Mar 11, 2024 - News

NWA residents are (a little) less financially stressed

Change in economic distress levels, by county
Data: EIG; Note:The Distressed Communities Index combines seven complementary economic indicators into a single summary statistic that conveys each community's standing relative to its peers; Map: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Northwest Arkansas is experiencing stable economic distress compared to past years, meaning it's not significantly increasing or decreasing, according to new data.

Why it matters: The latest update of the Distressed Community Index, from the Economic Innovation Group, shows large parts of the country are becoming more vibrant.

How it works: The index is based on seven factors pulled from U.S. Census Bureau data; it aims to capture in a single number whether a given area is rich with economic opportunity or faltering.

  • Those factors include the share of unemployed adults, the housing vacancy rate and growth in the number of businesses.
  • The latest edition is based on data from 2017 to 2021.

By the numbers: Benton County's "economic distress score" came in at 4.2 in the latest report, down from 15.9 in the group's earliest calculations, which were based on 2011-2015 data.

  • Washington County's score also decreased, though not as much, dropping from 25.7 to 22.

The big picture: The Southeast has become distinctly more prosperous in just a few years — part of a broader geographic shift of economic distress in the U.S.

  • The share of people living in prosperous communities has risen most in the mountainous states of the West — Idaho, Montana and Utah, in particular.
  • By contrast, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New York state showed significant growth in share of population living in distressed ZIP codes.

The bottom line: A rising tide may lift all boats, but some communities' boats are rising faster than others.

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