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Census paints mixed economic landscape

A new survey shows isle incomes are slightly trailing inflation rates

By Gene Park

LAST UPDATED: 11:33 a.m. HST, Dec 15, 2010

The average Hawaii household income grew by nearly 30 percent from 2000 to 2009, according to new Census data released yesterday.

The increase was almost enough to keep up with inflation.

In 2009, median household income in Hawaii was $64,661 a year. According to 2000 U.S. Census Bureau data, it was $49,820 a decade ago.

The annual increase is about 2.64 percent. However, Honolulu's Consumer Price Index has been increasing at 2.87 percent a year, said local economist Paul Brewbaker, chairman of the state Council on Revenues.

"So we're losing a little bit each year," said Brewbaker, also principal of TZ Economics. "It's an interesting mile marker, but how far have we come? Not far enough."

The figures and many others come from the Census Bureau's 2005-2009 American Community Survey estimates, released for the first time yesterday.

The survey presents Census data in ultrathin slices, covering more than 670,000 neighborhoods across the nation and gathering data for areas as tiny as Captain Cook on Hawaii island (population 277).

Richest neighborhood in the state? Makiki Heights.

» American Community Survey:

Longest commute? That belongs to residents of Hawaiian Ocean View Estates on the Big Island.

Most educated? Manoa.

"The ACS (American Community Survey) represents the first time such a massive compilation of data estimates for small geographic areas is available," Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a statement.

The ACS data, gathered from Jan. 1, 2005 through Dec. 31, 2009, are not related to the 2010 Census population counts, which will be released Tuesday.

After this initial American Community Survey, the information will be updated yearly.

The annual survey of population and housing characteristics will complement the 10-year count to provide more timely annual data on small geographic areas.

Nine of the 10 richest neighborhoods in the state are on Oahu. Makiki Heights was the most affluent with a median household income of $175,521.

Waialae Iki came in second at $149,175, followed by Kahala with $129,647. The first neighbor island area to crack the list is Spreckelsville on Maui, sixth at $122,159. Of the 50 areas with family income of more than $100,000, 48 are on Oahu. The other two -- Spreckelsville and Wailea -- are on Maui.

In contrast, 60.5 percent of the households at Kuhio Park Terrace in Kalihi were below the poverty level.

The Iwilei-Anuenue area had the highest unemployment rate, at 22.4 percent. Two areas in Wahiawa, described as the Kolekole and Leilehua Avenue neighborhoods, followed at 18.5 percent and 17.7 percent, respectively.

The new data also found that there are almost 25,000 more high school graduates than there were in 2000, and about 27,000 more people with bachelor's degrees.

Kapiolani Park, Manoa and Punahou were the three most educated areas of the state, each with more than 60 percent of their populations being college graduates. Wailea in Maui was the highest neighbor island area on that list with about 50 percent of its population being college graduates.

Hawaii's population increased 5.7 percent from 2000 to 2009. Whites saw the largest demographic jump. In 2000, there were 294,102 white residents in Hawaii, but by 2009, there were 344,681, a 17.1 percent increase.

The state's Asian population dropped by 2.1 percent with the largest drop -- 6.9 percent -- in residents of Japanese ancestry. In 2000, there were 201,764 people with Japanese backgrounds, but by 2009, there were 187,797.

The native Hawaiian population also dropped. In 2000, there were 80,137, but by 2009, there were 74,691, a 6.8 percent drop.

The survey also measured average one-way commute times. The three longest commutes in the state were on the Big Island. Residents at Hawaiian Ocean View Estates take an average of 61.7 minutes to get to work, while residents at Kukuihaele and Paauhau-Paauilo take about 50 minutes.

The longest Oahu commutes were in the Leeward area, with residents from Makaha Valley taking 46.8 minutes, Ewa Gentry 44.5 minutes and Waianae 38.8 minutes.

Nationally, the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is the wealthiest and most educated region in the U.S., Bloomberg News reported. Seven of the 17 counties where more than half of the residents 25 years or older had a college degree were in Washington suburbs.


Data about the state's residents and how we live, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2005-2009 American Community Survey:

A: Median household income
2000: $49,820
2009: $64,661
People below poverty level
2000: 10.7%
2009: 9.4%

B: High school dropouts
2000: 66,006
2009: 48,074
People with bachelor degrees
2000: 142,493
2009: 168,760

C: People 85 years and older
2000: 17,564
2009: 26,234
2000: 512,891
2009: 538,079
Total population
2000: 1,211,537
2009: 1,280,241

D: Occupied housing units
2000: 403,240
2009: 437,976
Vacant housing units
2000: 57,302
2009: 67,111

E: People who drive to work
2000: 359,916
2009: 421,496
Average commute to work
2000: 26.1 minutes
2009: 25.6 minutes

F: Public transportation use
2000: 35,368
2009: 35,495

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