Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Solo drivers
dominate isles

Declining carpooling shows up
in the latest data from the
Census bureau on Hawaii

Poverty rose here in 2000

By Pat Omandam

An increasing number of Hawaii residents commute alone to a private-sector job in a professional, sales or service-related industry.

They use the income to pay an average monthly rent of $779 or a median monthly mortgage of $1,571 on a house more than likely built before 1979.

That's how Hawaii residents are profiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, which continues to trickle out new data from Census 2000 and other surveys that paint a self-portrait of Hawaii and how it's changed over the decade.

"I think this information will also provide decision-makers and government agencies with better insight, in terms of what people are doing and what we should be trying to do to see if our programs are working or not, and what type of programs we should be pushing," said Gordon Lum, executive director of the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization, an advisory group that coordinates transportation planning for Oahu.

The Census Bureau today released social, economic and housing characteristics for Hawaii, based on answers to a long-form questionnaire sent to about one in six households in 2000.

The new data tables reveal more people drive alone and fewer car pool. The profile shows 63.9 percent of Hawaii commuters older than 16 drive alone to work in a car, truck or van in 2000 while just 19 percent car pool.

In 1990, 60.5 percent commuted alone while 20.5 percent car-pooled.

Lum said one reason for the decrease in car pools is the increased growth of West Oahu suburbs. As areas like Ewa and Kapolei continue to expand, people find driving themselves more convenient than public transportation, he said.

In the jobs categories, 32.2 percent of the 16 and older civilian population are employed in management or professional-related fields. Service-related jobs employ 20.9 percent of the population while 28.1 percent hold sales or office jobs.

The statistics show 70.9 percent of islanders work in the private sector, compared to 21 percent who are government workers and 7.6 percent who are self-employed.

State economist Pearl Imada Iboshi said the importance in these demographic characteristics is that they can be used to compare differences between specific areas. People, businesses and government agencies trying to plan for infrastructure in a specific area can use the data to see if it makes economic sense to build a McDonald's or some other restaurant in an area, she said.

For example, the data show about 65 percent, or 300,470 of 460,542 homes in Hawaii, were built before 1979. Within that group, 4.7 percent or 21,719 residential structures are more than 60 years old.

Politicians also use the data to understand their district's constituency, she said.

"It's very useful, I think, for business decisions, as well as for infrastructure," Imada Iboshi said.

The Hawaii State Data Center plans to post all data released today on its Web site at

To order copies of the demographic profile, call the Census Bureau at (301) 763-4636 or e-mail at


Isle poverty rises in 2000,
Census figures indicate

By B.J. Reyes
Associated Press

The number of poor families in Hawaii increased in 2000, despite more people making more money in 2000 than they did the decade before, according to figures released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

There were 22,101 families at or below the poverty level in 2000, up 7.6 percent from 16,053 in 1990.

Meanwhile, a majority of Hawaii households, 20.6 percent, reported total income between $50,000 and $74,999 in 2000, the same as in 1990. But the number of households reporting income above $75,000 a year increased, while those making less than $50,000 decreased.

"The middle class is largely staying intact and a significant proportion is moving up," said Paul Brewbaker, an economist with Bank of Hawaii. "But there are people being left behind. There are some of the poor who are getting poorer."

The poverty threshold differs by household. In 2000, a family of four was impoverished if the household made under $17,603.

Hawaii County had the smallest increase in poor families, with 11 percent in 2000 compared to 10.9 percent in 1990. Kauai showed the largest increase at 8.4 percent, up from 5 percent.

In Honolulu, the number of poor rose to 7 percent from 5.4 percent, while Maui saw an increase to 7.7 percent from 5.7.

Brewbaker attributed at least part of that increase to a more specialized labor market.

"Fifty years ago, if you dropped out of school you could still get a job -- work in a trade or work in a factory. There are very few of those jobs now," he said. "You're especially punished nowadays, in terms of your occupational opportunities, for being a high school dropout."

The median annual income of the 403,572 Hawaii households reporting wages in 2000 was $49,820, up from $38,829 in 1990. The number of households reporting income of $75,000-$199,000 nearly doubled to 108,154 from 56,517, while the total number reporting income less than $49,999 decreased about 11 percent.

Carl Bonham, a UH economics professor, said the census income figures are not adjusted for inflation.

"It doesn't do us any good to know that your income went up 10 percent if prices went up 20 percent," Bonham said. "It's pretty difficult to say anything about what's happening to peoples' standards of living."

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