Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Census gives misleading
view of native Hawaiians

An apparent decline
in population is due to
new profiling methods

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The number of people in the United States who consider themselves pure native Hawaiian has decreased by 33 percent in the last 10 years -- or has it?

Numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau yesterday paint an incomplete picture of the native Hawaiian population in 2000 when compared with numbers collected in 1990.

The number of people nationwide in the 2000 census checking "one race" and "Native Hawaiian" was 140,652.

In the 1990 census, those checking themselves off as "Native Hawaiian" tallied 211,014, or roughly 70,000 more.

But the two numbers cannot be compared, according to Jerry Wong, an information specialist for the Census Bureau, Los Angeles region.

That's because in 1990, people could choose only one race with which to identify -- such as native Hawaiian.

But in the 2000 census, people of mixed ancestry were allowed to identify additional races. For example, a native Hawaiian could also identify himself as being part Asian.

It was those mixed-ancestry figures that were not released yesterday but still could be counted under the native Hawaiian category, Wong said.

But exactly how many people define themselves as part-Hawaiians will not be known until next month or July, when multi-race statistics are released, Wong said.

"I would think that a substantial number of individuals claimed more than one racial identity in the 2000 census, whereas we did not offer that option in 1990 and in previous censuses," Wong said. "It's not necessarily a loss in population."

Haunani Apoliona, a member of the Census Bureau's Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander advisory committee and chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said she hopes the emphasis is not placed on just those identifying themselves only as native Hawaiians.

To do so, Apoliona said, would be "to lose a whole bunch of Hawaiians."

Ultimately, Apoliona said, the shift in methodology is a good thing because it forms a baseline for the 2010 census so that statisticians and everyone else will get a clear view of how many native Hawaiians, both pure-blooded and part-Hawaiians, there truly are.

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