Because of limited information, the non-Marshallese population in the region is generally unaware of Marshallese culture and history and the challenges facing Marshallese residents. Stereotypes and misinformation persist, despite the fact that Marshallese have lived in northwest Arkansas for more than 25 years.
Approximately 7,000 Marshallese reside in Springdale, comprising roughly 10% of the city’s population, while as many as 12,000-15,000 Marshallese reside in the greater region (Arkansas, Oklahoma, southwest Missouri, and southeast Kansas). Several circumstances prompted their relocation:
opportunities for employment (unemployment in the RMI is roughly 35%)
access to better healthcare
the evident consequences of sea level rise
to join their families in the United States
Due to economic pressures to find work, generational low educational attainment rates, the unfamiliarity of enrollment processes, inaccuracies and inconsistencies in information regarding residency and federal policy, and low expectations, few pursue higher education. For those who do, additional obstacles stand in their way. Due to a lack of proficiency in English, many Marshallese encounter limitations in job promotion. The community suffers from a range of illnesses, including cancer (much of which likely stems from the lingering effects of nuclear testing) and diabetes (the population has the highest rate in the world).
Marshallese in northwest Arkansas by the numbers:**
294% – increase in Marshallese population from 2000-2010
77% – considered low income
52% – Marshallese who live in poverty (regional average is 15%)
51% – high school graduation rate
62% – foreign born
55% – considered limited English proficient (likely underestimated; we estimate 80%)
47% – Marshallese households that are linguistically isolated
Resolve for a better life
While all these factors contribute to their marginalization, Marshallese maintain an enthusiasm for intercultural dialogue and aspire to become more educated and achieve a higher standard of living so that they may participate in the broader social, cultural, economic, and political networks that directly impact their everyday lives.
**In 2014 Empowering Pacific Islander Communities and Asian Americans Advancing Justice published an extensive statistical analysis with policy recommendations regarding the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Communities in the United States. A Community of Contrasts: Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Communities includes the following statistics for the Fayetteville Metropolitan Statistical Area (including Springdale).
For a PDF copy of the report, click here. For a hard copy, please contact MEI.