The mid-1980s, and particularly the 1990s, marked the first time Arkansas received relatively large numbers of migrants from Latin America, as well as Latinos from other U.S. states.
Between 1990 and 2000, while the U.S. Latino population increased by nearly 60 percent and hundreds of thousands of Latinos left traditional receiving sites (such as California), Arkansas’s Latino population more than tripled and was surpassed in growth only by that of North Carolina.
In 1990 less than 1 percent of Arkansas’s population was Latino; by 2000 that figure was nearly 4 percent; and by 2005 almost 5 percent of Arkansas (or more than 125,000 people) was Latino. The vast majority of Arkansas’s Latinos are migrants, typically coming either directly from Mexico and Central America or spending time in other U.S. states before making their way to Arkansas.
Many of these have responded to the saturation of low-wage labor markets in California and an economic boom in the U.S. South. Among migrants, at least 70 percent are from Mexico; slightly less than 10 percent are from Central America (mainly El Salvador and Guatemala); and much smaller percentages came from South America and elsewhere.