Arkansas is one of six understated states for the 2020 census

In 2020, the Census Bureau showed Arkansas surpassing 3 million for the first time, but now we’re learning that the population may be larger than we thought.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. – The Census Bureau reported an undercount in Arkansas that officials say could impact district and federal government funding.

The 2020 census counted 3,011,524 Arkansans. It was then a record for Arkansas, exceeding for the first time the 3 million inhabitants.

On Thursday, the Census Bureau estimated an Arkansas population undercount of 5.04%. This translates to approximately 1 in 20 Arkansans.

State Sen. Jason Rapert, a Republican who represents District 35, said that could spell trouble in the right district.

“There were areas, like Fort Smith and Sebastian County, where it was very difficult to scale things to congressional districts and some of those counties even have parts of counties that were flattened in places,” Rapert said. “It means a lot to these people if they had enough population where they could have remained whole”

Rapert explained that the new number could not change constituencies. He says the counts that impact a House Congress seat, however, could present a political issue spurring change.

For the state of Arkansas, he says his concern was federal funding.

“You’re talking about $1.5 trillion a year,” Rapert said. “If we’re undervalued, that means we’re really not getting our fair share of that federal money returning to our states for programs.”

A previous census report showed the same count had significant undercounts for black and Hispanic populations across the country, which some groups said would have a major impact in northwest Arkansas.

Margot Lemaster, executive director of EngageNWA, says that as the community grows, understanding demographics is key to inclusion.

“The region continues to grow rapidly and continues to grow in diversity and become more and more diverse,” Lemaster said. “It’s really important for people who live here to understand this and think about it when making decisions about their business or their business, the future of their business or their business when making decisions about hiring or other policies they have within their organization”

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