Population growth in a region is determined by natural increase, the difference between the number of births and deaths, and net migration, the difference between the number of people entering a region and those leaving it. Changes in population trends can help identify various economic and social trends.

Image 1: (Population Change and Natural Increase in Arkansas 2010-2019) divides the state’s counties into four categories:

  • Counties with positive population change and natural increase.
  • Counties with positive population change but negative natural increase.
  • Counties with negative population change but positive natural increase.
  • Counties with negative population change and negative natural increase

Seventeen counties in the state, primarily located in Central and Northwest Arkansas and in the Jonesboro area, experienced an overall population increase attributable to births outnumbering deaths. By contrast seven counties in the Delta, four in the southwest and a few elsewhere had more births than deaths, but still saw population declines due to residents leaving.

Even though deaths outpaced births in several counties in North and Central Arkansas, an in migration of new residents produced overall population increases. Overall 36 out of 75 counties in Arkansas lost population from 2010 to 2019.

Natural increase and net migration can be critical to understanding local population trends. The population of Benton County increased by nearly 60,000 during the last decade, but 40,000 of that increase came from net migration. A county like Hot Springs might experience population growth despite a decline in the natural increase rate due to families that already have children taking up residence in the area.

On the other hand, a county in the delta undergoing a decline in population even though births in the area outnumber deaths might indicate that the older population is moving out and the younger population staying put. Counties suffering from a population decrease might also have a stable older population but a high number of younger people moving out of their homes before having children.

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