The Last Rural Place in the Sun Belt? The Coming Urbanization of Arkansas

Authors: Patrick Hagge*, Arkansas Tech University
Topics: Urban Geography, Rural Geography, Population Geography
Keywords: urbanization, rural geography, economic geography, Arkansas, US South, population geography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 29
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The state of Arkansas has long been a bastion of the rural United States. In each decennial Census since achieving statehood (1840-2010), Arkansas has ranked among the 10 most rural states in the US. For a century and a half, rural agriculture shaped the state’s population, economy, and politics. However, current trends of intrastate demographic change are poised to reshape Arkansas into a much more urban landscape, with growth centered on the metropolitan areas of Fayetteville and Little Rock. Reliable population projections suggest a quickly urbanizing Arkansas by 2050. Population increase centered in Northwest Arkansas will have substantial impacts on Arkansas’ culture, economy, and politics. Using demographic studies, economic projections, US Census data, and election data, detailed analyses of a more urban (and less culturally “Southern”) future Arkansas are developed. GIS assists in uncovering new political patterns (at state, county, and municipality levels) of this changing Arkansas. This evidence will suggest that any further planning for Arkansas in this half-century requires a fundamental understanding of the population, economic, and political intrastate geographic shifts occurring in a once-rural Arkansas.

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