A Deeper Look at Poverty in Arkansas

A Deeper Look at Poverty in Arkansas is part of the national initiative "Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America," which aims to provide a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society and solutions to bring people out of poverty.

The Poverty Divide In Arkansas

According to the USDA, Arkansas has a poverty rate of 18.9 percent and a child poverty rate of 26 percent, with poverty levels continuing to rise throughout the state. Arkansas PBS is working to further the discussion about poverty and opportunity in Arkansas in "A Deeper Look: The Poverty Divide in Arkansas." This program will address the struggles of those living in poverty in the state and the organizations and resources available to help. A family will share their story of survival in trying times, and other segments will focus on Veterans Villages of America, poverty in urban and rural areas, food insecurity and more.

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The American Dream In Arkansas

Arkansas PBS visits two cities facing unique struggles. Most would agree that Blytheville and Pine Bluff have both seen better times - bustling downtown areas, vibrant social scenes and good economies. The downtown streets of both cities are eerily quiet these days. Once beautiful, ornate buildings sit exposed to the elements. At first glance, reflecting on the glory days of these cities, it would appear that the American dream in Arkansas is dead or dying. Arkansas PBS looks deeper by spending two weeks immersed in each city, uncovering stories that shed light on the state of the American dream in Arkansas. The result is a half-hour examination of the state of the American dream in the Arkansas Delta.

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Other Related Arkansas PBS Programs

Barnes and... A Conversation With Dr. Donna Beegle

Steve caught up with Dr. Donna Beegle, President and Founder of Communication Across Barriers to share her research and life experience about poverty in America. Dr. Beegle, a product of generational poverty, talks about the stereotypes, the causes, and impact of poverty and the importance of educating others and understanding the issue. Dr. Beegle was in the state conducting a workshop on poverty hosted by the University of Arkansas Early Care and Education Projects. The taping took place at the Hilton Garden Inn in West Little Rock.

Delta Dreams

Delta Dreams is a story that is told primarily by a cross section of the men and women, young and old, who live in the community. They include planters and farmers, businessmen and teachers, high schools and college students, working people and small business owners, community leaders and people trying to escape poverty. The program presents a portrait of the area as it was in its glory day, a description of how and why it declined, the formation of a plan for recovery by the community in conjunction with Southern Bancorp and the Walton Foundation.

How Can I Afford Retirement

As many Arkansans make plans for the future amidst widespread financial and political uncertainty, "How Can I Afford Retirement" addresses relevant topics – such as Social Security, 401ks, investments, longevity and expense strategies – and viewer questions. Experts will be available to answer viewer concerns and provide information about preparing for retirement. Key subject matter featured in the five-segment special include: "Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement," "Closing the Gap: Investing and Expense Strategies for Late Starters," "Investing Wisely to Avoid the Financial Risk of Longer Life Expectancy," "Protecting Your Investments: The Best Defense is a Wise and Safe Investor," and a closing question and answer session featuring viewer questions.

Mothers in Prison. Children in Crisis.

Women are now the fastest growing segment of the prison population. Eighty percent of women in prison are mothers. Seventy-five percent are mothers of minor children and studies show that these children are 5 to 6 times more likely to be imprisoned in their futures. At a time when tougher prison sentences are being handed down and more children are being affected by a parent's incarceration, AETN presents a documentary that looks at the social, economic, political, and emotional costs. AETN producers interviewed mothers in prison, children, caregivers, child welfare experts and prison authorities in an attempt to illustrate how a mother's incarceration affects her children.

U.N.I.T.Y.: U aNd I helping Teen Youth

This 60-minute documentary features a group of gang affiliated inmates in an Arkansas maximum security prison working to find a way to reinvent themselves and reach beyond prison walls to keep teens from following their paths to incarceration. Along the way, we get to meet others around the state who are trying to slow the tide of juvenile bad choices, violence, and gang affiliation, incarceration, and death.

Una Vida Mejor

Una Vida Mejor: A Better Life is a video documentary that highlights the positive aspects of life for thousands of Hispanics that have migrated to Arkansas from Mexico and other Latin countries in search of improved financial security. The production focuses on Hispanic families, their daily activities, cultural adaptation, and their lives at work, church, and school. This program illustrates the daily struggle with poverty, language barriers, and prejudice of this hopeful group of people while they attempt to maintain their faith and family culture. Cities highlight are DeQueen, Rogers, and other Arkansas Communities.

Arkansas Statistics

Information below comes from TalkPoverty.org. Statistics are based on data from 2014. Overall Population: 2,882,856 | Number In Poverty: 543,882

Poverty Rate

  • 18.9% of Arkansans had incomes below the poverty line.* (Ranked 46th)**
  • 26% of children under 18 are in families below the poverty line. (Ranked 45th)
  • 20.4% of working-age women (ages 18-64) have incomes below the poverty line. (Ranked 46th)
  • 33.2% of African Americans are below the poverty line.
  • 16.9% of Asian Americans below the poverty line.
  • 31.3% of Latinos are below the poverty line.
  • 15.7% of Native Americans are below the poverty line.

