In theory, anyone in Arkansas could fit within the confines of a single county. For example, all 3 million of us could be taken west of Lawrence County, divided in half by the Negro River.
Think of everyone you know — all your Facebook friends, all your distant relatives and cousins, and the rest of the people from the other 74 counties — who settled in half of my home county.
So what Arkansas would be from a population density standpoint would be Chicago.
Numerically, the Windy City has roughly the same population as the Natural State, but it only occupies 227 square miles compared to the more than 53,000 within our borders.
But statistically, our 3 million people differ from our Chicago counterparts in many ways, as captured and detailed in Census Bureau data.
The percentage of individuals broken down by age group is similar among the youngest residents of Arkansas and Chicago: 6.0 and 6.1%, respectively, under 5 years old; 23.2 and 20.5 percent were under 18 years of age. Over 65 years, it deviates to 17.5% for Arkansas and only 12.7% for Chicago.
In terms of race, Arkansas is less heterogeneous than Chicago: 78% white, 16% black and 8% Hispanic. For Chicago, it’s 48, 29 and 28.
From an educational perspective, 87.2% of Arkansas residents have completed high school or higher, compared to 85.9% of Chicago residents; but 41 percent of them have a bachelor’s degree or higher, while only 23.8 percent of us have one.
The Internet divide isn’t as big as you might think: 77% of Arkansas homes have broadband, while 82.6% of Chicago homes do. And homes with computers are about the same (88 and 90.4 percent, respectively).
The statistics for families and living arrangements between Arkansas and Chicago are nearly identical for families, people per family, and the percentage who have lived in the same household for a year. But 35.5% of Chicago residents age 5+ speak a language other than English at home, compared to just 7.6% of Arkansas residents.
Unsurprisingly, Chicago leads in household income and per capita — but while Arkansas is often considered a high-poverty state, Chicago’s poverty rate is higher.
People are people, but how and where they live affects lifestyles and behaviors. Arkansas and Chicago invest comparable amounts in education ($6 billion each), but our statewide student population is 460,000, and Chicago’s municipal school system is shrinking annually — from over 73,000 students a decade ago to just 330,000, and enrollment is almost 90%. minority. Chicago’s graduation rate of 82% is also well below Arkansas’ 89%.
In Arkansas, 2020 was a bad year for crime. Our 321 homicides this year were the largest in the state’s history, but they spread across our vast geography. Even our smallest counties by land area are more than twice the size of Chicago’s square miles, and nearly a third of our counties (24) have never seen a homicide.
But Chicago was home to 726 homicides that year, all of which took place in an approximately 8 x 28 mile rectangle within a single neighborhood.
Most Arkansas residents probably have a hard time imagining being squeezed into an existence where the average population per square mile is greater than the population of 20 of our individual counties. Likewise, life in Arkansas, where outdoor encounters are the norm rather than the exception, can seem disconcerting to Chicagoans.
But nature and natural habitats are not just a matter of preference; have a positive effect on human well-being. An entire craft industry has emerged around the improvement of social inequalities in access to green space, supported by evidence of benefits – and disadvantages, when insufficient – for youth development and the health of the elderly.
In fact, Chicago tops urban competitors as a “garden city” because nearly every resident is within a 10-minute walk of a park. But a multitude of Arkansas residents look straight out of their windows at the verdant conditions of a park. And Chicago’s 600 parks pale in comparison to the State of Nature’s myriad rural amenities, from a myriad of city and state parks to pristine lakes and forests.
On the other hand, Chicagoans en masse must accept certain urban realities, conditions and pathologies that can be traced back to 18th century European metropolises rather than the American colonies.
London at the time of the Constitutional Convention squeezed almost a million people into just a few square kilometers. Paris packed over half a million French people across 13 square miles. These cumulative population densities created deplorable working-class living conditions and a cycle of hopeless social caste and stagnation – repressed by a terribly arrogant clique of kings – that the first emigrants to America tried to escape.
Independence and self-government were not just rebellious ideas against homeland politics and taxes. They were a rejection of centuries of unjust urban sprawl and misery and toxic dependence on autocratic rulers. Equal opportunity is at the heart of American exceptionalism, and we underestimated how extraordinarily exceptional that thought really was.
Managing the slide of our densely congested cities towards this historic sense of urban malaise is a major challenge of the 21st century.
Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer based in Jonesboro.
Source : localtoday.news