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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 23, 2010

Honolulu income disparity with Neighbor Islands widens

BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

The personal income disparity between Honolulu and the Neighbor Islands grew in 2008, according to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The report shows that personal income grew at a faster rate in the City and County of Honolulu and that the income on a per-person basis was much higher compared with the Neighbor Islands.

The higher wages on O'ahu are no surprise to many people given the metropolitan nature of much of the island. Labor Economist Lawrence "Bill" Boyd said Honolulu has much of the state's construction, development, tourism and military industries.

"Honolulu accounts for about 80 percent of the total economy and in terms of growth, it's where most of the stuff happens," said Boyd, who serves on the faculty for the Center for Labor Education & Research at the University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu.

"It's just economically dominant."

The figures released yesterday concentrate on personal income, or money people received from all sources, including wages, salaries, interest income, employer-provided health insurance, social security benefits and other income, such as rental payments.

It found:

• Honolulu's per capita personal income rose to $45,205 in 2008 from $43,683 in 2007. That was 200th highest of all counties in the country.

• Honolulu's 3.5 percent increase wasn't enough to keep up with inflation, which rose 4.3 percent in 2008.

• The second-highest personal income per person was in Maui and Kalawao counties at $37,521. That was up $196 from a year earlier, or 0.5 percent.

• Maui and Kalawao (the Kalaupapa Peninsula on Moloka'i) had the 680th highest personal income per capita in the country.

• Kaua'i rose $487, or 1.4 percent, to $36,093. That was 849th highest among U.S. counties.

• Hawai'i County rose to $31,978 from $31,491.

The 1.6 percent boost ranked the Big Island at 1,475 on the list of 3,112 counties.

The growth rates were down for all counties compared with 2007, as it was for more than two-thirds of the counties measured by the bureau.

The lowest per-capita income was $12,558 in Buffalo County, S.D.

The highest was $140,275 in Loving County, Texas.

Boyd said the Big Island's relatively lower per capita personal income may be a hangover from the collapse of sugar in recent decades and its relatively high unemployment.

Boyd noted the personal income figures are subject to revision and that the increases shown for the state occurred during an economically trying year for the state with bankruptcies of airlines, record gasoline prices and effects from Wall Street's meltdown.

The bureau earlier this year released its 2009 data for states.

It found Hawai'i's per capita income declined to $42,009 last year.

That was a 0.2 percent drop from the $42,078 statewide rate in 2008. Hawai'i had the 11th highest per-person personal income among states last year.

Even with the decline it was better than the nation as a whole, with the average per capita income falling 2.6 percent to $39,138.