NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — KNWA/FOX24 is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting the area’s growing Hispanic community as shown in the Northwest Arkansas Council’s recent diversity report. 

According to the report, Hispanic and Latino communities made up one percent of the NWA population in 1990. Now, the community reportedly accounts for about 17% of the population. 

Margot Lemaster, executive director of the NWA Council says it’s important for residents of the region to understand how it is changing. Especially with its rapid population growth. 

“It’s projected that nationally, in just a few more decades, the country as a whole will no longer be a white non-Hispanic majority, but that all of the other racial and ethnic diversity will really make up the majority population,” Lemaster said.

The report indicates this, as the rate at which NWA is becoming more diverse aligns with rate trends shown in the U.S. population.

Some initial metrics released in the diversity report revealed that two of the five largest school districts in the region’s students are majority people of color with the Hispanic and Latino population in NWA forecasted to grow to 19% by 2026.

Lemaster says this growth could be contributed to the increasing amount of available jobs in the area and the high quality of life. She also hints at an undercount for the population.

“Keep in mind the potential for undercounting. You know, we have a very large Marshallese community here, and I think, decade after decade, there’s been an understanding that that population has likely been undercounted, and I think the same can be true for our Hispanic and Latino population, Black and African American population as well.”

You can find a breakdown of the NWA Council’s diversity report by clicking here.