Hawaii’s population continues to shrink and age on average, according to federal data released over the past two weeks.
The state’s population fell by more than 10,000 in the year ending July 1, continuing a trend since 2017, state economist Eugene Tian said, citing population estimates released Thursday.
At the same time, Hawaii’s senior community is growing and slightly more live in poverty, although poverty has decreased for all Hawaii residents, according to American Community Survey data collected between 2016 and 2020 and published this month.
The US Census Bureau warns that new data from the American Community Survey is less accurate than previous data due to the pandemic.
Kendrick Leong, head of research and data analytics at the Hawaii Data Collaborative, says only about 70% of people responded to the American Community Survey in 2020, down from more than 80% the year before, and respondents were wealthier.
This prompted data collectors to supplement survey responses with property tax records, federal tax data and information from the US Postal Service, Long said.
Justin Hong, an independent research consultant, said the result is that the 2016-2020 data “is likely more representative of a pre-Covid period than the Covid period”.
Yet many of the results correspond to long-known trends. The proportion of people aged 65 and over living in Hawaii has increased by more than 40% between the American Community Survey 2006-2010 and the 2016-2020 survey. In Maui County, the rate was 67.3%.
Kealiʻi Lopez, state director of the American Association of Retired Persons, said Hawaii has long had an aging population. She urged policy makers to “recognize that we will need to do much more as more and more people age and become the majority of the population”.
That includes tackling the cost of long-term care, helping people save for retirement and overcoming community opposition to affordable housing for seniors, said Lopez, who lobbied on the Legislative Assembly on several bills this year.
“Policymakers and others need to stop kicking the streets,” Lopez said. “It’s been a long time coming and the community as a whole, the state as a whole, needs to start paying attention to it.”
Kauai and Hawaii counties grow
The US Census Bureau reported last year that the state’s population grew by 7% from 2010 to 2020, but Tian, the state’s economist, said the state’s population grew. decreased since 2017.
Tian believes the downward trend is due to a combination of fewer births, more deaths and more people moving to the mainland where food and shelter are more affordable.
Nationally, birth rates have fallen and the US Census Bureau has found that Covid-related deaths have contributed to a record number of counties reporting deaths exceeding births.
But not all counties have seen their population decline. While the populations of Honolulu and Maui counties have fallen, those of Hawaii and Kauai counties have increased.
This may reflect internal migration patterns. Remote work allowed some people living on the mainland to move to Hawaii, and even though international migration was down, so many people moved within the country between 2020 and 2021 that more counties in the country have seen their population grow than shrink.
The data revealed many economic and social changes for Hawaii residents over the past decade. More people had health insurance between 2016 and 2020 than between 2011 and 2015. Medicaid and private health insurance options through the Affordable Care Act market have expanded over the past decade.
Mortgage charges for Hawaiian homeowners have fallen, which Tian says may be related to lower interest rates that have allowed homeowners to refinance.
Poverty decreased in all states, including Hawaii, when comparing 2016-2020 survey data to 2011-2015 data. But in Hawaii, poverty increased slightly for people over 65, from 7.6% to 8.3%.
Hong, the independent research consultant, thinks poverty may be higher in the community than the data reflects, as data collection halted in 2020 did not fully capture the economic disruption caused by Covid.
“You’re looking at a time period that can really mask recent changes,” Hong said of the 2016-2020 data.
Incomes also increased, with nearly 49% of Hawaiian families earning $100,000 or more in the 2016-2020 survey, up from 43% in the 2011-2015 survey. The median household income in Hawaii increased from $75,810 in 2011-2015 to $83,173 in 2016-2020.
Tian, the state’s economist, said Hawaii still has one of the highest household incomes in the country, but added that the state also has the largest household size, with several generations often living under the same roof.
He thinks a better indicator for comparison than median household income is per capita income — about $37,000 according to the latest data — which is closer to the national average of $35,384.
“Struggling to get by» is part of our series on «Hawaii’s Changing Economywhich is supported by a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation as part of its CHANGE Framework project.