LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau says the percentage of Arkansas residents living below the poverty line is shrinking.

According to the survey, Arkansas ranked 44th in the nation with a more than 17 percent poverty rate last year. The standing is an improvement from 2015, when Arkansas ranked 47th with a more than 19 percent poverty rate.

The state’s poverty rate was the fourth greatest change nationwide, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Arkansas’ median household income of more than $44,300 also improved, jumping from 50th to 49th. In 2015, the median household income for Arkansas was nearly at $42,000.

Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, said an income increase and declining poverty are consistent with recent economic growth and decreasing unemployment in the state.

“From 2014 right up till today, we’ve seen fairly strong job growth in Arkansas,” Pakko said.

The national median income rose from nearly $55,800 in 2015 to more than $57,600 in 2016.

Pakko said the increase could be due to growth in the number of high-paying jobs.

Mervin Jebaraj is the interim director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He said Arkansas’ labor force participation is still lower than it was before the recession that began in 2007.

“That’s still a place where we need to catch up to other states,” Jebaraj said. “That moves median income.”

The national poverty rate was 14 percent in 2016, down from the 2015 rate of 14.7 percent.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com