The Urban League of the State of Arkansas released Thursday its first yearly report examining the “State of African Americans and Hispanics in Arkansas.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Ed Nicholson, senior director of corporate social responsibility, community relations and social media for Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale, joined Herman Lessard, senior vice president of affiliate services for the National Urban League, and officials from the local organization for the presentation at the Governor’s Conference Room at the state Capitol.
Sherman Tate, board chairman for the Urban League of the State of Arkansas, said the report was produced through a partnership with the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas’ Walton College of Business. Tyson Foods printed copies of the report as an in-kind donation.
The report focuses on four areas: health, economics, education and housing.
“It’s not going to stay on a shelf,” Tate said. “It’s going to be an active, living, breathing document to not only enhance the quality of life in the state of Arkansas but also help our surrounding states.”
Mervin Jebaraj, assistant director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, said one of the most interesting finds in the report is that, while Arkansas housing is inexpensive compared to national averages, minorities are spending more than the recommended 30 percent of their incomes on it. That means housing is unaffordable for those communities, he said.
The research also found that the state’s hispanic and latino populations have the highest rate of people without health insurance.
Hutchinson said this report’s findings higher education would be used in his plans to bring the state’s post-secondary attainment rate up from around 40 percent to 60 percent by 2025. He said the report’s findings would support the state’s move to a new higher education funding formula.
Ken Wade, executive director of the Urban League of the State of Arkansas, an affiliate of the National Urban League, told Arkansas Business that the report would be used to develop the organization’s strategic plan and to apply for grants.
The state’s Urban League has an annual budget of $568,700 for its office in Little Rock and two satellite offices. Wade said the organization’s funding comes from both membership fees and corporate sponsorships.
The local organization became an affiliate of the National Urban League in 2014, after serving as a sponsoring community working toward approval of the affiliation status for three years, officials said.