Tuesday, April 01, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Story behind the statistics

Statistics are just numbers, but what brings those statistics to life are the stories behind the numbers.

Look at the stories behind some of the statistics from the recently released five-year census study.

Jacksonville’s population averaged close to 28,500 for the years 2008 through 2012. But behind that number is the Census Bureau leaving out about 1,000 military residents from the air base, giving the city a lower-than-expected population count in 2010. Being down by that 1,000 is costing the city about $1 million annually, according to the mayor, who is still upset with the lower population. Jacksonville won’t get to change that until the 2020 census, or, the city can request and pay for a special census before that.

Cabot, meanwhile, is standing around the 24,000 population mark on average. But the real story here is phenomenal growth, nearly tripling in size over the past 20 years.

McRae, just north of Beebe, in the five-year study showed that almost 30 percent of its adult population did not finish high school. By itself that would send off alarms, but during the same time the city had the lowest unemployment rate in the area at just 1.9 percent. What are they doing right?

Beebe with a 4.6 percent unemployment rate, Cabot at 4.5 percent, Jacksonville with a 4 percent rate, Carlisle at 3.5 percent, Ward at 3 percent, Sherwood at 2.9 and Searcy at a 2.7 unemployment rate—all substantially lower than the state average—shows that there is growth, jobs and stability in this area.

One out of six adults in Jacksonville (17.4 percent) is a veteran—and the new Arkansas Veterans Home went to North Little Rock, where the veteran rate is just 11.7 percent.

Searcy, which was also in the running for the home, has a veteran rate of 8.2, less than half of Jacksonville’s. But the surprise spot for veterans turned out to be Austin, where 21.2 percent, or one out of five adults are veterans.

Beebe, which has just announced a retail and business growth spurt with stores coming in to fill three shopping centers, also had the greatest growth over the study’s five years. The city grew at 4.4 percent.

In Searcy, possibly with the help of Harding University, one out of three adults (36.7 percent) has some sort of college degree — associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate. The state average (25.9) is seven points below Searcy. Cabot and Sherwood also outsmart the state average.

And then the census study went places where we prefer not to go, such as ancestral makeup and fertility rates. More figures are expected in May.