December 26, 2021
The Central and Northwest metropolitan areas of Arkansas have grown in population over the past decade, but towns in the Delta — with the exception of Jonesboro — lost people in large numbers, according to data from multiple agencies.
Kenneth Crosskno, a farmer from Mississippi County who has lived just a few miles outside of Blytheville for his entire life, said he has witnessed the change around him.
“This area has always been a farming community and still is now, but not many people are living out in these rural areas. Houses get older and people move out and nobody replaces them and they get torn down and turned into farmland,” he said. “Less people work on farms now. People are looking for other jobs or moving to towns where more stuff is available.”
The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service earlier this year released the 2021 Rural Profile, which predicted a population decline in rural areas. The drop was confirmed by the U.S. Census 2020 numbers.
According to the U.S. census, Arkansas added 95,606 residents in the past decade, climbing from a total population of 2,915,918 to 3,011,524.
Without the boost of 105,800 people in Benton and Washington counties, the state would have experienced its first drop in population since the 1960 census.
Crosskno said when he was growing up, he went to a school in a small town called Dell.
“It was a rural area that had a population of 200 people,” he said. “The town is still there, but the school is long gone. At one time, there were three little stores in the town, and now there is nothing. Just houses and a few churches left. A couple of businesses try to go there, but it’s hard to operate and hard to open in a place like that. Now everybody just goes to shop in Blytheville or Jonesboro.”
Jo Ann Cox, a teacher at DeWitt High School in Arkansas County, said in an interview in August that young people are leaving rural towns.
“There is no entertainment here,” she said. “You have friends, family and you have church, but besides that, we don’t have a lot and that is why we lose a lot of our children to the city. This is sad because if some of them come back and start industries and businesses, we could be a vibrant town again, but I don’t blame them for leaving.”
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