Poverty, employment data tell of improving well-being in Arkansas, with caveats | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Poverty, employment data tell of improving well-being in Arkansas, with caveats

Posted By on Sat, Sep 16, 2017 at 1:36 PM

Poverty in the United States
New U.S. Census Bureau data released last week paints a positive picture for Arkansas, at least in relative terms. The state- and local-level statistics come from the 2016 American Community Survey.

Arkansas is still one of the poorest states in the U.S. and has a poverty rate well above the national average. But, as Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families highlighted this week, both the poverty rate and the child poverty rate have declined in Arkansas since 2010. Advocates qualifies that news, however:
While still far above national averages, our child poverty rate is down to about 24 percent. It hasn’t been this low in a decade, but that is still nearly one in four kids growing up in poverty. This news is also tempered by remaining racial inequities.
National figures from 2016 show that more of the gains of the economic recovery began trickling down to average households during the last years of the Obama administration. The poverty rate in the U.S. as a whole decreased by 0.8 percentage points in 2016, to 12.7 percent. The figure for Arkansas was around 17 percent. The Supplemental Poverty Measure, a more accurate metric that factors in the effect of government benefits enjoyed by households (which the traditional poverty measure doesn't account for), also declined.

The Census figures show that median household income strengthened as well. The New York Times reported earlier this week:
American households saw strong income growth last year, the bureau reported, and the gains stretched across the economic spectrum. A closely watched measure, median household income, jumped for the second straight year, reaching $59,039 — a 3.2 percent increase after inflation.
Again, these figures reflect the state of households in 2016 — that is, in Obama's economy, not Trump's. That isn't to say the economy hasn't done well under President Trump, just that the Census data released last week were gathered before he took office.

Another caveat: Though families in the middle of the income distribution benefit from a rising tide, their gains are far lower than those enjoyed by the rich. That is, income and wealth inequality continues to increase, as it has for decades and as it continued to do under Obama. From Bloomberg:
Even with the overall progress on incomes, the gap between the top and bottom earners has widened since the recession. Since 2007, average inflation-adjusted income has climbed more than 10 percent for households in the highest fifth of the earnings distribution, and it’s fallen 3.2 percent for the bottom quintile. Incomes of the top 5 percent jumped 12.8 percent over the period.
Arkansas Advocates also recently took a look at employment figures in its "State of Working Arkansas 2017" report. The state continues to enjoy record-low unemployment, with a jobless rate of 3.5 percent in August. That's a big positive, but it too needs to be qualified. Advocates Senior Policy Analyst Eleanor Wheeler writes:
Economically, things are changing for the better. However, some things are not changing very much at all. The gender wage gap remains in Arkansas. Black and Hispanic workers in Arkansas still work for lower wages and have a harder time finding employment than other groups. These gaps are stubborn stains on the good news of our economic recovery. These stains can either be ground in or lifted out depending on the policy choices of lawmakers at the State Capitol. 
Then there's the quality of the jobs themselves, and how much they pay. Rising median wages (and the state's declining poverty rate) both indicate good things, yet:
Arkansans have seen steadily increasing median wages that coincide with our dropping unemployment rates, as expected. However, when compared to the nation and our neighboring states, these wage gains are not as impressive as our employment measures. Arkansas has been historically near the bottom in terms of regional median wage. Arkansas and Mississippi have been trading places between last and second-to-last in this metric for decades. 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,



Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

  • Little Rock mayoral candidates square off in forum

    If Frank Scott's candidacy speaks to the hope of bridging racial divides, Baker Kurrus' message of centrist unity seems intended to appeal to those weary of partisan conflict. Sabin, meanwhile, hopes to capitalize on the big turnout among progressives expected this cycle.
    • Oct 16, 2018
  • Update: Arkansas's work requirement drops another 4,100 from Medicaid in October

    Combined with coverage losses in September, the state has now dropped 8,500 Medicaid recipients from the rolls due to the work requirement.
    • Oct 15, 2018
  • Contrasts between LR mayoral candidates emerge at forum on homelessness

    Kurrus and Sabin both spoke in generalities about the need for city government to better systematize the delivery of services for people experiencing homelessness. But they diverged on a few key issues, including public transportation and the question of providing services to people living in camps. (Frank Scott wasn't present.)
    • Oct 11, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Payday lenders on the march at legislature

    Payday lenders are working hard to get legislative cover for the reintroduction of their usurious loan business to Arkansas. Some are fighting back.
    • Mar 10, 2017
  • The LR chamber does the public's business. Is it accountable? Blue Hog on the case.

    Matt Campbell, lawyer and Blue Hog Report blogger, has sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Jay Chessir, director of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Mayor Mark Stodola related to the publicity stunt yesterday  built around withdrawing from the mayor's rash pronouncement that the city would seek an Amazon HQ2 project even though the city  didn't meet the company's criteria.
    • Oct 20, 2017
  • The two cities of Little Rock: East/west, black/white

    The Little Rock City Board illustrated this week a community divided over public schools, another blow to the Little Rock School District and another illustration of the need for ward elections to the board.
    • Mar 23, 2017


  • Arkansas vs Ole Miss at War Memorial stadium in Little Rock, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. After leading for much of the game, Arkansas lost 37-33 when Ole Miss scored the game winning Touchdown with less that 2 minutes left. 
  • Margaret Clark Adventure Park
    New sculptures, preschoolers play area dedicated in Riverfront Park in Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation