Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 2,949,131
Population (2000 CB est.) 2,673,400
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 129,165
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 73,690
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 4.4 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 2.6%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 41,071
Share Naturalized (2012) 31.8 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 26,230
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 411
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 55,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $244,185,734
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 3,726,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Arkansas in 2012 was 2,949,131 residents.

Between 2000 (population 2,673,400) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 22,509 residents. That was an annual average change of 0.8 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 2,350,725) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 32,268 residents. The annual average rate of change was 1.3 percent compared to the national rate of change of 1.2 percent.

Foreign-Born Population

According to the Census Bureau the foreign-born population of Arkansas was about 129,165 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 4.4 percent. The chart above shows the long-term change in the state's foreign-born population based on Census Bureau data.

Foreign-Born Change

Between 2000 and 2012 the Census Bureau estimate indicates an average annual rate of change in the foreign-born population of about 4,529 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 22,509  people. That is a 20.1  percent share of the state's population change (not including the children born in the United States to illegal aliens). The foreign-born population grew by 75.3 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Immigration also contributes to population growth through the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Nationally the share of births to the foreign-born is about double their share of the population. A 8.8 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 3,380 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 7,910 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 44.8 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 57.2 percent of Arkansas's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 55.3 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Arkansas's immigrant population may be seen in data on the share of the population over five years of age that speaks a language other than English at home. Between 2000 and 2012, the share of non-English speakers changed from 5.0 percent to 6.9 percent. In 2000, 46.6 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 44.7 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 72.7 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 77.2 percent of those who spoke English less than very well.

The chart above shows the regional composition of the state's foreign-born population and how it has changed from between 2000 and 2012.


Census Bureau data in 2012 indicate that 41,071 residents of Arkansas, or 31.8 percent of the foreign-born population in Arkansas, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 22,055 residents, or 29.9 percent, in 2000.

Nationally, 40.3 percent of the foreign-born population was naturalized in 2000, and 45.8 percent in 2012.

Net International Migration (NIM)

Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Census Bureau estimated that between 2000 and 2012, the change in Arkansas's population resulting from net international migration has been about 6,890 people. It was 18.1 percent of total change (not including the children born to the immigrants after their arrival in the United States). 1   The remainder was due to net domestic migration and natural change (births minus deaths).


  1. A negative percentage results when there was an overall population decrease. A percentage greater than 100 percent results when domestic migration is negative, i.e, a net loss from interstate migration.

Immigrant Admissions

Recent "green card" recipients who intend to reside in Arkansas were 791 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 321 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 2,858 persons. Immigrant admissions data are from the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

The chart above shows recent immigrant admissions and the cumulative amount of immigrant admissions since FY'65. The cumulative total of immigrant admissions to Arkansas between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 66,521 persons.

The data for fiscal years 1989-91 were artificially raised by the inclusion of former illegal aliens who were amnestied in 1986. According to INS data (1991) the number of amnesty applicants from Arkansas was 2,666 (680 pre-1982 residents and 1,986 agricultural workers). These data were published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and reported in "Report on the Legalized Alien Population," March 1992.

Admissions by Nationality: FY'96 - FY'05

The table below furnishes INS data by nationality on the immigrants who were admitted for residence in Arkansas between 1996 and 2005.

The INS data are for nationals of the countries with the largest number of immigrants admitted or adjusted to legal residence each year since 1996. The absence of data means that the total number of admissions to the United States by nationals of that country was not enough to merit detailed reporting in that year.

The Department of Homeland Security website has detailed data on immigrant admissions since FY'03 by year and by source country and intended state of residence. (See then select the desired year, click Legal Permanent Residents, data and then select "supplemental table 1."

Chart of Immigrant Admission by Fiscal Year


Arkansas has received 411 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 10 refugees in fiscal year 2012. The chart above shows the annual admissions over the last ten years and the cumulative total of those admissions using data complied by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. government program that distributes new refugees among the states is the only immigration program that provides state governments the opportunity to participate in deciding how many newcomers will come to that state each year.

