Immigrants in Arkansas

October 6, 2017

Arkansas has a small but growing immigrant population, representing 5 percent of the state’s total population. While relatively few in number, immigrants help support the Arkansas economy. The state’s manufacturing industry, for example, relies on immigrants for over 12 percent of its workers, while 16 percent of Arkansas residents with computer-science related jobs are immigrants. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an important part of Arkansas’ diverse and thriving communities and make notable contributions that benefit all.

Nearly 5 percent of Arkansas residents are immigrants, while another 4 percent are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 142,841 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 4.8 percent of the population.
  • Arkansas was home to 63,803 women, 67,229 men, and 11,809 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (38.1 percent of immigrants), El Salvador (12.8 percent), India (6.7 percent), Guatemala (4 percent), and China (3.6 percent).
  • In 2016, 115,733 people in Arkansas (3.9 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

One in three immigrants in Arkansas is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

  • 47,232 immigrants (33.1 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, and 25,362 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 immigrants (69.9 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in Arkansas are distributed across the educational spectrum.

  • More than one in five adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2015, while almost two in five had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

22.1

21.8

Some college

14.7

30.4

High school diploma only

23.3

34.8

Less than a high-school diploma

39.8

13.0

Over 40,000 U.S. citizens in Arkansas live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 70,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 48 percent of the immigrant population and 2.4 percent of the total state population in 2014.
  • Roughly 85,888 people in Arkansas, including 38,248 born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 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).

Nearly 5,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in Arkansas.

  • As of 2016, 73 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Arkansas, or 5,606 people, had applied for DACA.
  • Another 3,000 residents of the state satisfied all but the educational requirements for DACA, and up to 2,000 others would be additionally eligible as they grew older.

One in 15 workers in Arkansas is an immigrant, together making up an important part of the state’s labor force across industries.

  • 91,047 immigrant workers comprised 6.7 percent of the labor force in 2015. 
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Manufacturing

27,586

Construction

12,212

Retail Trade

9,782

Accommodation and Food Services

8,563

Health Care and Social Assistance

7,716

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 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

12.3

Construction

10.7

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

8.3

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting

8.2

Other Services (except Public Administration)

7.6

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 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 2015, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Production

22,253

Construction and Extraction

12,089

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

9,314

Transportation and Material Moving

7,867

Office and Administrative Support

7,410

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 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)

Computer and Mathematical Sciences

16.4

Production

15.0

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

14.6

Life, Physical, and Social Sciences

13.6

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

12.6

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 3.5 percent of the state’s workforce in 2014.

Immigrants in Arkansas have contributed billions of dollars in taxes.

  • Immigrant-led households in the state paid $614.4 million in federal taxes and $291.1 million in state and local taxes in 2014.
  • Undocumented immigrants in Arkansas paid an estimated $62.8 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Their contribution would rise to $77.2 million if they could receive legal status.
  • DACA recipients in Arkansas paid an estimated $15.9 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

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

  • Arkansas residents in immigrant-led households had $2.3 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

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

  • 9,331 immigrant business owners accounted for 6.5 percent of all self-employed Arkansas residents in 2015 and generated over $162 million in business income.

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