In Arkansas, too many families of color struggle to make ends meet. Arkansas families as a whole experience hard times with nearly one of every five persons living below poverty. But income disparities for communities of color are disproportionately higher. The newly released census data confirms that we still have work to do in leveling the playing field and making a prosperous Arkansas for everyone.
The Census data tells us three key things about race and income in Arkansas. A larger share of Black and Hispanic Arkansans live in poverty. In 2014, 1 in 3 Black Arkansans and roughly 1 in 3 Hispanic Arkansans lived on less than $24,000 a year for a family of four. This means that poorer families made so little money last year that affording basic needs – like child care, nutritious meals, and reliable transportation – became a challenge.
Fewer white Arkansans – roughly 1 in 7 – found themselves in this situation in 2014. This stresses the fact that many folks are suffering from lack of opportunity and low-wage jobs that fail in helping people create a better life for themselves and their families.
The data also shows us that minority families make less money than white Arkansans. In 2014, the median income for white Arkansans ($45,456) nearly doubled the median income of Black Arkansans ($27,657). Other communities of color had lower median incomes as well with the exception of Asian Arkansans. There’s been very little change in income over the past eight years for many racial groups.
Median Income by Race (2014)
|Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander||$33,861|
|American Indian/Alaskan Native||$31,354|
Wages in Arkansas aren’t keeping up with the rising cost of goods like gas and food. Because income isn’t meeting rising prices, families can afford less now than they could in 2007.
The poverty rate for all racial groups has remained steadily high over time. But the gap between whites in poverty versus Blacks and Hispanics in poverty is still wide. Arkansas should take immediate action to make it easier for people to build a secure future.
There are several things that law makers can do to help lift families out of poverty and expand economic opportunity to more Arkansans:
- Giving hard working Arkansans a state level, refundable earned income tax credit (EITC)
- Ensuring that Arkansans have steady employment opportunities
- Making sure that more families earn a living wage
- Revisiting decisions made during the 2015 legislative session that will negatively impact communities of color like reducing unemployment benefits and drug testing families in need
- Funding summer and afterschool programs so that the children of workers can learn and grow in a safe environment while their parents work
- Continuing health coverage so that Arkansans have regular access to a doctor and reduce the cost of care