Illegal Aliens

Arkansas Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $129.90 53.2%
LEP educ. $26.10 10.7%
Medicaid+ $19.40 7.9%
SCHIP $4.20 1.7%
Justice $17.90 7.3%
Welfare+ $16.70 6.8%
General $29.90 12.2%
Total $244.20  
Tax receipts $20.50  
Net Cost $223.70  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Arkansas as of 2010 was about 55,000 persons. This is part of an overall estimate of the U.S. illegal alien population of about 11,900,000 persons.

DHS Estimate - The current estimate by DHS of the illegal alien population in Arkansas was n/a in 2012. The DHS estimate is available for only the 10 states with the largest illegal alien populations. The DHS estimate of the national illegal alien population in 2012 was 11,430,000 .

Other Estimates - The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the illegal alien population of the state at 55,000 as of 2010.

Fiscal Cost of Illegal Aliens

FAIR's most recent estimate of the cost outlays due to illegal immigration and tax receipts from illegal aliens in Arkansas are as shown on the right:

Limited English Proficiency Students

Data are not available nationally on immigrant students (either legally or illegally resident in the United States) who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools (K-12). However, a large majority of these students enrolled in Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learning (LEP/ELL) instruction programs may be assumed to be children of either legal or illegal immigrants with a predominance of children of illegal aliens.

In Arkansas, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 29,75) was 326.9 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 106.5 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Arkansas's population in 2050 likely would be between 3,676,000 million and 3,726,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (3,401,000) if immigration were reduced to a level where it balanced the number of U.S. residents leaving to reside outside of the United states, i.e., zero-net immigration. See "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050: Four Immigration Scenarios," FAIR 2006.

Foreign Students

Data compiled by the Institute of International Education (IIE) record the number of foreign students attending post-secondary school in Arkansas as 5,011 in 2013.

The chart above illustrates the change in the number of foreign students attending school in Arkansas since 1997.

For information on foreign student issues see: Foreign Students in the United States.

Immigration Impact

Environmental and Quality of Life Profile

Water: If current growth trends continue, Arkansas' population will surpass 3.7 million by 2050, nearly a one-third (32.5%) increase from 2006.1 Arkansas has a daily, per-capita demand of over 157 gallons each day.2 If population projections hold and consumption remains unabated, by 2050 there will be a surge in demand of over 143 million gallons per day. With a waning water supply, Arkansas cannot slake such a thirst forever.

Arkansas is the fourth greatest consumer of groundwater in the Union. Drawing from the Mississippi River Valley alluvial aquifer and the Sparta aquifer, their unsustainable consumption can no longer be ignored. In both aquifers, large cones of depression are appearing from over-pumping, some up to as much as 100 feet deep. In the alluvial aquifer, long-term water level readings indicate an average decline of one foot per year in some areas.3 In three potential ground-pumping scenarios postulated in the U.S. Geological Survey in 2005, all revealed unmet water demand by the year 2049.4

Exacerbated by population growth, Arkansas' water resources are beginning to show signs of their constraints.

School Overcrowding:Arkansas's K-12 and High School enrollment increased by approximately 5% between the 1999/2000 and the 2005/2006 school year and is projected to grow to a total enrollment of 484,000 in 2015, a 2 percent increase.5 School overcrowding is no longer limited to Arkansas's cities; population growth is pushing the problem into small town school districts as well.6

In Bentonville, where enrollment grew by 15 percent between 1998 and 2002, the school district is squeezing children into ever larger elementary schools; despite research suggesting that elementary schools should be limited to 200 to 500 students, the city is planning schools as large as 700 students. Administrators say they have no choice but build larger schools to handle population growth.7

In Springdale, even plans to add an elementary school every two years from now until 2010 won't be enough to accommodate population growth. Springdale enrollment increased so much in 2002 that if it continues at its current rate, it will double in the next ten years.8 Springdale's schools are so crowded that hundreds of students are being bused to campuses outside their neighborhoods. 9

