Recent Census of Marshallese in Hawaii Shows Notable Changes

By Ben Graham

 

The 2003 Census of Micronesians in Hawaii enumerated nearly 3,000 Marshallese (on all islands) in mid 2003, up from the 1997 enumeration of about 2,500, a 20 percent increase (see attached exhibit). The Marshallese impact population[1] grew by 25.5 percent, compared to the Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau impact populations, which grew faster at 35.7 and 62.2 percent, respectively. The 2003 census followed-up an earlier one conducted in 1997[2] and revealed significant changes in demographic, social, economic and housing conditions among Marshallese living in the state.

 

Impact Population

In 1997, 83.7 percent of the total population consisted of impact migrants (the non-impact part of the total population enumerated included those who came before Compact implementation and non-Marshallese living in Marshallese households). In 2003, the impact population increased to nearly 88.6 percent of the total population, meaning the total population consisted of more recent migrants (compared to the population in 1997).

 

Household Characteristics

Marshallese households in Hawaii grew from 432 to 490 during the 6 years between the two censuses. The households became more crowded, with the average persons per household increasing from 4.8 to 5.3. The home ownership rate dropped among Marshallese in Hawaii, which is consistent with the increase in the impact population. In 1997, 13.7 percent of all Marshallese households were owned (with ongoing mortgages or fully paid) whereas in 2003 4.5 percent were owned. Households renting, on the other hand, increased from 69.4 to 83.4 percent. Households with telephones increased from 55.3 to 69.5 percent and those with televisions increased 75.2 to 84.2 percent.

 

Language and Education Characteristics

The percentage of persons aged 5 and over speaking English at home fell dramatically, from 17.8 to 6.8 percent, again supporting the trend of more recently arrived migrants. The percentage of adults (aged 25 and over) who completed high school increased slightly (from 43.1 to 46.0 percent) while the percentage who completed college fell slightly.

 

Economic Characteristics

The labor force participation rate among the impact population showed minimal increase, from 29.9 to 32.9 percent. The unemployment rate, on the other hand, fell dramatically from 28.0 to 12.2 percent. Median annual household income (in nominal terms) grew from $10,725 to $18,561, a 73.1 percent increase. While per capita income grew by over 50 percent, from $2,977 to $4,537, it was still far lower than the state-wide per capita income of $30,001. Fewer migrants were living below the poverty line in 2003 (49.0 percent) compared to 1997 (71.3 percent).

 

Marshallese households in Hawaii had a total of $11.8 million in income (this amount was their reported gross income from all sources for the previous calendar year, 2002). Since migrant households typically consume nearly all of their income (i.e., their saving rates are usually very low), it is estimated that nearly all of this $11.8 million was re-injected into the Hawaii economy through spending on housing, food, health, transportation and other expenditures (including taxes).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibit 1. Comparative Data: 1997 and 2003 Censuses

 

 

Subject

1997

2003

Total population

2,472

2,931

Impact population [1]

2,070

2,598

Impact population as percent of total

83.7

88.6

Percent change

--

25.5

FSM percent change

--

35.7

ROP percent change

--

62.2

 

 

 

Impact population:

 

 

Households

432

490

Persons per household

4.8

5.3

Percent households owned

13.7

4.5

Percent households rented

69.4

83.4

Percent households occupied w/out rent

16.9

12.1

Percent households with telephone

55.3

69.5

Percent households with television

75.2

84.2

Median age

20.0

22.5

Percent persons 5+ years

 

 

speak English at home

17.8

6.8

Percent persons 25+ years

 

 

high school graduate

43.1

46.0

Percent persons 25+ years

 

 

college graduate

1.8

1.3

Labor force participation rate

29.9

32.9

Unemployment rate

28.0

12.2

Median household income [2]

10,725

18,561

Percent change

--

73.1

Per capita income

2,977

4,537

Percent change

--

52.4

Hawaii per capita income

--

30,001

Percent change

--

16.4

Percent below poverty [3]

71.3

49.0

Aggregate income

--

11,788,226

Notes:

 

 

[1] Impact population includes post-Compact migrants and their children

[2] all income amounts in current-year US $ (not inflation adjusted)

[3] Poverty levels determined using US Census Bureau definitions

-- means not available or not applicable

 

 

Source: 1997 and 2003 Censuses of Micronesians in Hawaii

 

 



[1] The impact population is defined as those who migrated to Hawaii after 1986 when the Compact of Free Association between the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and the US took effect, and their children younger than 18 years old.

[2] Both the 1997 and 2003 Censuses of Micronesians in Hawaii were funded by the Department of the InteriorŐs Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) and carried out by staff from the OIA-funded Insular Areas Statistical Enhancement Program (with assistance from locally-hired Hawaii enumerators).