LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas’ capital city gained residents in the past decade, but the city’s white population fell into the minority for the first time in the city’s history, figures from the 2010 Census show.
The figures also show that Sherwood surpassed Jacksonville in population and that North Little Rock’s population increased, reversing a decades-long trend for the city.
Overall, Pulaski County’s population increased 5.9 percent, from 361,474 in 2000 to 382,748 in 2010. By comparison, from 1990 to 2000, the county’s population increased 3.4 percent.
Jim McKenzie, director for Metroplan, central Arkansas’ planning agency, said the numbers may reflect a reversal of an earlier trend in which families moved from Pulaski County to neighboring counties in the 1980s and 1990s. He said his agency’s estimates show a net movement of people into the county during the past decade.
“I think the news, at least based on our projections, was a pretty good major change of trend for Pulaski County and for Little Rock, too,” McKenzie said.
Meanwhile, he said, the demographic shift in Little Rock was expected as the white population has decreased and nonwhite populations have increased.
“We looked at the capital cities of the old Confederacy, and there were not many of them that didn’t have majority minority populations,” McKenzie said. “Especially with the growing Hispanic in-migration, we assumed it was just going to be a matter of time.”
In Little Rock, the population increased 5.7 percent, from 183,133 in 2000 to 193,524 in 2010. By comparison, from 1990 to 2000, the population increased 4.2 percent, from 175,795.
The white population, meanwhile, fell by 6,183 residents over the past decade, to 94,665, a drop of 6.1 percent.
In 2010, whites made up 48.9 percent of the population, compared to 55.1 percent in 2000.
Meanwhile, the population of people of all other races and ethnicities grew. The black population rose 10.7 percent, from 74,003 in 2000 to 81,889 in 2010.
Blacks made up 42.3 percent of the population in 2010, up from 40.4 percent in 2000.
The Hispanic population more than doubled, growing from 4,889 in 2000 to 13,076.Hispanic origin is listed as a separate category from race in the census, meaning that Hispanics can be members of any race.
McKenzie said the drop in the number of whites in Little Rock continues a decades-long trend. In the 1980s and 1990s mandatory school busing tied to desegregation litigation and gang-related crime led many white families to move to cities outside Pulaski County, he said.
He added that the drop could also reflect other factors. For instance, he said, the white population tends to be older than that of nonwhite population, meaning fewer white households have children.
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said he had not yet studied the numbers on Thursday afternoon but didn’t attach much significance to the drop in the white population.
“We are a very diverse community, and I think that’s a healthy thing,” Stodola said.
He added that he was encouraged by the city’s overall growth, which he attributed in part to falling crime rates in recent years. He also said he suspects the city’s Hispanic population was undercounted. A better counting of Hispanics, he said, could have pushed the city’s population to “well over” 200,000.
The increase in Sherwood’s population elevated the city to the third largest in the county, surpassing Jacksonville, which lost residents over the decade.
Sherwood’s population grew 37.2 percent, from 21,511 in 2000 to 29,523 in 2010. Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s population fell 5.2 percent from 29,916 in 2000 to 28,364 in 2010.
In North Little Rock, the 3.1 percent population increase was the first increase in population recorded in a decennial census since 1980, North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Hays said. The city’s population grew from 60,433 in 2000 to 62,304 in 2010.
Although it is partly hemmed in by surrounding cities, North Little Rock did make a few annexations over the past decade, Hays said. He said the city has also benefited from growth on the city’s western and eastern edges and the redevelopment of its downtown.
“I really believe that we’ve reached that turning point, and you’re going to see good, steady growth in this community of the kind that reflects the quality of life,” Hays said.
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