What Survey Finds About The Economics Of Race In Pulaski County

Apr 17, 2014

A panel moderated by Senator Joyce Elliott discusses the economics of race at Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock.
Credit Karen Tricot Steward / KUAR

A telephone survey of residents in Pulaski County shows whites are significantly more likely to be very satisfied with their quality of life and education level than blacks and Hispanics.

The findings are part of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's annual survey on racial attitudes. This year's survey focused on economic issues.

During a public forum in downtown Little Rock, UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson said there is often a perception that time has taken care of issues surrounding race and that those issues should be left alone.

"And I would submit that is an example of moral darkness. If time has taken care of it, then the cure is much too slow and will leave many minority citizens to continue to suffer disadvantage for centuries to come, and that would just be wrong," said Anderson. 

Left to right: Maria Elena de Avila-Peters, Rep. Darrin Williams, Heather Larkin, and Senator Joyce Elliott.

 State Senator Joyce Elliott, who moderated a panel discussion, said she feels society continues to ignore issues of poverty among blacks and Hispanics and blame those who are poor for being so.

"Here's my suspicion: We can be dismissive of poverty in a lot of ways and always look to blame that person because of the face we put on poverty. I suspect it's because the faces we put on poverty are black and brown," said Elliott.

Terry Richard, the state director of LULAC, said not addressing issues of poverty continues to create disadvantages that are almost impossible to overcome.

"Part of the issue is that the United States... has the highest poverty rate of any industrialized country in the world, which means we allow poverty to exist," said Richard.

Left to right: Senator Joyce Elliott, Rep. Fred Love, Carmen Parks, and Terry Trevino-Richard

The state's chief economist, Michael Pakko, noted 31% of blacks and 25% of Hispanics in Pulaski County live in poverty. Meanwhile, the poverty rate for whites in the county is around 11%.

Pakko also pointed out that the median annual household income for blacks and Hispanics in the county is around $30,000, but it is around $56,000 for whites. He said it all seems to go back to education.

"When it comes to looking at educational attainment and economic outcomes, there is a very clear correlation there and the differences that we see among racial and ethnic groups can often be attributed back to that fundamental issues of educational attainment," he said.