The U.S. Census Bureau cautions the new American Community Survey data is less accurate than previous data due to the pandemic.
Kendrick Leong, research and data analysis lead at the Hawaii Data Collaborative, says only about 70% of people replied to the American Community Survey in 2020 compared to more than 80% the previous year, and the respondents skewed wealthier.
That prompted data collectors to supplement the survey responses with property tax records, federal tax data and information from the U.S. Postal Service, Long said.
Justin Hong, an independent research consultant, said the result is that 2016-2020 data “is probably more representative of a time period pre-Covid than it is the Covid period.”
Kealiʻi Lopez, state director of the American Association of Retired Persons, said Hawaii has long had a fast-aging population. She urged policymakers to “recognize that there’s a lot more that we’re going to have to do as more people become older and become a majority of the population.”
That includes addressing the cost of long-term care, helping people save for retirement and overcoming community opposition to affordable housing for elderly people, said Lopez, who has been lobbying the Legislature on several bills this year.
“Policymakers and such need to stop kicking the can down the road,” Lopez said. “It’s been a long time coming and the community as a whole, the state as a whole, has to start paying attention.”
Kauai And Hawaii Counties Grow
The U.S. Census Bureau last year reported the state’s population grew 7% from 2010 to 2020, but Tian, the state economist, said that the state population has declined since 2017.
Tian thinks the downward trend is due to a combination of fewer births, more deaths and more people moving to the mainland where food and housing is more affordable.
The data revealed numerous economic and social shifts for Hawaii residents over the past decade. More people had health insurance between 2016 and 2020 than between 2011 and 2015. Both Medicaid and private health insurance options through the Affordable Care Act marketplace expanded over the past decade.
Hawaii homeowners’ mortgage burdens decreased, which Tian thinks may be related to the lower interest rates that allowed homeowners to refinance.
Poverty fell in every state, including Hawaii, when comparing the 2016-2020 survey data to the 2011-2015 data. But in Hawaii, poverty grew slightly for people over the age of 65, from 7.6% to 8.3%.
Hong, the independent research consultant, thinks that poverty might be higher in the community than reflected in the data because the interrupted data collection in 2020 didn’t fully capture the economic disruption wrought by Covid.
“You’re looking at a period of time that can really mask recent changes,” Hong said of the 2016-2020 data.
Incomes also rose, with nearly 49% of Hawaii families earning $100,000 or more in the 2016-2020 survey compared with 43% in the 2011-2015 survey. The median household income in Hawaii grew from $75,810 in 2011-2015 to $83,173 in 2016-2020.
Tian, the state economist, said Hawaii consistently has among the highest household incomes in the nation but added that the state also has the largest household size, with multiple generations often living under the same roof.
He thinks a better metric for comparison than median household income is per capita income — about $37,000 in the latest data — which is closer to the national average of $35,384.