Key Facts to Know About Communities of Color in Arkansas Before the 2014 Midterm Elections
Part of a Series
Driven by the state’s growing Latino and Asian populations, communities of color constitute an increasingly important segment of the Arkansas electorate. The impact of these communities is felt not only through their population growth but also through their economic contributions and electoral clout. As the 2014 midterm election approaches, there are key facts to keep in mind regarding these growing and dynamic communities in Arkansas:
- Communities of color make up a significant share of Arkansas’ population. Latinos are growing faster than the state’s other demographic groups. Since 2000, the population of Latinos in Arkansas has more than doubled and now stands at 6.9 percent. The African American population in Arkansas, which has stayed relatively constant since 2000, stands at 16 percent, while the state’s Asian population grew from 0.8 percent of the population in 2000 to approximately 1.5 percent as of 2013. Arkansas also has one of the nation’s fastest-growing immigrant populations, expanding from 2.8 percent of the state’s residents in 2000 to 4.4 percent by 2011. According to the Immigration Policy Center, approximately 28 percent of Arkansas’ immigrant population is eligible to vote, and more than 88 percent of children of immigrants are U.S. citizens.
- People of color represent a growing and potentially influential segment of the Arkansas electorate. As of November 2012, only 65.3 percent of those eligible to vote in Arkansas were registered to vote; for the state’s African American community, that figure was 61.3 percent. Among Arkansas’ Latino population, only 21.9 percent of those eligible to vote were registered. In the 2012 election, only 1,124,000 out of close to 2,109,000 eligible Arkansas voters cast a ballot. The 2012 voting breakdown by race is as follows: 933,000 non-Hispanic whites voted; 155,000 blacks voted; 9,000 Asian Americans voted; and 14,000 Latinos voted. However, the potential eligible voter pool for each demographic was: 1,676,000 whites, 313,000 blacks, 73,000 Latinos, and 21,000 Asians.
- A significant share of people of color in Arkansas are below age 18. According to the Census Bureau, close to 40 percent of Arkansas’ Latino population is under age 18, while the same age group only accounts for approximately 21 percent of the state’s non-Hispanic white population. Among Arkansas’ African Americans and Asian Americans, 30 percent and 26 percent of the respective populations are under age 18. People of color’s share of the electorate has the potential to grow as these younger populations reach voting age.
- Communities of color in Arkansas are integral to the state’s economy. As of 2011, approximately 6 percent of the state’s workers were immigrants. Furthermore, without undocumented immigrant workers in Arkansas’ manufacturing industry, the state’s output would be $1.4 billion dollars less. As of 2013, Latino and Asian residents commanded close to $5.1 billion in combined buying power, while blacks commanded $1.023 billion. Additionally, according to 2007 Census Bureau data, 5.5 percent of businesses in Arkansas were black owned, 1.4 percent of businesses were Asian owned, and 2.3 percent of firms were Latino owned.
- Arkansas’ voter ID laws were ruled unconstitutional, giving communities of color easier access to the polls. Earlier this month, the Arkansas Supreme Court determined that the state’s voter ID laws, which required all voters to show valid identification in order to have their ballot counted, were unconstitutional. Voter ID laws have long been recognized as a barrier that prevents communities of color, particularly African Americans, from exercising their right to vote.
Jamal Hagler is the Special Assistant for Progress 2050.
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