Earlier this week, we shared with you the first of two major Census data sets showing improvements in national poverty numbers. While poverty data for the nation inched down from 11.6 percent in 2014 to 10.4 percent in 2015, we still have a long way to go in making sure that our kids grow up in families that make enough money to make ends meet. Catch up on that full blog post here.
Today, we bring you Arkansas-specific poverty numbers, and it’s not pretty. According to Census data, 550,000 Arkansans currently live in poverty, including 105,000 families and 183,000 kids. About one in five Arkansans (19.1 percent of the population in Arkansas) live below the poverty line, which is $24,000 a year for a family of four. Unfortunately, that number is still high (by 1.2 percentage points) compared to pre-recession levels in 2007. The poverty rate is even higher for kids. More than one in four kids in Arkansas is growing up in families who can’t afford basic necessities (26.8 percent).
Although there has been data earlier this week showing remarkable growth in median incomes nationwide, Arkansans are still earning less than they were before the recession. The median income in Arkansas was $42,000 in 2015, which is more than $1,500 a year less in than in 2007.
Communities of color in Arkansas are struggling the most. One in three (33.9 percent) African-Americans live in poverty in our state. About one in three (33.1 percent) Hispanic people in Arkansas also live in poverty. Poverty rates for white Arkansans are less than half, comparatively (15.5 percent). Arkansas has also historically paid African-American and Hispanic workers lower wages than white workers. Recent data shows these disparities remain: Median household income in Arkansas is about $27,250 a year for African-Americans, $37,050 a year for Hispanics, and $46,050 for whites.
If Arkansas lawmakers enact smart, proven policies like a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), they will help working families keep more of what they earn and keep thousands of children out of poverty. Reducing child poverty is more than a moral obligation; when we reduce child poverty, we are making investments in the future economy that will benefit us all. When children are in financially stable households, they are more likely to succeed in school, grow up healthy, stay out of trouble, and be qualified for good jobs when they grow up.