Apr 2, 2024 - News

Northwest Arkansas' population on track for a million by 2050

Change in population, 2020 to 2023
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals. See an interactive version of the map.

Northwest Arkansas probably didn't figure into Jimi Hendrix's mind when he released "Crosstown Traffic" in 1968. The area's population was less than 60,000 at the time.

The big picture: More than 1 million people will be in NWA by 2050 if projections stay true, a steep spike from the estimated 572,000 people living here now.

  • The estimate comes from the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, based on the latest U.S. census data.

Why it matters: The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission (NWARPC) uses population estimates to guide its ever-evolving infrastructure and transportation blueprint for the area.

By the numbers: NWA's overall population rose 7.4% from 2020-2023, while the entire nation's only grew 1%.

  • Benton County's population grew 8.5% and Washington County's by 6% during that time.
  • Madison County, which shares an eastern border with both, increased population by 7.4%.

What they're saying: High housing prices are the biggest risk factor tied to Northwest Arkansas' continued growth, Mervin Jebaraj of the UA's Center for Business & Economic Research, told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recently.

Change in population, 2020 to 2023
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Between the lines: "We want to make sure that we have completely connected communities that are able to get [people] to school and to work," Tim Conklin, executive director of NWARPC told Axios.

  • He wouldn't promise the team could reduce crosstown traffic.

The bottom line: To implement major infrastructure projects, you have to have a plan in place, and many take decades.

  • "You know, we're all excited about April 17," Conklin said. "You know why? We all go out to XNA and do the groundbreaking for the airport access route."
  • The route's been in the public conversation for at least 20 years.
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