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Rural Profile of Arkansas Shows Lasting Impact of Recession

by Kristin Higgins - February 7, 2017

The heavy footsteps of the Great Recession of 2007-2009 are still visible across rural Arkansas in the persistence of food insecurity, lack of medical facilities and personnel, and loss of jobs and household income, according to the 2017 “Rural Profile of Arkansas” published by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. 

The publication is a data-driven depiction of social, demographic and economic characteristics of both rural and urban Arkansas. It’s designed as an aid to the state’s policymakers.

The first issue was released in 1990 as part of a joint effort of the governor's office, other state agencies, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and the Cooperative Extension Service. In 1997, the UA System Division of Agriculture took over the publication. 

The 2017 report shows that rural Arkansas has nearly 3 percent fewer jobs than it did in 2007. A major factor in the struggling economy and population decline is the loss of manufacturing jobs, said Wayne Miller, an economist in the Community and Economic Development unit who creates the report. 

Manufacturing has "been a critical component of the economic base,” Miller said.

The Delta, Coastal Plains and the Highlands all saw a loss of manufacturing jobs from 2007 to 2015, and the jobs created in other sectors were not enough to replace them.

Miller said the first step in solving some of these issues in rural Arkansas is to reinvigorate the economy. 

“We need to help rural areas and rural leaders revitalize their economic base,” said Miller who co-authored the report with Zola Moon, an associate professor at the University of Arkansas.

The report also highlights food insecurity issues and health care access, and provides insights into key trends for rural Arkansas.