Census shows Hawaii is becoming whiter
State officials dispute findings that show Asian and islander peoples in decline
Hawaii remains a state where whites are in the minority. But the percentage of the state's population that is white is increasing, while the Asian, native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, and mixed-race population makes up a smaller percentage, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
The state and some native Hawaiian organizations question the accuracy of the census data.
According to the Census Bureau, the number of whites alone or in combination accounted for 42.6 percent of the state's population last year, up from 40.3 percent in 2000.
During the same period, the number of people who considered themselves Asians alone or in combination with another race decreased to 55.6 percent last year from 58.2 percent in 2000. The number of native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders also declined to 21.4 percent from 23.4 percent.
Eugene Tian, research and statistics officer at the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said the numbers do not add up. He said the number of whites should not have increased as much as the census shows because the number of births and deaths has not changed much.
"It's odd," said Pearl Imada Iboshi, administrator of DBEDT's Research and Economic Analysis Division, "because we are having a net positive in-migration from Asia." The census numbers do not seem to reflect that, she said.
"It may be due to the methodology they (the Census Bureau) use," Tian said.
The Census Bureau's report also conflicts with a native Hawaiian population forecast published by Kamehameha Schools, which showed the native Hawaiian population rising both in Hawaii and the continental United States.
According to the census, the number of native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, alone or in combination, decreased by 8,664 residents.
The report also showed the number of whites in Hawaii increased by 58,942 in the last six years, while the Asian population grew by 9,455 residents.
Tian said the state and a U.S. census advisory committee questioned the numbers in 2005, the last time the Census Bureau published a report of this type, and the state has been working with the bureau to see if its figures need to be refined.
The state is also working on a report on migration to Hawaii that could explain some of the trends, Iboshi said.
One trend that is certain is that the state is getting older, Tian said.
"Our forecasts show it will be a significant change," Iboshi said.
The median age in Hawaii rose to 37.3 last year from 36.2 in 2000. About 14 percent of Hawaii's residents are 65 or older.