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Marshallese Americans

Marshallese American
Total population
22,434 (2010 Census)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Hawaii  · Washington County, Arkansas  · Spokane, Washington  · Orange County, California  · Mercer County, Ohio  ·
Marshallese language  · American English language
Protestantism (Baptists)
Related ethnic groups
Other American groups of Micronesian origin (Chamorro, Palauans, Micronesians)

Marshallese Americans are Americans of Marshallese descent or Marshallese people naturalized in the United States. According to the 2010 census, 22,434 people of Marshallese origin lived in the United States at that time, though that number has likely grown significantly over the last decade. The United States has the highest concentration of Marshallese people outside the Marshall Islands. Most of these Marshallese people live in Hawaii and Arkansas, with significant populations in California, Washington, and Ohio.


In 1986, the Marshall Islands and the United States established an agreement called the Compact of Free Association,[2] according to which the archipelago attained its full sovereignty. The treaty allows United States to provide defense, "social services and other benefits to the Marshall Islands" in exchange for military bases on the islands.

Under this treaty, Marshall Islanders can also travel and work in United States without having visas,[2][3][4] although they must be legal permanent residents and go through the same naturalization process equal to that of all other nationalities.[3][4] Because they have the legal right to travel and work in the U.S., few Marshallese immigrants seek or attain citizenship.[4]

Immigration from the Marshall Islands to the United States first began in the 1980s. Additionally, when numerous layoffs occurred in the Marshall Islands in 2000, there was a second wave of migration of Marshallese to the U.S.

Most of them emigrated to Hawaii and Arkansas when Tyson Foods, the largest poultry meat distributor in the world, began employing numerous Marshallese people on the islands. Therefore many Marshallese employees were transferred and relocated to Springdale, Arkansas, to the corporate headquarters of Tyson Foods.

Some Marshallese came to United States looking for educational opportunities, particularly for their children. Other Marshallese sought a better work environment or better health care that they could not find on the islands.[2]

Furthermore, since 1996 many Marshallese children have been adopted by American parents. Between 1996 and 1999, over 500 Marshallese children were adopted by American families. These adoptions are a result of social marginalization and economic poverty suffered by the population of the archipelago. [5]


Most Marshallese Americans reside in Hawaii and Arkansas. Some 4,300 to 6,000 Marshallese call Arkansas home. Most reside in Washington County (mainly in Springdale),[3] compared to 7,400 living in Hawaii.[6] So, Springdale has the largest Marshallese community in the continental United States and the city's 2005 demographic census shows the Marshallese population in the city at about 2,000 people. However, other estimates raise the number as high as 6,500.[7] Most of them migrated to Springdale to secure permanent employment at Tyson Foods International.[4][8] Most them already had legal status as American citizens.

About 12,000 Marshallese live in Arkansas and in live surrounding states.[9] Other significant Marshallese populations include Spokane (Washington) and Costa Mesa (California). According to Karen Morrison, director of Spokane’s Odyssey World International, a nonprofit that provides services for immigrants, the Marshallese population in Spokane County is localized between 2,400 and 3,000 people. Spokane-area schools had a lot of Marshallese students around 2006, so that Spokane Public Schools has 370 students whose primary language is Marshallese; these students form the second group, more numerous than the Russian-speaking students (530 people) and following the Spanish-speakers (360 people) in these schools (in reference to non-English languages).[10]

The Marshallese in the United States generally live in multi-family, multi-generational [6][10] and sparsely furnished households. In general terms, the population (which now has a western diet) has been adversely affected by diabetes, heart disease, tuberculosis, and obesity.[6]

Many Marshallese are Baptist. The Marshallese Bible study group at Cross Church, a Baptist congregation in Springdale, has grown quickly in recent years, although the service is done mostly in English, since the church does not have ministers who speak fluent Marshallese.[2]

Children born in the United States to Marshallese families enjoy dual citizenship.[10]

Notable people


  1. ^ The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Population: 2010 Census, 2010 Census Briefs, United States Bureau of the Census, May 2012
  2. ^ a b c d Marshallese immigration. Consulted on 25 October 2013, to 1:30 am.
  3. ^ a b c Marshallese support industry in Northwest Arkansas Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine.Consulted on 25 October 2013, to 12:50 am.
  4. ^ a b c d Republic of the Marshall Island. Consulted on 25 October 2013, to 1:15 am.
  5. ^ ADOPTION AND AGENCY: American Adoptions of Marshallese Children. Consulted on 25 October 2013, to 13:30 pm.
  6. ^ a b c Encyclopedia of Arkansas: Marshallese.
  7. ^ A New Island: The Marshallese in Arkansas.
  8. ^ "Micronesians Abroad", Micronesian Counselor, published by Micronesian Seminar, authored by Francis X. Hezel and Eugenia Samuel, number 64, December 2006, retrieved 8 July 2013.
  9. ^ AllGov.Consulted on 25 October 2013, to 1:45 am.
  10. ^ a b c The Spokesman Review: Marshallese making a new life in Spokane. Posted on March 4, 2012. Consulted on 26 October 2013, to 13:15 pm.

External links