LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ sustained population growth in 2018 was bolstered more by people migrating to the state than residents giving birth, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau Thursday.
The statistics show the state’s birthrate in 2018 was the lowest of this decade, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The birthrate in Arkansas per 1,000 residents has dropped every year since 2010.
The decline is part of a nationwide trend that some worry could hurt the economy, economic experts said.
Mervin Jebaraj, director of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said a reduced population of young people, without adequate immigration, leads to fewer people filling jobs.
The state’s largest county, Pulaski, is losing more people through relocation than it is gaining through migration, said Pam Willrodt, a demographer at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Economic Development Institute.
The census estimates indicate that from 2010 to 2018, around 11,900 people in Arkansas left the county and moved to other parts of the state or nation.
Only rural counties have experienced birthrate growth since 2010, the census data illustrates.
Bradley Planey, the family health branch chief at the Arkansas Department of Health, said the birthrate among Arkansas teens is almost 50% lower than a decade ago. In 2007, Arkansas saw 60 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19, Planey said. That number was 32.1 in 2017.
The birthrate has also dropped considerably among the largest population — women between ages 20 to 24. Planey said a surge in the birthrate among women in their 30s wasn’t sufficient to balance the corresponding decline among women 24 and younger.
“I can look at the statistics and tell you right now, our birthrate is not replacing the number of people that live here,” Planey said. “If things continue the way they are, and there is no outside immigration, our population would shrink.”