Rockefeller Study: Immigrants Provide Economic Boost, But 4 in 10 Here Illegally

by Mark Carter  on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 2:33 pm  

A study commissioned by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation found that roughly four in 10 immigrants in Arkansas are in the country illegally, but that immigrants as a whole provide a net positive impact on the state's economy.

The study's findings, unveiled simultaneously Tuesday morning in Little Rock and Springdale, revealed that immigrants still represent a small percentage of the state's population at 5 percent, but 42 percent of that figure -- about 2 percent of the overall population -- are undocumented. Nationally, the percentage of foreign-born citizens is 13 percent and the rate of unauthorized residents is about 29 percent.

The report did not attempt to address political aspects of immigration issues, but rather focused on the demographics of Arkansas immigrants, the economic and fiscal impact of those immigrants, and the Marshallese population in Arkansas. Arkansas has the second largest population of Marshall Islanders outside the Marshall Islands.

The net economic impact of immigrants in Arkansas amounted to $3.4 billion in 2010. That figure subtracts the cost of essential services ($555 million) from immigrants' combined consumer expenditures and tax contributions ($3.9 billion), the study said.

The study found that immigrants contributed more economically to state and local governments than was spent on providing essential services to their households: Of every dollar spent on immigrants in Arkansas, the state economy gained $7.

The full report, "A Profile of Immigrants in Arkansas 2013," is available for download at A similar study was conducted in 2007.

The study was conducted by the Migration Policy Institute of Washington D.C., the University of Arkansas, and the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina. The study's findings are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Department of Education.

4th in Immigrant Populations

Arkansas maintains one of the country's fastest-growing immigrant populations, ranking fourth nationally and down slightly from ranking second in 2007. From 2000 to 2010, the state's foreign-born population grew by 82 percent to a total of about 133,000.

Randy Zook, president of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas, attended the Little Rock unveiling at the state Capitol and said immigrants were good for Arkansas business and an important piece of the work puzzle in Arkansas.

"We need them," he said. "They provide a level of labor resource that is critically vital to the state's economy. We'd have a number of industry sectors in this state challenged without them."

Sherece West-Scantlebury, president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, said immigrants in Arkansas are integrating well, most have been in the state for 10-plus years and that immigrants are helping keep the economy vibrant and competitive.



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