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Hawaii News

Hawaii census effort totaling big numbers

Local census officials expect to complete door-to-door census taking within the next week, capping a surprisingly efficient enumeration effort more than a month ahead of schedule and potentially boosting overall census participation in Hawaii to more than 80 percent, compared with just 64 percent 10 years ago.

And that’s not just a matter of statistics; a vastly improved count could bring the state substantially more federal money over the next decade.

The success of this year’s census effort in Hawaii is largely due to the emphasis on local benefits in census advertising and to an unprecedented effort—aided by hundreds of community groups serving as census partners—to reach out to traditionally hard-to-count ethnic and regional populations, said Kathleen Popa, manager of the Waianae Census Office.

The Honolulu Census Office has already completed follow-up visits to some 73,000 residences that did not return a 2010 census questionnaire via mail. The Waianae office, which covers Oahu’s west side and North Shore as well as the outer islands, has made contact with nearly all of the 120,000 residences on its follow-up list and will spend the next week trying to coax responses from an estimated 20 percent who have not yet participated.


» Population 1,211,538
» Foreign born 17.5 percent
» Language other than English spoken at home (age 5+) 26.6 percent
» High school graduates (age 25+) 84.6 percent
» Bachelor’s degree or higher (age 25+) 26.2 percent
» People with a disability (age 5+) 199,819
» Mean travel time to work, minutes (age 16+) 26.1
» Home ownership 56.5 percent
» Median value of owner-occupied housing units $272,700
» Households 403,240
» People per household 2.92
» People per square mile 188.6

The quick turnaround for the door-to-door campaign, which was originally expected to take until late July or early August, marks the winding down of what has been a challenging yet ultimately successful effort by Hawaii’s two census offices.

"I’m ecstatic," said Popa. "We’ve been in the office seven days a week to make sure we get a complete count and now we’re in downhill mode."

Hawaii ranked third-worst in the nation in census participation, at 64 percent, during the 2000 decennial count. And while the state still fell behind the national average in mail participation this year, Honolulu Census Office manager Winnie Wilson said the success of the door-to-door campaign could push overall response to more than 80 percent.

The improvement would probably mean a significant increase in federal funds designated for the state. Census officials estimated that Hawaii lost out on $310 million over the last 10 years due to undercounting in the 2000 census.

And while the end of the count signals the premature unemployment of some 3,000 temporary census workers, taxpayers will save on the $17 per hour cost of employing each enumerator for 20 to 40 hours per week.

Popa met with regional census officials this week to strategize ways to convince the remaining census holdouts to participate.

"It helps when people recognize the person at their door," Popa said. "We did well with hiring (census takers) to work in their own neighborhoods, but for this last push, we might have to have workers going out on their own block."

The final step for each office will be to double-check vacant residences and residences that were previously deleted from census rosters.

"We go through great pains to get the most complete, accurate count," said Wilson. "It’s painstaking work, but it’s necessary."

Wilson noted that residents who already completed a census may still be contacted by census offices on the mainland to verify their responses.


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