene counties were among the state’s highest. As of July 2020, the response rate for these three top-performing counties remains below their 2010 percentages.

Image 3

Image 3 lists the difference in self-response rates by county for 2010 and 2020. 2020 response rates for most Arkansas counties lag behind their 2010 final response rates, and the average reporting rate for the state in 2020 is seven percentage points lower than in 2010. Only Drew, Washington, and Hot Spring counties have self-reporting rates for 2020 that exceed the last Census. Arkansas is not unique. Only three states currently report self-response rates that surpass their 2010 numbers.

Many of the state’s lower-performing counties are located in ‘Update-Leave’ areas, defined by the Census Bureau as locations challenging to reach by mail. Bureau procedure, which is to send employees to these areas to deliver paper copies directly, was delayed for several months due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Arkansas only recently completed its first round of deliveries, and public preoccupation with the pandemic and the upcoming election may also have contributed to the lower response rate.

Arkansas’s reporting rate can still reach or even surpass the previous Census. Three months remain before the 2020 Census is concluded, and many initiatives are still underway or have yet to begin. The second delivery of questionnaires to update-leave areas starts soon, and the Census Bureau will launch door-to-door enumeration operations as the Census nears completion. When combined with the ongoing work of local and statewide groups to promote the Census, these efforts might enable the state to improve its response rate for 2020 significantly.

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Since mid-March, the United States Census Bureau has received 2020 Census forms from nearly 120 million households nationwide and has published information on the percentage of households that have self-responded on-line, by phone, or through the mail. These numbers are updated daily to help the Census Bureau and local groups ensure a complete count of people living in the United States as of April 1, 2020.

Self-response rates are calculated by dividing the number of responding households by the total number of households in the same area. This method often leads to an under-reporting of response rates since vacant households are included in the Census Bureau’s Masterfile of addresses. In a town with 60 occupied households and 40 vacant households, for example, the self-response rate reported by the Bureau could never exceed 60%, even if every occupied household responded.

Image 1

Relying on the 2018 ACS 5-Year Estimates, Image 1 lists the percentage of vacant households in Arkansas by county. Vacancy rates range from 7.1% to 38.3%, with the higher percentages clustered in the Northern, Eastern, and Southern parts of the state. The lower rates are generally located in Central and Northwest Arkansas. The counties with the lowest vacancy rates are Washington (7.1%), Lonoke (7.6%), Benton (8.3%), Craighead (8.9%), and Scott (9.6%). The ones with the highest are Newton (38.3%), Montgomery (35.5%), Lafayette (34.7%), Van Buren (34.3%), and Sebastian (33.6%).

Image 2

Image 2 indicates the self-response rate by county in Arkansas. It shows counties reporting rates ranging from 29.3% to 65.0% which roughly parallel the state’s vacancy rates (see image 1). Counties with higher vacancy rates have lower response rates, and those with lower vacancy rates have higher response rates. Approximately 56.7% of all Arkansas households self-responded.

Newton, Izard, Calhoun, Woodruff, and Lafayette counties have the lowest response rates, ranging from 29.3% to 39.7%. With the exception of Woodruff, each of these counties ranks among the ten counties with the highest vacancy rates. Conversely, Faulkner, Benton, Lonoke, and Greene have the highest self-response rates and the lowest vacancy rates. Self-response rates can change significantly, however, once vacant households are removed from the equation.

Image 3

Image 3 shows Arkansas’s self-response rate based on occupied housing units alone. This alteration increases the state self-response by nine percentage points to 65.8%. It also significantly alters county-wide self-reporting rates, jumping the county with the lowest rate from 29.3% to 46% and the highest from 61.9% to 93.1%.

While the percentages for many counties change drastically, the map looks much the same. The highest response rates are now concentrated around Pulaski County and north-central Arkansas, while the Northwestern and Northeastern parts of the state continue to have high response rates. Individual counties like Cleburne experienced a dramatic change, shifting from a self-response rate of 49.1% to 73.4%, Cleburne County went from 46 among 75 counties to the fourth highest response rate in the state.

Similarly, Van Buren increased its response rate from 46.1% to 70.2% and went from 54 to 12 in the county rankings. An additional 13 other counties also moved up at least ten spots, and Sebastian County, when its response rate is calculated on occupied housing, changes from 61.9% to 93.1% and achieves the state’s highest self-response rate.

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