October 25, 2019 – Economic Progress

How the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics is Researching How to Expand Opportunities for Arkansas


Did you know that it’s harder to get licensed to paint homes and buildings in Arkansas than it is almost everywhere else in America? In fact, it’s six times harder, in terms of the amount of days of education and experience.

Are buildings six times more complicated to paint in Arkansas than anywhere else? The answer is no. Arkansas has some of the most restrictive occupational licensing requirements in the country, the sixth most restrictive according to reporting by the Institute for Justice, and the impacts of these requirements are a focus of the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics (ACRE) at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA).

ACRE also studies other barriers to opportunity, including overly complicated tax structures and corporate tax subsidies, that can make it more difficult for residents in the state to improve their lives. ACRE Director Dr. David Mitchell has also co-authored a study that found that restrictions on nurse practitioners (NPs) are making it harder for Arkansans to receive primary care. This study also found that increasing NPs’ scope of practice would help give residents, especially those in rural and underserved areas, better access to care and spur industry innovation without sacrificing safety or quality of care.

Other projects include a study by ACRE Scholar and UCA Professor Dr. Thomas Snyder and Jacob Bundrick, a former policy analyst and current research associate, demonstrating how business subsidies in Arkansas that were intended to stimulate business activity and employment are, in reality, sometimes accomplishing the opposite result. Many of these programs cannot be publicly evaluated because of the secrecy surrounding them. ACRE projects shine a light on targeted economic development incentives but also on issues like county budget transparency.  In ACRE’s Access Arkansas reports, researchers like Dr. Mavuto Kalulu measure financial, political, and administrative transparency and offer practical solutions for increasing it.

Each year, ACRE faculty teach about 900 undergraduate students, and the Charles Koch Foundation is proud to support its immersive mentorship program where students apply what they learn in the classroom to study real societal issues. ACRE research fellows work closely with faculty on the topics outlined above, and more. Fellows present their research at academic conferences and work with their faculty mentor to prepare their results for publication. There have been 27 fellowship projects since 2014.

ACRE also brings in experts for public talks and paper workshops, supports students who want to participate in economic conferences around the country, and offers the opportunity to participate in regular reading groups that range from the future of work to the role of the Supreme Court.

By studying the impacts of economic barriers on everyday people, ACRE is working to contribute to a society where Arkansans, and all Americans, have more opportunities to achieve their dreams.