Marshallese Americans

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Marshallese American
Total population
22,434 (2010 estimate)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Hawaii  · Arkansas (mainly in Springdale)  · Spokane (Washington)  · Costa Mesa (California).
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 a Marshallese naturalized in U.S. According to the 2010 census, 22,434 people of Marshallese origin live in the United States. This country has the largest population of Marshallese outside the Marshall Islands. Most of Marshallese live in Hawaii and Arkansas (mainly in Springdale, AR).


In 1986, the Marshall Islands and the United States established an agreement, 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 following the same terms that other nationalities.[3][4] Because they are entitled to travel and work in the U.S., few Marshallese immigrants seek citizenship.[4]

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

Most of them emigrated to Hawaii and Arkansas. When Tyson Foods, the largest poultry meat distributor in the world, had already employed many people in the Marshall Islands, many Marshallese were relocated to Springdale, Arkansas, the world headquarters for Tyson.

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 in the islands.[2]

Furthermore, since 1996 many Marshallese children were adopted by American parents. Between 1996 and 1999, over 500 Marshallese children were adopted by them. Adoption is due to social marginalization and economic poverty suffered by the population of the archipelago, as well as the understanding of Americans on the historical relations that unite both countries.[5]


Most Marshallese Americans reside in Hawaii and Arkansas. Arkansas is home of approximately 4,300 [3] or 6,000[2] Marshallese, according to different estimations, whom reside mostly 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 special census shows the Marshallese population in the city at about 2,000 people, although other estimates put the number as high as 6,500.[7] Most of them migrated to Springdale to work in permanent jobs in the Tyson Chicken plant.[4][8] In addition, at least, most them emigrate with legal status to United States.[7]

Approximately 12,000 Marshallese are calculated living in Arkansas and in 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 here, 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 important after of the Russian-speaking students (530 people) and before the Spanish-speakers (360 people) in these schools (in reference to non-English languages).[10]

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

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

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


  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 e Marshallese immigration. Consulted on 25 October 2013, to 1:30 am.
  3. ^ a b c d 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 b 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.

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