Immigrants in Arkansas

August 6, 2020

Arkansas has a small but growing community of immigrants, representing 1 in 20 residents of the state. While relatively few in number, immigrants help support Arkansas in many ways. The state’s manufacturing industry, for example, relies on immigrants for 14 percent of its workers, while nearly a quarter of Arkansas residents in life, physical, and social science jobs are immigrants. As neighbors, business owners, taxpayers, and workers, immigrants are an integral part of Arkansas’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

Five percent of Arkansas residents are immigrants, while another 5 percent are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2018, 143,709 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 5 percent of the population.
  • Arkansas was home to 66,509 women, 67,661 men, and 9,539 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (40 percent of immigrants), El Salvador (12 percent), India (5 percent), Vietnam (4 percent), and Guatemala (4 percent).
  • In 2018, 134,642 people in Arkansas (5 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

More than a third of all immigrants in Arkansas are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 50,266 immigrants (35 percent) had naturalized as of 2018, and 26,831 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2017.
  • Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of immigrants reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Most immigrants in Arkansas have at least a high school education.

  • One-fifth (20 percent) of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2018, while more than a third (37 percent) had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

20

24

Some college

16

31

High school diploma only

27

34

Less than a high school diploma

37

11

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.

Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens in Arkansas live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 55,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 41 percent of the immigrant population and 2 percent of the total state population in 2016.
  • 85,888 people in Arkansas, including 42,170 U.S. citizens, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, about 1 in 20 children in the state was a U.S. citizen living with at least one undocumented family member (33,354 children in total).

Arkansas is home to thousands of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

  • 4,480 active DACA recipients lived in Arkansas as of March 2020, while DACA has been granted to 5,479 people in total since 2012.
  • As of 2019, 58 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Arkansas had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 2,000 residents of the state would satisfy all but the educational requirements for DACA, and fewer than 1,000 would become eligible as they grew older.

One in 14 Arkansas workers is an immigrant, making up a vital part of the state’s labor force.

  • 99,331 immigrant workers comprised 7 percent of the labor force in 2018.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Manufacturing

31,525

Construction

12,756

Retail Trade

12,419

Health Care and Social Assistance

8,412

Accommodation and Food Services

8,378

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following industries:

Industry

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all industry workers)

Manufacturing

14

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

12

Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction

11

Construction

11

Other Services (except Public Administration)

9

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

Immigrants are an integral part of the Arkansas workforce in a range of occupations.

  • In 2018, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Production

21,416

Transportation and Material Moving

12,223

Construction and Extraction

12,215

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

10,192

Management

6,703

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all workers in occupation)

Life, Physical, and Social Science

24

Production

15

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

14

Construction and Extraction

14

Architecture and Engineering

13

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 3 percent of Arkansas’s workforce in 2016.

Immigrants in Arkansas have contributed over a billion dollars in taxes.

As consumers, immigrants add billions of dollars to Arkansas’s economy.

  • Arkansas residents in immigrant-led households had $3.1 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2018.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in Arkansas generate hundreds of millions of dollars in business revenue.

  • 12,843 immigrant business owners accounted for 8 percent of all self-employed Arkansas residents in 2018 and generated $282.9 million in business income.

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