Monday, April 16, 2007

Socio-Economic Status of Native Hawaiians

Reynolds, `Aukai. 2006. “Native Hawaiian Data Book.” Office of Hawaiian Affairs. (

The OHA’s report summarizes reports from The Kamehameha Schools, Policy Analysis and System Evaluation (PASE); the State of Hawai’i Dept. of Health, Dept. of Public Safety, Dept. of Hawaiian Homelands, Dept. of Business, Economic Development & Tourism; University of Hawai’i, US Dept. of Commerce, and the US Census Bureau.

It contains detailed information on the Native Hawaiian population, but with a few exceptions, it does not provide much comparative information with the rest of the state or nation. Given the small percentage of the population Native Hawaiians comprise, overrepresentation of Native Hawaiians in the service and retail industries is implied by the high concentration of the native population in those industries.


There are approximately 401,162 Native Hawaiians in Hawaii and the continental US, with about 60% (239,655) Native Hawaiians residing in the State of Hawaii. According to the report, population forecasts predict that while the state population continues to increase, the Native Hawaiian population is slowly decreasing. The cause is allocated to the increasing cost of living and limited economic opportunities.

Statewide, 62% of Native Hawaiians living in Hawaii have annual household incomes under $50,000. On the island of Molokai, 43% of Native households have incomes under $24,000 and 75% of households with incomes under $50,000. Oahu and Maui have the largest percentages of households with income over $50,000 (49% and 48% respectively). According to the data in the report’s “Human Services” section, in 1999 Native Hawaiian-headed families have a poverty rate of 14.1%. – and 31.3% in households headed by a female Native Hawaiian-headed household with no husband present. This is well above the national poverty rates for whites (Social Solutions to Poverty, Scott Myers-Lipton, 2006).

While Native Hawaiian males and females over the age of 16 have, on average, a higher rate of employment than the US average (approximately 72% and 65% respectively), they also are more likely to be unemployed compared with those on the continental US. Most Native Hawaiians are employed in the private sector as salaried workers. The second largest segment of Native Hawaiians is employed as government workers. Compared with the rest of the US population, Native Hawaiians are less likely to be employed in managerial and professional occupations (25% of Native Hawaiians compared with 34% of the rest of the US population).

Close to half (44%) of the population is employed in the service industry (Business Services, Accounting, Amusement & Recreation, and Personal Services). Other industries include retail (11%) and construction (7%). The report concludes that an increase in the number of Native Hawaiian-owned businesses is necessary to increase the wealth of Native Hawaiians.

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