Filipinos have overtaken Japanese as the top Asian ancestry group in Hawaii, according to new data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The data reveals that there are 197,497 island residents who identify themselves as Filipino, representing 14.5 percent of the state’s total population of 1.36 million. There are 185,502 residents, or 13.6 percent, who self-identify as Japanese.

Preliminary surveys indicated the change1 had been coming for some time. In the 2009 and 2008 American Community Surveys, Filipinos were estimated to have higher populations than Japanese, though the sample sizes were sufficiently small and the margins of error sufficiently high to make a final conclusions murky.

Comparing the new numbers against the 2000 Census shows that the number of residents of Japanese-ancestry has dropped significantly. It was 201,764 a decade ago, and represented 16.7 percent of the state’s population. During the same time, Hawaii’s Filipino population has grown from 170,635, which was 14.1 percent.

Hawaii Asian Ancestry History

Source Japanese Filipino
2010 U.S. Census 13.6% 14.5%
2009 American Community Survey 13.3% 13.6%
2008 American Community Survey 12.6% 13.6%
2007 American Community Survey 15.2% 13.6%
2006 American Community Survey 15.1% 14.2%
2000 U.S. Census 16.7% 14.1%
19902 U.S. Census 22.3% 15.2%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

2010 U.S. Census

Group Population Percent of Total
Filipino 197,497 14.5%
Japanese 185,502 13.6%
Chinese 54,955 4.0%
Korean 24,203 1.8%
Vietnamese 9,779 0.7%
Asian Indian 2,201 0.2%
Other Asian 50,941 3.7%
Asian Only 525,078 38.6%
At Least Part-Asian 780,968 57.4%
Total population 1,360,301 100%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


1. An earlier version of this story used the word “flip” to refer to the change in ranking of the two ethnic groups. The word can also be used as slang to refer to persons of Filipino descent. This was not our intention.

2. The 2010 Census figures are only for those who identify as only Asian, not mixed race. For 2000 Census, Civil Beat matched that criteria — only Asian, not mixed-race — and also used the figures for those who selected only one country of ancestry, not those who picked more than one country of ancestry. It’s not readily clear what the criteria are for the figure in the 1990 Census data, so measuring 1990 against 2000 or against 2010 might not be a true apples-to-apples comparison.

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