Employment and Education

  • 14.7% income inequality. The ratio of the share of income going to the top 20 percent of households and the share of income going to the bottom 20 percent of households. (Ranked 25th)
  • 6.1% unemployment (Ranked 26th)
  • 85% of high school students who graduated on time. (Ranked 17th)
  • 19% of disconnected youth (ages 18-24) who were not in school or working. (Ranked 42nd)
  • 30% of young adults (ages 25-34) who had an associate’s degree or higher. (Ranked 50th)
  • 78.1¢ gender wage gap. (Ranked 32nd)

Family and Communities

  • 5 out of every 1,000 children live apart from their parents in foster care. (Ranked 20th)
  • 43.5 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19. (Ranked 51st)

Economic Security

  • 19.9% experience difficulty providing food due to a lack of money or resources. (Ranked 50th)
  • 73 apartments were affordable/available for every 100 renter households with very low incomes.***
  • 11.2% of households use high-cost, high-risk forms of credit to make ends meet.**** (Ranked 46th)
  • 29.9% of unemployed workers were helped by unemployment insurance. (Ranked 21st)
  • 20.9% of people under age 65 and below the poverty line who did not have health insurance. (Ranked 24th)

* Poverty line: $23,834 for a family of four.
** Rank compared to national percentages.
*** Very low-income households are those at or below half of median income in the area where they live.
**** High-risk forms of credit include payday loans, automobile title loans, refund anticipation loans, rent-to-own, and pawning.

Additional Broadcast

In "Dream On," political comedian John Fugelsang hits the road to retrace the journey of French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville who traveled across our young country in 1831, and wrote Democracy in America, defining America as a place where anyone of any background could climb the ladder of economic opportunity. For more information, visit pppdocs.com/dreamon.html.Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional support provided by Arlene and Alan Alda, the Charles A. Frueauff Foundation, Odyssey Fund, Park Foundation, Silverweed Foundation, and Spunk Fund, Inc.

"A Deeper Look: The American Dream in Arkansas" screening at Arkansas Northeastern College

United Way Resources in Arkansas by County


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of Northwest Arkansas 100 Parkwood St., Lowell, AR 72745 479-750-1221 Serves Washington, Benton, and Madison Counties. As well as: McDonald County, Missouri; and Delaware County, Oklahoma.


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of Boone County P.O. Box 2503, Harrison, AR 72602 870-741-6555 Serves Boone County


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of Columbia County P.O. Box 934, Magnolia AR 71754 870-562-3372 Serves Columbia County


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of Northeast Arkansas 407 Union St., Jonesboro, AR 72401 870-935-3658 Serves Clay, Craighead, Cross, Greene, Jackson, Lawrence, Poinsett, and Randolph Counties.


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of Central Arkansas P.O. Box 489, Conway, AR 72033 501-327-5087 Serves Faulkner and Perry Counties


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of Garland County 233 Hobson Ave., Hot Springs, AR 71913 501-623-2505 Serves Garland County


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of Hempstead County P.O. Box 15, Hope, AR 71802 870-777-8798 Serves Hempstead and Howard Counties


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of Independence County P.O. Box 2639, Batesville, AR 72503 870-793-5991 Serves Independence County


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of Southeast Arkansas P.O. Box 8702, Pine Bluff, AR 71611 870-534-2153 Serves Grant, Jefferson, Arkansas, Cleveland, Lincoln, and Desha Counties


Organization Address Phone Description
Mississippi County United Way P.O. Box 102, Osceola, AR 72370 870-563-3733 Serves Mississippi County


Organization Address Phone Description
River Valley United Way P.O. Box 636, Russellville, AR 72811 479-968-5089 Serves Johnson, Pope and Yell Counties


Organization Address Phone Description
Heart of Arkansas United Way P.O. Box 3257, Little Rock, AR 72203 501-376-4567 Serves Pulaski, Cleburne, Conway, Hot Springs, Drew, Van Buren, Baxter, Dallas, Clark, Phillips, and Saline Counties.


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of Fort Smith Area P.O. Box 2300, Fort Smith, AR 72902 479-782-1311 Crawford, Franklin), Logan, and Sebastian Counties. As well as Sequoyah and Le Flore Counties in Oklahoma.


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of Union County 200 N Jefferson, #103, El Dorado, AR 71730 870-862-4903 Serves Union County


Organization Address Phone Description
United Way of White County P.O. Box 907, Searcy, AR 72145 501-268-7489 Serves White County