Poverty still grips Hawaiians
The first U.S. report to look specifically at native Hawaiians finds poverty rates are nearly double those of the population overall
MAJOR CHALLENGES persist in their native land for Hawaiians, who are more likely to be living in poverty than the average isle resident.
Besides being poorer, native Hawaiians -- whether self-identified as solely Hawaiian or as multiracial -- tended to be younger and less educated, according to detailed population profiles from the 2005 American Community Survey released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Older Hawaiians were more likely to be disabled than older people in the state overall, and young Hawaiians were more likely to live in a home headed by a single mother.
"Our population is very young, with a lot of young families, and what these data show is that you have people working very hard to make a living," said Shawn Kana'iaupuni, director of strategic planning and implementation for Kamehameha Schools. "While there certainly are success stories, the vast majority of native Hawaiians still find challenges on a daily basis, some even in putting food on the table."
While it is increasingly difficult for middle- and low-income families of any ethnicity to survive in Hawaii, it is important to recognize that "there is no Hawaiian culture without the Hawaiian people, and the most recent statistics underlie some of the major challenges that our people face," she said.
This was the first ACS data to include details on native Hawaiians, including those who are multiracial. Earlier releases defined them more narrowly (as solely native Hawaiian) or more broadly (lumped in with all other Pacific Islanders). Here are some of the findings, based on a population sample, for native Hawaiians statewide:
» There were about 246,515 native Hawaiians alone or in combination with other races, or nearly 20 percent of the state's overall population of 1.2 million people.
» Their median age was 24.6 years, compared with 38.5 for the overall state population. Only 2.6 percent of native Hawaiians were 75 and older, compared with 7.4 percent for the state overall, and 28.3 percent of native Hawaiians were 5 to 17 years old, compared with 16.9 percent for the state overall.
» About 41.2 percent of native Hawaiian family households included children under age 18, compared with 29.4 for the state overall. Nearly 21 percent of native Hawaiian families were headed by single females, compared with 12.5 percent for the state overall.
» Of native Hawaiian children of school age (over the age of 3), nearly half were in grades 1 through 8, suggesting a need to emphasize elementary and middle-school programs.
» Among people over 25, native Hawaiians with bachelor's degrees or higher lagged the state's overall rate.
» The unemployment rate for native Hawaiians was slightly higher than for the state overall. Native Hawaiians were less likely to hold management, professional and related occupations. Within the population, a larger percentage of native Hawaiian women than men held those higher-paying jobs.
» Native Hawaiians had lower incomes than Hawaii's overall population, on a median and a per capita basis.
» Nearly 15 percent of all native Hawaiian families lived in poverty, compared with the overall state rate of 7.7 percent. About 20.3 percent of native Hawaiian families with related children under age 18 were poor, compared with 10.5 percent for that category in the state overall.
Stanton Enomoto, who starts work this week as the special assistant to the administrator at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said the sobering income and poverty statistics especially "illustrate that there is quite a bit of work ahead."
"On the flip side, it was very encouraging to see the (rising) numbers in early education enrollment," which Enomoto said reflect not only a rising population, but also an increased enrollment rate in a variety of educational programs.
"Maybe what this indicates is that educational programs for native Hawaiians appear to be working, whether it is early education, charter schools, scholarship programs or expanded enrollment at Kamehameha Schools," said Enomoto, chairman of the Census Advisory Committee on the Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Populations.