Jul 29, 2022 - News

NWA is getting more diverse

NW Arkansas population, by race/ethnicity
Data: Northwest Arkansas Council; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The NWA region will likely become more ethnically and racially diverse as the overall population increases, according to a report released this week by the Northwest Arkansas Council.

Why it matters: Data on current and forecasted diversity can be used to inform businesses and other organizations so they can take steps to be more inclusive and equitable. A welcoming workforce and community can build regional economic strength and cultural richness, the council says.

By the numbers: The population of Northwest Arkansas (Benton, Washington and Madison counties) went from being about 95% white in 1990 to nearly 71% in 2021.

  • The second-largest group is Latino, which makes up 17% of the population, up from 1% in 1990.
  • The total population has increased by 20% since 2010 — from about 463,200 to 555,480.

What's next: The region's population is forecast to increase another 10% over the next five years, according to the report.

The projected demographic breakdown for 2026 includes:

  • 68% white.
  • 19% Hispanic or Latino.
  • 4% Asian.
  • 3% Black.
  • 2% Pacific Islander.
  • 1% Native American.
  • 3% other or more than one race.

What they're saying: Walmart, along with Procter & Gamble and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, recently established the Community Cohesion Project geared toward making NWA welcoming to a diverse community. The group has hosted virtual events in which people such as government, law enforcement, education and business leaders discuss issues focused on race.

The intrigue: Schools are more diverse than the overall population, according to the report. The demographics of NWA teachers are increasingly less representative of the student body — 94% of teachers in Benton and Washington counties are white.

  • School districts have introduced initiatives to address this dynamic, such as Bentonville's diversity hiring committee intended to attract and hire teachers and administrators and Fayetteville's stated goal to increase the number of people of color in teaching positions by 50% by 2023.

The bottom line: The council, through initiatives such as its workforce housing center and health care transformation division, is looking to address racial and ethnic disparities in NWA.

  • The council also plans to increase diversity within its own organization and at its gatherings. The group wants to offer more diversity, equity and inclusion training internally and for the community.
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