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In many ways, the condition of families in Arkansas is improving – teen births and child abuse are declining, unemployment is low, and housing is affordable. But other indicators are headed in the wrong direction – child poverty is increasing, income levels haven’t kept pace with inflation, and the state’s incarceration rate is high and still rising. In addition, many conditions are dramatically worse for African American and Hispanic individuals and families.
Teen births have fallen 50% since 2007 but remain high at 30 per 1,000 teen females – putting Arkansas at 51th in the nation on this indicator. Arkansas is 35th in the nation for child abuse and neglect, with 12 children per 1,000 in true reports of abuse.
Arkansas was 46th in the nation for child poverty and for poverty, with 18% of individuals and 25% of children in poverty. Rates have increased and were significantly higher among people of color – strikingly, 43% of African American and 36% of Hispanic children were in poverty, compared to 20% of white children.
Arkansas is 49th in the nation for household income, with a median income that was 76% of the national level at $45,700. Median income was dramatically lower for African American households at $30,800, close to the poverty threshold for a four-person family with two children (about $25,500).
This is despite the fact that unemployment was low, 3.5% in 2019, lower than the national rate and down from years following the Great Recession. Arkansas had had job growth since 2008, but at 4% that has lagged the national growth rate of 9%.
Jobs and income impact families’ ability to meet basic needs. In 2018, 17% of state residents were food insecure, above the national rate of 12% and making Arkansas 50th in the nation on this indicator.
Access to affordable financial services is also important to individuals and families. In 2017, nearly 10% of Arkansas households were unbanked (meaning they had no checking or savings accounts) and 23% were underbanked (meaning they used alternative services despite having accounts). This was higher than national rates of 7% and 19% - making Arkansas 39st in the nation on this indicator.
And rates were much higher among some groups, with 31% of black or African American households and 24% of Hispanic households underbanked, compared to 17% of white households.
Incarceration can be devastating to families. In 2015, the incarceration rate in Arkansas was 122 per 10,000, up 21% since 2006, making Arkansas 40th in the nation on this indicator.
In addition, Arkansas’ rates were much higher for blacks/African Americans – 270% of the white rate – while the rate for Latinos was about half the white rate. Males were jailed at a rate 5 times above that for females.
Housing is generally affordable in Arkansas, and homelessness low. The homeownership rate was 66%, higher than the national rate, and the state’s low rate of homelessness put it at 19th in the nation. The housing affordability ratio of 2.7 put Arkansas 10th in the nation for affordable housing, and rent was fairly affordable as well, consuming on average 30% of income.
However, homeownership was much lower among African Americans (43%) and Hispanics (50%) and housing less affordable for these groups. Rent, for example, consumed 35% of income for African Americans.
|INDICATORS||TREND | STATE|
|Access to Quality Seats for Infants and Toddlers||Increasing|
|Access to Quality Childcare Seats for Preschoolers||Maintaining|
|Grade 3 Reading||Increasing|
|Grade 8 Math||Increasing|
|Adults with a High School Degree||Increasing|
|Adults with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher||Increasing|
|Adults Pursuing Further Education||Decreasing|
|Early Prenatal Care||Increasing|
|Overweight or Obese Students||Maintaining|
|Student Drug Usage||Decreasing|
|Overweight or Obese Adults||Increasing|
|Physically Inactive Adults||Maintaining|
|Insurance Coverage Rates||Increasing|
|Births to Teens||Decreasing|
|Children Living in Poverty||Increasing|
|People Living in Poverty||Increasing|
|Elderly Living in Poverty||Decreasing|
|Median Household Income||Maintaining|
|Child Abuse and Neglect||Decreasing|
|Access to Financial Services||Decreasing|
|Change in Total Jobs||Increasing|
|Housing Affordability - Owning||Maintaining|
|Housing Affordability - Renting||Increasing|
|Voter Participation Rate||Decreasing|
|Connection to Neighbors||Decreasing|
|Local Voting||Not Applicable|
|Change in Population||Increasing|
|Change in Population by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Change in Population by Age||Not Applicable|