Arkansas’ growing population of nearly 3 million residents is aging quickly and getting more diverse.
Those are the key takeaways from new U.S. Census Bureau population estimates released June 22 by the U.S. Census State Data Center at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute (AEDI), at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
New detailed Census Bureau estimates show the nation’s median age – the age where half of the population is younger and the other half older – rose from 35.3 years on April 1, 2000, to 37.9 years on July 1, 2016. The state of Arkansas’s median age has increased each year of the 2010-2016 period to the current 38 years, according to the UALR data center, housed at the university’s Arkansas Economic Development Institute (AEDI).
“The baby-boom generation is largely responsible for this trend,” said Peter Borsella, a demographer in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population division. “Baby boomers began turning 65 in 2011 and will continue to do so for many years to come.”
In Arkansas, 65% of the state’s 75 counties experienced an increase in median age over the last year. In 2016, three counties had populations that were mostly Baby boomers over the age of 50. Baxter and Marion each had residents with a median age 52.1 years, while the average age of residents in Montgomery County in western Arkansas were 50.2 years.
Between 2010 and 2016, 93.3% of the counties in Arkansas saw their population base grow older. On the opposite in the of the scale, Washington and Faulkner counties, home to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, had the youngest population base with average mediate haves of 31.8 and 32.5 years, respectively.
Allison Wiley, associate research extension specialist at UALR’s Census Bureau Data Center, said the state’s aging and more diverse population base are the “two big stories” from the new population estimates in Arkansas that largely mirror similar U.S. demographics.
“You can kind of tell in Arkansas that the Northwest corner is younger and there are still pockets of younger people, but in the North Central we have the retirement community and it is a lot older and aging a lot faster,” Wiley said of the state’s changing demographics.
Wiley said the new Census Bureau data highlights growth between 2.2% and 3.8% among the state’s Hispanics, Asian, Native American and “islander” minority groups have, while the number of White and Black/African-American residents across the state have increased less than 0.5%
Arkansas’ Hispanic and Asian populations on the rise; Growth among White, Black residents flat
For example, Benton County had the largest Hispanic population (42,298) in 2016, which comprised 19.4% of the state’s Hispanic population. It also experienced the largest numeric growth (1,565) in Hispanic population while Little River County experienced the largest percentage growth at 13.4%.
On the other hand, from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016, only 20 counties in Arkansas experienced a growth in white population. Benton County, the state’s second largest county, experienced the largest numeric (5,582) and percent growth (2.5%) in white population.
Pulaski County, the state’s largest county and capital, experienced the largest numeric loss in white population (1,635) from the previous year, while Lee County experienced the largest percent loss at 3.7%. In 2016, Clay County had the highest white share of the population (97.4%), and Phillips County had the lowest white share of the population at 36%.
The state’s total population moved closed to the 3 million mark, jumping 2.5% from 2,916,025 in 2010 to 2,988,246, Census Bureau estimates show. The state’s majority white population grew by 0.2% to 2,373,726. The black or African-American alone population grew by 0.5% to 468,502. The Hispanic population now stands at 218,561, up 2.7% from the previous year, while the Asian population grew 3.8% to 47,326. The Native American and Pacific Islander population groups grew at an annual rate of 2.2% and 3.2%, respectively, and now make up nearly 40,000 of Arkansas’ total population. Those identified as being two or more races grew by 3.1% to 60,645 in 2016, Census Bureau data shows.
Other key demographic information show that Benton County had the largest Asian population growth with 9,982 residents in 2016, which made up 21.1% of the state’s Asian population. The Northwest Arkansas county, home to Wal-Mart Stores’ global headquarters, also experienced the largest numeric growth (897) from the previous year, while Grant County experienced the largest percent growth (17.7%).
Pulaski County had the largest black or African-American population (145,116) in 2016 which made up 31% of the state’s total. Home to the state’s largest city and state capitol, Pulaski County also had the strongest numeric growth (1,572) in black or African-American population from the previous year.
However, many parts of the state continued to see a decline in the number of black or African-American residents. Thirty-six counties experienced a loss in the Black or African-American population from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016. Jefferson County, whose county seat is Pine Bluff, saw the largest numeric loss of 723 black or African-American persons.
In 2016, six counties in Arkansas had a black or African-American share of the population that was greater than 50%. Phillips County had the largest percentage of population in this group at 62.1%, while Baxter County had the smallest black or African-American share of the population at just 0.3%.
Nationally, U.S. residents age 65 and over grew from 35 million in 2000, to 49.2 million in 2016, accounting for 12.4% and 15.2% of the total population, respectively. These latest estimates present changes among groups by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin at the national, state and county levels between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2016. The median age is increasing in most areas of the country.
In addition, every state experienced either an increase or had the same median age as a year earlier. At 44.6 years, the median age in Maine is the highest in the nation. New Hampshire’s median age of 43.0 years is the next highest, followed by Vermont at 42.7 years. Utah had the lowest median age (30.8 years), followed by Alaska and the District of Columbia at 33.9 years.
Two-thirds (66.7%) of the nation’s counties experienced an increase in median age last year. In 2016, two counties had median ages over 60: Sumter, Fla. (67.1 years), and Catron, N.M. (60.5 years). Between 2000 and 2016, 95.2% of all counties experienced increases in median age, which can be seen in the graphic.
Sumter, Fla., home to one of the largest retirement communities in the U.S., was the county with the highest median age, and it also showed the highest median age increase. Sumter’s median age jumped from 49.2 years in 2000 to 67.1 years in 2016, an increase of 17.9 years. Noble, Ohio, a small county in the southeastern part of the state, has experienced net outmigration and deaths nearly equal births. Noble’s 2016 median age of 51.5 years is 16 years higher than what it was in 2000 (35.5 years). Since 2000, 56 U.S. counties showed a median age increase of 10 years or more.
Across all 50 states, all race and ethnic groups grew between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016. Following are some other highlights of the nation’s more diverse population.
• The Hispanic population (including all races) grew by 2% to 57.5 million.
• The Asian population grew by 3% to 21.4 million.
• The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population grew by 2.1% to 1.5 million.
• The American Indian and Alaska Native population grew by 1.4% to 6.7 million.
• The black or African-American population grew by 1.2% to 46.8 million.
• The white population grew by 0.5% to 256 million.
• Those who identified as being of two or more races grew by 3% to 8.5 million.
• The non-Hispanic white alone population grew by 5,000 people, remaining at 198 million.