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Columbia County is one of the more fortunate counties in South Arkansas when it comes to population losses and gains.

A recent article published in the Banner-News revealed that, although Columbia County has experienced a decrease in population, an estimate for 2018 by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that our population is not suffering losses as large as other South Arkansas counties. While the official census takes place once every 10 years, the bureau releases an annual estimation and the population figures are from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018.

During that one-year period, our county’s population dipped 163 residents. In 2017, the population estimate was 23,700, while in 2018 the figure was 23,537. On average since 2010, we’re losing 112 people a year.

That’s nothing to cheer about, of course, but if there is comfort in thinking “it could be worse,” numbers for a couple of other counties show that, well, it could be worse.

According to figures from the Census Bureau, from 2010 to 2018, Ouachita County and Union County each saw population dropoffs nearly 2.5 times greater than other southwestern counties..

We take no solace in our neighbors in Ouachita and Union counties experiencing greater population losses because, obviously when a region is better off economically, so are the individual areas within the region.

So, what should we think of these figures?

One fact our elected officials should seriously reflect on is a common denominator in areas the Census Bureau listed as fastest growing areas in the country. That common denominator is that they have no or very low state income taxes.

Another thing all of us should be thinking about is the importance of the next every-decade census that will be conducted in 2020.

“The population estimates are used for federal funding allocations, as controls for major surveys including the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey, for community development, to aid business planning, and as denominators for statistical rates,” said a Census Bureau population overview statement. In simpler language, the more people we have, the more money we get back from the federal government and the more attractive we appear for business investments.

So, we urge our leaders to start planning now to make sure that every last person in Columbia County is counted in the census.

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