Immigrants and the economy in:


Arkansas today is home to more than 133,000 immigrants. These new Americans serve as everything from physicians to meatpacking workers, making them a vital part of this state’s overall economy. They are also playing a large role helping Arkansas avoid the type of population decline that has hurt many other states in recent years, depriving businesses of customers and cities of the taxpayers they need.

  • Immigrant Residents

  • Immigrant Share of Population

  • Immigrant Taxes Paid

  • Immigrant Spending Power

  • Immigrant Entrepreneurs

  • Employees at Immigrant-Owned Firms



In the United States, immigrants are more likely to be working-age than their U.S.-born counterparts. This allows them to contribute to the U.S. economy and to entitlement programs as they work and pay taxes. This is equally true in Arkansas, where immigrants are far more likely to be of working age than the U.S.-born population.

Age Group Foreign-Born Population Share Native-Born Population Share
0-15 6.0% 21.7%
16-64 85.1% 61.7%
65+ 8.9% 16.6%


In 2010, roughly one in 10 American workers with jobs at private firms were employed at immigrant-founded companies. Such businesses also generated more than $775 billion in annual business revenue that year. In Arkansas, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs and more than 8,200 immigrants own their own business in the state.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 17,367
Immigrant entrepreneurs 8,218
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $173.3M

Taxes & Spending Power

Nationally, immigrants earned $1.4 trillion in 2016 and contributed more than $117 billion in state and local taxes, as well as almost $262 billion in federal taxes. This left them with more than $1.0 billion in spending power. Immigrants in Arkansas play an important role contributing to the state’s economy both as consumers and taxpayers.

Immigrant Household Income $3.1B
Taxes Paid $782.0M
State & Local Taxes $297.8M
Federal Taxes $484.2M
Total Spending Power $2.4B


Nationally, immigrants are 9.2 percent more likely to hold an advanced degree than the native-born. They are also more likely to have less than a high school education. Uniquely, this allows them to fill critical shortages at both ends of the skill spectrum, from high-tech fields to agriculture, hospitality, and service industries. This holds true in Arkansas, where immigrants play a particularly large role as animal processing workers, construction workers, and doctors.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 36.4% 12.9%
High School & Some College 41.6% 65.0%
Bachelor's Degree 10.6% 14.1%
Graduate Degree 11.3% 8.0%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Animal slaughtering and processing 36.5%
Construction 13.2%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 8.9%
Crop production 7.1%
Restaurants and other food services 7.0%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Construction laborers 22.3%
Maids and housekeeping cleaners 20.7%
Grounds maintenance workers 17.0%
Postsecondary teachers 12.1%
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand 10.6%

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Between 2014 and 2024, science, technology, engineering, and math—or “STEM”—fields are projected to play a key role in U.S. economic growth, adding almost 800,000 new jobs and growing 37.0 percent faster than the U.S. economy as a whole. Immigrants are already playing a huge part ensuring that Arkansas remains a leading innovator in industries like advanced manufacturing and energy.

STEM workers who are immigrants 14.5%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 19.4%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 42.9%


In the coming years, the American healthcare industry is projected to see rapid growth—adding more new positions from 2014 to 2024 than any other industry in our economy. In Arkansas, a state where more than one out of every 6 people is currently elderly, finding enough healthcare workers remains a challenge—and one that will likely worsen in the future.

Open healthcare jobs to unemployed healthcare workers 11:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 19.1%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 11.8%
Nurses who are foreign-born 4.0%
Health aides who are foreign-born 3.6%


Immigrant families have long played an important role helping to build housing wealth in the United States. In recent decades, the more than 40 million immigrants collectively in the country increased U.S. housing wealth by $3.7 trillion. Much of this was possible because immigrants moved into neighborhoods once in decline, helping to revitalize communities and make them more attractive to U.S.-born residents. In Arkansas, immigrants are actively strengthening the state’s housing market.

Immigrant homeowners 28,843
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 4.2%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $4.4B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $181.7M

International Students

International students in the United States contributed more than $36.9 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2016-2017 school year and supported more than 450,000 jobs through their tuition payments and day-to-day spending. Research has also found that increases in the number of international students at American universities boost innovation and patent creation. International students represent a small portion of all students in Arkansas, but they make a big impact.

Students at Arkansas colleges and universities who are international students 3.4%
Economic contribution of international students $152.9M
Jobs supported by international students 1,141

Voting Power

Nationwide, the power of immigrant voters is likely to continue to be a large factor in upcoming elections. Given their modest numbers, immigrants may not sway presidential elections in Arkansas, where Donald Trump won by roughly 304,000 votes in 2016, but their votes may make a difference in closer statewide contests and primaries in the near future.

Immigrants eligible to vote 40,582
Immigrants registered to vote 17,490
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 44,430
2016 presidential election margin of victory 304,378

Undocumented Immigrants

The United States is currently home to an estimated 11.0 million undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom have lived in the country for more than five years. The presence of so many undocumented immigrants for such a long time presents many legal and political challenges. But while politicians continue to debate what to do about illegal immigration without any resolution, millions of undocumented immigrants are actively working across the country, and collectively, these immigrants have a large impact on the U.S. economy. This is true in Arkansas, where undocumented immigrants contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes each year.

Undocumented immigrants 55,622
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 89.1%
Undocumented Household Income $918.5M
Taxes Paid $97.2M
State & Local Taxes $47.0M
Federal Taxes $50.2M
Total Spending Power $821.3M

The Economic Impact of Refugees

Despite leaving extreme and dangerous situations in their home countries, refugees are often able to rebound and prosper as they become more integrated into American society. Nationwide, we find that refugees hold billions of dollars in spending power and pay more than $20 billion in tax contributions to federal, state, and local governments each year. At the state level, they contribute millions of added dollars to local economies, making them an important driver of growth and prosperity for communities around the country.

Key Stats
Number of Likely Refugees 5,873
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 0.3%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.2%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $184.8M
Taxes Paid $47.5M
State & Local Taxes $17.3M
Federal Taxes $30.2M
Refugee Spending Power $137.3M

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About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…