Percentage of Native Hawaiians shrinking in Hawaii census
By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Maui Bureau
By Christie Wilson
Hawai'i County has the largest percentage of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the state — and the nation — followed by Maui, Kaua'i and Honolulu counties, according to population estimates released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
But in each of the four counties, those percentages are dropping, according to the data.
The estimates also show increases in the state's oldest and youngest residents, raising concerns about the need for more programs and services.
The census data show that 28.6 percent of Hawai'i County's population for July 1, 2007, was Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, alone or in combination with other races. On Maui, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders made up 23.4 percent of residents; on Kaua'i, 22.9 percent; and in Honolulu, 19 percent.
Statewide, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders accounted for 21 percent of the population, down from the 23.4 percent at the time of the April 2000 census.
One reason for recent declines in Native Hawaiian population estimates is that the current group of reproductive-age young people is a bit smaller than usual, said Shawn Kana'iaupuni, a demographer with Kamehameha Schools and a member of the Race and Ethnicity Advisory Committee to the Census Bureau.
"Our projections show that's just a blip, a temporary thing, and that the long-term trend for an increasing Native Hawaiian population still has not changed," she said.
"It's like the economy: It goes up and down, but in the long term it's up."
She said the numbers are expected to turn around by 2010.
ALSO FEWER ASIANS
The percentage of Asians, alone or in combination with other races, also declined in all four counties, although in Honolulu they remain the majority group at 58.8 percent.
Asians make up 54.9 percent of the state's total population, compared with 58.2 percent in April 2000.
Whites, alone or in combination with other races, comprise the largest percentage of the population in Maui, Kaua'i and Hawai'i counties, and accounted for 42.5 percent of the state's total population, up from the 40.3 percent in April 2000.
The census data on race are complex, because they refer to the population who reported a race alone or in combination with one or more other races. Those who report they are Asian and white, for example, are counted in both categories. That's also why the combined percentages for each county don't add up to 100 percent.
The numbers reveal significant increases in the state's elderly residents, with those 65 and older accounting for 14.3 percent of Hawai'i's total population in 2007, up from 13.3 percent in 2000.
Honolulu had the highest percentage of residents age 65 and older at 14.9 percent, followed by Kaua'i County, 14.7 percent; Hawai'i County, 13.5 percent; and Maui County, 11.9 percent.
Those 85 years of age and older comprised 2.3 percent of the state's total population, compared with 1.4 percent in 2000.
The numerical increases are even more stunning. For Honolulu alone, there are 9,007 more residents age 85 and older than seven years ago, a 70.6 percent increase.
"An aging time bomb" is how Sylvia Yuen of the University of Hawai'i's Center on the Family described the trend.
"I don't think people fully realize what that means," she said. "Just because you make 85 doesn't mean all of a sudden you become frail, but a large percentage of people do become frail and more of them need some kind of assisted living or nursing home care, and at that point it really means that society and families have to be prepared for that and we really are not."
MEDIAN AGE NUMBERS
Honolulu had the youngest median age in the state of 37.7 years, followed by Hawai'i County at 38, Maui County at 38.4, and Kaua'i at 40.1.
Hawai'i County experienced the only drop in its median age, partly due to its large Native Hawaiian community and a nearly 24 percent increase in the number of children age 5 and younger from 2000 to 2007.
Kana'iaupuni said it's not surprising, since Native Hawaiians generally have bigger families, and within that population, the most rapidly increasing growth rates occur in the age group of 1 to 5 years old.
Just as the state's growing population of older residents will need increased assistance, so will its youngsters, especially in early education and support services for young families, she said.
To that end, Kamehameha Schools offers its Hi'ilani program to young families with infants, and the organization provides scholarships to preschoolers, and kindergarten-transition and literacy programs, she said.
With expansion at both ends of the age spectrum, Yuen said she would hate to see one generation pitted against another in a battle over limited resources.
"For younger ages, do we have enough childcare centers, do we have enough parental support, and what about the most vulnerable children, the homeless and those living in poverty? All of that is going to cost money, so who are we going to support — the youngest of the young or the oldest of the old?
"The answer should be both, of course."
Reach Christie Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.