Revised figures show Benton County income tops in Arkansas, state falls off 2013 record

by Michael Tilley ( 36 views 

Revised federal data show that Benton County’s per capita personal income in 2014 was 149.3% of the national average, and only seven other counties in a 12–state southeast U.S. region had a higher percentage. The new numbers also show Arkansas was 82% of the U.S. average in 2014, down from an historic high of 82.2% in 2013.

The U.S. per capita personal income in 2014 – the most recent year data is available from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) – was $46,049. Arkansas’ per capita personal income in 2014 was 82% of the national average, or $37,782. The state’s percentage has improved from 74.5% in 2000 and 79.4% in 2010.

Benton County is home to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and is part of a Northwest Arkansas metro area that includes other corporate giants Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt. The region also benefits from being home to the University of Arkansas, the state’s flagship institution in its university system.

According to research from Greg Kaza, executive director at the Arkansas Policy Foundation, only seven counties in the southeast U.S. have a higher per capita percentage than Benton County. Those are: Goochland County, Va. (185.4); Arlington County, Va. (180.6); Alexandria County, Va. (167.5); Fairfax County, Va. (162.9); Collier County, Fla. (160.4); Williamson County, Tenn. (155.8); and Monroe County (Key West), Fla. (151.1).

“You’ll notice the counties in Virginia are mostly around the Washington, D.C. area,” Kaza said.

Benton County has seen per capita income as a percent of the U.S. average rise more than 53% between 1994 and 2014. And in just the previous 14 years, per capita income in the county has more than doubled, rising from $31,674 in 2000 to $68,773 in 2014.

“The Policy Foundation has noted the Wal-Mart effect on employment growth for more than a decade. These data revisions illustrate the Wal-Mart effect in terms of income growth,” Kaza noted. “Arkansas-based entrepreneurs and businesses are the key factor advancing Arkansas toward 100 percent income parity with the U.S.”

Following are the top 10 Arkansas counties in terms of percentage of U.S. per capita personal income.
Benton: 149.3 ($68,773)
Union: 101.8 ($46,862)
Pulaski: 100.7 ($46,349)
Arkansas: 92.5 ($42,602)
Desha: 82.6 ($38,024)
Sebastian: 81.8 ($37,658)
Garland: 78.7 ($36,218)
Conway: 78.5 ($36,170)
Saline: 78.3 ($36,076)
Lafayette: 77.5 ($35,706)

Union County includes El Dorado, which is home to three corporate headquarters, Murphy Oil, Murphy USA and Deltic Timber. Arkansas County (Stuttgart) is home to Riceland Foods and large farm operations. A few large incomes can impact the percentage in counties with relatively small populations. For example, Desha County, also home to a large farm operations, has a population of just more than 13,000.

The Northwest Arkansas metro has since 2006 recorded the highest per capita income of all eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas. In 2004, the NWA metro (93.2) first surpassed central Arkansas (90.8) for the second place spot. In 2006, the NWA metro (95.5) surpassed the Memphis-West Memphis area (94.4) for the first place spot.

The data also shows a growing income gap between Arkansas’ urban and rural areas. In 2014, the state’s per capita personal income in the metro areas was $41,392, and the income in non-metro areas was $32,045. The 2014 disparity was wider than in 2010 when the metro per capita income was $35,062 and the non-metro income was $27,354. The 2014 gap income gap of $9,347 between metro and non-metro areas was almost double that in 2000 when the gap was $5,454 between the two areas.

Following are per capita data as a percent of the U.S. for Arkansas’ metro areas. The areas are listed based on their rank in the 2014 BEA revision.
Northwest Arkansas
2014: 110.1
2013: 110.8
2010: 95.7
2000: 85

Memphis-West Memphis
2014: 91.1
2013: 92.2
2010: 92.8
2000: 97.4

Central Arkansas
2014: 88.9
2013: 89.7
2010: 91.6
2000: 89.5

Hot Springs
2014: 78.7
2013: 78.4
2010: 78.8
2000: 78

2014: 74.3
2013: 74.2
2010: 78.4
2000: 73.1

Fort Smith
2014: 73.2
2013: 73.6
2010: 73.8
2000: 71.9

2014: 73.1
2013: 71.7
2010: 72.4
2000: 70.6

Pine Bluff
2014: 68.6
2013: 67.3
2010: 68.3
2000: 64.1