Northwest Arkansas is a rapidly growing region that boasts the corporate headquarters for Walmart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt, as well as the home of the University of Arkansas. The region is experiencing tremendous population growth among people of color. Since 1980, this region’s share of people of color has increased from 3.1 percent to nearly one-quarter of the population today, seeing strong growth among Latino and Asian/Pacific Islander communities. However, there is a distinct inequity among wages. The median wage for workers of color is $6 less than that of their white counterparts. In Northwest Arkansas, 33 percent of jobs require some college education, and despite the presence of a major state university in the area, only 40 percent of whites and blacks would be eligible for these jobs. In Bentonville, we conducted focus groups, individual interviews and a small group listening session where we heard the opinions of black, white and Latino residents. Focus groups were conducted with both black and white residents in the Northwest Arkansas region, from Bentonville to Fayetteville.
In discussions with community leaders, we heard that with growth comes uncomfortable change for a lot of people in the region and that the benefits are not evenly distributed by race, gender or class. Residents expressed their pride in the region’s growing diversity, which has been fueled by an influx of corporate investment. But, this rapid growth and expanding economic opportunity is leaving some people behind. We heard that there is a lack of diversity among local leadership, including local government, businesses and community boards, which highlights that while this region may not be a hostile place for people of color, it still struggles to address system and institutional barriers to equity and inclusion. Learn more by reading the full report.