Traffic:The typical Little Rock commuter spent 22 extra hours in traffic due to congestion in 2007, resulting in 15 gallons of wasted fuel. The total cost of the wasted time and fuel was estimated at $97 million.10 About 11 percent of Arkansas commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.11 As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for Arkansas residents increased 15 percent during the 1990s, from 19 minutes to 22 minutes in 2000.12 Two-fifths (39%) of Arkansas' major urban highways were rated as “congested” by The Road Information Project in 2010.13 

Arkansas highways saw their traffic volume rise by 52 percent between 1990 and 2008. Unfortunately, road maintenance has not fully kept up. Over one-third (34%) of Arkansas major roads are considered to be in poor or mediocre condition, which takes a toll on passenger vehicles. Each year, the typical Arkansas motorist incurs $308 in vehicle maintenance and operational costs due to poor road conditions.14

Disappearing Open Space:The amount of developed land in Arkansas increased by 577,100 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 28,090 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.15 Between 1992 and 1997, Arkansas lost nearly 112 square miles of its best farmland to development, 254 percent more than the land lost during the previous five-year period.16

Between 1985 and 2000, Fayetteville lost 18 percent of tree cover (the amount of area shaded by trees), leaving the city with only 27 percent tree cover; 40 percent is considered ideal by forestry experts. Tree cover is important because it improves the air quality by removing elements like carbon monoxide from the air; Fayetteville's trees remove 731,000 pounds of air pollutants each year.17

Solid Waste: Arkansas generates 1.24 tons of solid waste per capita annually.18

Air Quality: In 2010, the American Lung Association only graded five Arkansas counties on frequency of high ozone days. Of those, Crittenden and Pulaski received a grade of "F.”19

Crowded housing: An estimated 26,270 of Arkansas' housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 2.4 percent of the state's housing units. 5,354 of those were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.20 11 percent of children live in crowded housing.21 Nationwide, children in immigrant families were three times as likely to live in crowded conditions as children in native families (27 percent to 9 percent).22

Poverty: Arkansas' immigrants are more likely to be poor than their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 22.7 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 17.7 percent of native households. An additional 19.9 percent of the foreign-born and 11.1 percent of native households had incomes between 100 and 149 percent of the poverty level.23 26.8 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 24.0 percent of native children.24

End Notes:

  1. Jack Martin and Stanley Fogel, "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050." FAIR, March, 2006
  2. U.S. Geological Survey 2000.
  3. U.S. Geological Survey 2005.
  4. Chris Branam, "Growing Pains Continue," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 25, 2002.
  5. Projections of Education Statistics to 2010, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education. "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000," Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau."Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990," 1990 Census, U.S. Census Bureau.
  6. Editorial, "The Challenge of Growth Springdale's Schools Feel the Pinch," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 23, 2002.
  7. Chris Branam, "Springdale Enrollment Jumps 10.7% in 2 Years," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 4, 2001.
  8. Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment, High School Completions, and Staff From the Common Core of Data: School Year 200506. National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
  9. "Overview of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools and Districts: School Year 1999-2000," National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
  10. Texas Transportation Institute, “Urban Mobility Report 2009,” p 8-9, 22-24
  11. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  12. "U.S. Population 2007 Data Sheet," Population Reference Bureau. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  13. The Road Information Project (TRIP), “Key Facts about Arkansas’ Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding,” May 2010.
  14. The Road Information Project (TRIP), “Key Facts about Arkansas’ Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding,” May 2010.
  15. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, “Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory.”
  16. David Mercer, "Bitter Harvest: From 1992-1997, Arkansas Lost 71,600 Farm Acres to Cities," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 27, 2002.
  17. Brad Branan, "NW Arkansas Pollution Linked to Tree Loss," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 23, 2003.
  18. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  19. American Lung Association, “State of the Air 2010.”
  20. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  21. Kids Count Data Center, which used 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  22. “Wisconsin Children in Immigrant Families,” WisKids Count Issue Brief, Spring 2008. Cited 2006 ACS data.
  23. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  24. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.