Census survey shows need for assistance to Hawaiians
A new Census Bureau survey shows that Hawaiians are more likely than other residents in the state to be living in poverty.
A U.S. Census Bureau survey unprecedented in its specificity has confirmed what previously had been deduced: Hawaiians are at the bottom of the state's economic ladder
as they struggle in court and Congress to maintain government-funded programs aimed at lifting them from intolerable conditions. Those programs need further protection and effort to bring about needed improvement.
Earlier Census surveys assessed conditions for respondents who check self-identification boxes as native Hawaiian or as Pacific islanders. The new 2005 American Community Survey includes the broader alternative of native Hawaiians who consider themselves to be multiracial.
The strictly self-described Hawaiians -- not necessarily 100 percent Hawaiian -- number 75,305 in the state. Combined with self-described multiracial Hawaiians, they total 246,515, nearly one-fifth of the state's population.
Their median age is 24.6 years, compared to the state average of 38.5 years, reflecting multiracial Hawaiians' significantly lower life expectancy. Hawaiians' families are larger -- an average of 3.87 persons -- than the general average of 3.4, but the median family income is less -- $56,449, compared to $66,472.
The Hawaiians' per capita income is $16,932, far less than the statewide average of $25,326. While the poverty rate for all families in the islands is less than 8 percent, the rate for Hawaiians is nearly 15 percent, according to the survey. All other ethnic groups' poverty rates are in single digits.
"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," Shawn Kana'iaupuni, director of strategic planning and implementation at Kamehameha Schools, told the Star- Bulletin's Christine Donnelly.
Programs receiving state or federal funds are in place to assist Hawaiian families, but they are of limited effectiveness and are under attack as being racially discriminatory. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld a district judge's dismissal of a challenge to federal programs that assist Hawaiians, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May that taxpayers cannot challenge such state expenditures in court.
Opponents of government-funded programs for Hawaiians still might find non-Hawaiians who could claim discrimination from being denied benefits. Such a claim would be similar to non-Hawaiian children who claimed discrimination from being denied admission to Kamehameha Schools.
Those possible lawsuits are why Hawaiian sovereignty needs to be enacted by Congress to give Hawaiians status at the same level as Indian tribes.
The Akaka Bill is not about balkanizing Hawaii or providing extremists an avenue toward secession. It is about protecting government funds and resources for programs assisting Hawaiians who are disparately poor, homeless, undernourished and driven to crime.