Editor’s note: This Community Voice was one of numerous entries in our recently concluded Emerging Writers Contest.

In 2017, one in every 10 Hawaii residents was Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While this number may seem small, it doesn’t provide the full picture of the rapid growth of Hawaii’s Latino population.

Standing at an estimated 159,737 in 2018, the Hawaii Latino population has increased over 80 percent since 2000. The bulk of the growth of the individuals of Hispanic or Latino origin took place between 2010 and 2018 as the increase over the 2000-2010 period was “just” 37.79 percent.

But wait, there’s more. That is, more Latinos in Hawaii.

According to data from a recent study, Hawaii’s Hispanic population is poised to reach 186,611 or 12.29 percent of the projected total Hawaii population in 2023. That’s a projected 16.88 percent growth in Hawaii’s Latino population from 2018 to 2023 compared to a much smaller 0.79 percent increase for the total Hawaii population.

A Latino cultural festival in 2017. Hawaii’s Latino population is dramatically on the rise. Flickr: Hillsboro Chamber

So, where are all these Latinos in Hawaii?

Despite being all around us, Latinos are not easy to spot. Hispanic or Latino refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

Take 2018 as an example: 26.9 percent, 5.3 percent, and 1.1 of the Hispanic population in Hawaii are white, Pacific Islander, and Asian, respectively.

Keeping an ear out for Spanish doesn’t necessarily help either, as only 14.6 percent of Hispanics in Hawaii speak Spanish at home.

Age and location can also be factors in your chances of interacting with Latinos in Hawaii. While about six out of every 10 Latino residents live on Oahu in 2018, 38.8 percent of them are age 19 and under. The median age of those of Latino or Hispanic origin on Oahu is 25.7.

Three Key Trends

The rapid growth of the Latino population in Hawaii has important implications for the future of the state.

1) Latino voters are poised to become an important group of voters in Hawaii.

Back in 2014, 8.3 percent of eligible voters in Hawaii were of Latino or Hispanic origin. This was the 13th-largest Hispanic statewide eligible voter share at a national level. Sixty percent of Hispanics were eligible to vote in 2014, up from 58 percent in 2013.

To put that figure in context, 84 percent and 73 percent of the state’s white and Asian population was eligible to vote in 2014. If the accelerated growth rate of Latino residents were to apply to the future number of eligible Latino voters, then politicians ought to pay more attention to this ever-increasing base of local voters.

2) Employers can address low unemployment by reaching out to Latino workers.

With the statewide unemployment rate at 2.1 percent in August 2018, more and more employers are interested in finding alternative solutions to address their needs for qualified works. Tapping into the Latino workforce may provide some relief.

In 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics reported that the average unemployment rate of members of the civilian labor force of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity in Hawaii was 3.1 percent, 50 basis points higher than that of the total statewide civilian labor force.

Latino workers in Hawaii are employable and are securing jobs. In 2016, their average unemployment rate was 4.3 percent (compared to 3 percent for the total pool of workers in Hawaii).

3) Ample room for growth for Latino-owned small businesses.

In 2015, the gross domestic product produced by all Latinos in the U.S. was $2.13 trillion. Data from the U.S. Census indicates that for the period between 2002 and 2007 the number of Latino-owned businesses in the United States increased by 43.7 percent to 2.3 million, more than twice the national rate of 18 percent.

With only 3.6 percent of small businesses in Hawaii owned by Latinos in 2007, Latinos entrepreneurship in Hawaii has plenty of green space. A key finding of a 2015 study of the Stanford School of Business was that 75 percent of Latino-owned business are located in non-Latino neighborhoods serving mostly non-Latino customers.

As the number of Latino residents continues to grow across the state, so will be their influence in the future of our community.

What are your views on the growing Latino population community in Hawaii? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and tweet using #HawaiiLatinos at @DavilaDamian on Twitter.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a current photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author