Arkansas population expected to decline as birth rate falls, hits record low in U.S.

In 2020, the birth rate in the U.S. hit a record low with 3.6 million babies born — the lowest number since 1979.

The birth rate in Arkansas tends to sit about five points higher than the national average. But the state is following the same downward trajectory as the rest of the country.

From 2017-2019, demographers found Arkansas’ average Total Fertility Rate to be 1.87. That rate falls below the 2.1 replacement rate–meaning it’s not enough to replace the current population.

“We’re likely to see declining populations in many of Arkansas’ counties, because we’re below that replacement rate,” Economist Dr. Michael Pakko said. “And the migration patterns are such that more people are moving to certain areas of the state and out of the state.”

The birth rate does vary across the state, with the lowest in Clark county at 1.40, and the highest in Chicot County at 2.49.

Pakko said the birth rate is usually connected to quality of life.

“We find a pattern around the world,” he said. “As countries develop, as incomes go up, as people have more discretion about the decisions in their life, the birth rate tends to decline.”

Pakko doesn’t see this as good or bad–just a way to see what’s likely ahead. For Universities and Child Care services, it could mean less demand in the future.

“And eventually it also lowers the number of working-age adults who can support their elderly, retired parents through social security systems,” he said

But population growth is possible through migration.

Pakko said there are a few different ways the pandemic could affect the birth rate, but we won’t know for sure until next year.


Read the full story and watch the interview at the KATV Channel 7 website here.