Survey unfairly portrays Hawaii residents as stingy
A federal survey of voluntarism has ranked Hawaii 44th in the nation among the states and the District of Columbia.
VOLUNTARISM is a valuable American tradition, and a federal agency has put an important measuring stick to such activity in every state. The problem is that it judges the nation and each state on the basis of gender, ethnicity, marital status, age and type of volunteer work, but fails to take into account economic considerations that allow some people to volunteer but make it impossible for others.
Because of that, Hawaii finished near the bottom of states ranked by the extent of volunteering in the past three years. Hawaii's high cost of living forces many people to work at more than one job. "People have a very limited amount of time," Lyn Moku, division manager for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in Hawaii, correctly explained. "Everybody is so busy now."
Nationally, the study by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service found that 65.4 million or 28.8 percent of American adults volunteered last year at a median of 50 hours. Broken down by ethnicity, it found that 30.4 percent of whites, 22.1 percent of African Americans, 20.7 percent of Asians and 15.4 percent of Hispanics volunteered.
In Hawaii for the last three years, according to the survey, an average of 244,000 residents, or 25.4 percent, volunteered from 2002 through 2005. Thirty-eight percent of Hawaii's volunteers were white, 17.7 percent were Asian and 26.5 percent Hispanic.
Robert Grimm, director of the corporation's Office of Research and Policy Development, said in a news release, "The fact that minorities have lower volunteer rates may suggest that organizations will need to reach out to them more in the future or face volunteer shortages as non-Hispanics become a smaller part of the U.S. population."
The suggestion ignores the fact that the median Hispanic income in 2004 was $26,749 for men and $24,030 for women, compared to whites' earnings of $41,194 for men and $31,374 for women, according to the Census Bureau. His remark should be directed more at Asians on the mainland; their national median incomes in 2004 were $46,888 for men and $36,137 for women.
The reason for Hawaii's significantly different numbers from the national figures should be obvious. Hotel and food-service jobs pay much less than those in other industries. A disproportionate share of those in Hawaii are filled by Asians, many of them working at two relatively low-paid jobs in the industry that dominates the islands.
Although women are paid only 76 percent of what men earn in their jobs, according to the Census Bureau, the survey shows that a greater percentage of women volunteer than men, and 60 percent of volunteers are married. It could be that many of the women who volunteer are married to men who can afford to meet family living expenses with a single paycheck, making it easier for their wives to volunteer.