A new report from Pew Research Center shows that Hawaii had the most multiracial and multiethnic births in the nation at 44 percent in 2015.

U.S. census data shows that about a quarter of Hawaii residents identify as more than one race with Native Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos and Caucasians making up the bulk of the population.

Pew compiled the data on children younger than 1 because census data only tracks children whose parents live in the same home, according to the report.

A shopping scene in Honolulu’s Chinatown. Hawaii’s overall ethnic diversity is also reflected in birth rates, according to a new study. Tim Huynh/Civil Beat

Nationwide, 14 percent of babies were multiethnic in 2015 compared to 8 percent in 1980. That’s likely due to an increase in interracial marriages, according to another Pew report.

Since Loving v. Virginia, a U.S. Supreme Court case that lifted restrictions on intermarriage in many states in 1967, the percentage of multiethnic married couples rose from 3 percent to 17 percent in 2015.

Around the nation, 11 percent of adults hold negative views of intermarried couples and multiethnic births, according to Pew research.

A Melting Pot

The closest states to Hawaii in terms of multiethnic births are Oklahoma and Alaska at 28 percent each.

Why does Hawaii have nearly twice the amount of multiethnic births as the rest of the country?

“We’re a small island. We are not divided,” said Anna Ah Sam of the University of Hawaii’s Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity. “It’s how we’re raised …We live near each other. We go to school near each other. We live with each other. We marry each other.”

She speculates that the births happening now are a culmination of Hawaii’s history as a gathering place for plantation owners and workers and migrants from other countries.

Hawaii’s economy and culture were built on the backs of its migrant workers. Courtesy of Alexander & Baldwin

Hawaii’s high rate of multiethnic births also results in a public school profile that bucks national averages. Half of Hawaii’s public school students are Native Hawaiian or Filipino at 27 percent and 22 percent respectively, according to 2016 UH report.

About 16 percent of Hawaii’s public school children are white compared to the national average of 49.7 percent. That’s despite the fact that whites are the largest ethnic population in Hawaii.

This may be due to birth rates, Ah Sam says.

Since 2000, Native Hawaiians have comprised more than a third of all births in the state, according to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ 2015 data book. In 2011, there were 6,860 Native Hawaiian born-children, nearly twice as much as caucasian births.

If the Native Hawaiian birth rate continues to increase steadily, the population may return to pre-European contact levels. Both a Kamehameha Schools report as well as research from the University of California Riverside predict that there will be nearly 700,000 Native Hawaiians living in the state in 2060.

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