Near the end of the 18th century, Indians from east of the Mississippi, displaced by white settlement, entered the area now known as Arkansas. However, as the availability of cheap land in Louisiana Territory drew more and more white settlers—in particular, veterans of the War of 1812, who had been promised 160-acre (65-hectare) tracts—the Indians were pressured to cross the border from Arkansas to present-day Oklahoma.
After the end of the Mexican War, thousands of Arkansans immigrated to Texas, and others were attracted to California in 1849 by the gold rush. Because of a law passed in 1859 requiring free blacks to leave the state by the end of the year or risk being enslaved, Arkansas's population of free blacks dropped from 682 in 1858 to 144 in 1860. During Reconstruction, the state government encouraged immigration by both blacks and whites. Literature sent out by the Office of State Lands and Migration, under the tenure of William H. Grey, a black leader, described the state as a new Africa. Railroads, seeking buyers for the lands they had acquired through government grants, were especially active in encouraging immigration after Reconstruction. Later immigrants included Italians and, in the early 1900s, Germans.
During the Depression era (1930s) and thereafter, Arkansas lost a substantial proportion of its farm population, and many blacks left the state for the industrial cities of the Midwest and the east and west coasts. The net loss from migration totaled 919,000 between 1940 and 1970. Between 1970 and 1980, however, the state gained 180,000 residents through migration, as the Ozarks became one of the fastest-growing rural areas in the US. The state experienced a small net decline of 2,000 in migration between 1980 and 1983. Net migration from 1985 to 1990 amounted to a gain of nearly 36,600. Between 1990 and 1998, there were net gains of 106,000 in domestic migration and 9,000 in international migration. In 1998, Arkansas admitted 914 immigrants. Between 1990 and 1998, the state's overall population increased by 8%. In the period 1995–2000, 252,100 people moved into the state and 209,984 moved out, for a net gain of 42,116, 2,496 of whom were age 65 or over.