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.

Additional links:

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

Additional links:

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.

Additional links:

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.

Additional links:

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.

Additional links:

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!

Additional links:

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.

Additional links:

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.

Additional links:

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.

Additional links: