Arkansas' Hispanic Population Continuing to Grow

September 30, 2004 – Posted at 2:13 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO -- The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the Hispanic population has increased in Arkansas, jumping from almost 87,000 in 2000 to 97,000 in 2002. The population growth of working-age immigrants may have a big impact on the state in the next few years.

"It's still a rural state and Hispanics feel very comfortable in rural settings. They just like it very much," said Ben Sanchez, publisher and editor of the El Hispano Newspaper.

Region 8 is home to about 6,000 Hispanics, many who came in search of a good job.

"The main attractive are the salaries. The same type of job a person may get in California pays $7 dollars an hour. You can get a dollar or two more here," said Sanchez.

So many Hispanics have moved to Region 8, that Jonesboro area churches are now offering services in Spanish.

"We have now three or four different churches that have Spanish services. That's just one thing, we are now seeing new Mexican stores coming in," said Sanchez, "Many other businesses are hiring bilingual employees, they are looking for them because they are trying to cater to the market."

And the more residents, regardless of their nationality, mean more growth for the Region 8 economy.

"Many of the businesses now, we can see it is the newspaper there, they are advertising more and more, because they see the Hispanic market as a great market. They are not only more in quantity, but they make more money, so they are spending more money," said Sanchez.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that from 2000 to 2003, Arkansas' white population has decreased in all but five counties in the state. Crittenden County is one of the leading counties in that decline.