Heavy Asian and Latino populations, a large number of residents born overseas and fewer Native Hawaiians than elsewhere gave the historic town a distinct profile, a new report shows.

Lahaina’s status as a global crossroads was more than just a matter of history.

A third of all Lahaina residents were born overseas, almost double the number for Maui County overall, according to the American Community Survey’s five-year estimate for 2018 through 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau’s leading data product on housing and population.

Nearly 33% of the population of Lahaina, a census-designated place (which includes Lahaina Town and the resort areas of Kaanapali and Kapalua) were foreign-born compared to 17% for all of Maui County.

The Lahaina CDP has almost twice the number of residents who were originally from Latin America compared to the county, and Lahaina households are more than twice as likely to speak Spanish in the home. 

Also defining, 38% of Lahaina’s population identified as Asian compared to 28% for the county, and despite its importance in Hawaii’s history, the percentage of people in Lahaina who are Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander (8.5%) is lower than for Maui County (10.7%).

Elementary-age school children participate in a Hawaiian immersion school at Hanakao’o Park Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Lahaina. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Lahaina households were younger compared to the county overall with 41.2% having one or more people under the age of 18, compared to 32.7% for Maui County. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)

The survey released Dec. 7 is the latest data snapshot from the bureau updating the findings of the 2020 Census and is intended to help businesses and officials understand changes happening in their community. 

That includes the social fallout of disasters like the August wildfires. 

The five-year estimates are considered more reliable than the one-year estimates because they have a larger sample size. In the case of Lahaina, the five-year estimates are the only tool to consult, because the one-year estimates don’t cover communities with fewer than 65,000 people; Maui County has a population of just under 165,000 while Lahaina has a population of 12,900.

Included in the ACS releases are narratives from the bureau that use the same 18 topics to compare regions. The narratives were used to create this side-by-side comparison of Lahaina and Maui County at the end of 2022 and will be replicated in the next five-year estimate at the end of the year.

Income And Housing

Lahaina households made up 6.5% of all the households in Maui County which totaled nearly 55,000 before the August wildfires.

Lahaina's housing stock contained more apartments in multi-unit structures compared to the county before the losses of the wildfire.

More residents of Lahaina rented their homes (48.2%) compared to those who were renting in Maui overall (34.7%). The median gross rent in Lahaina of $1,828 was only a few dollars higher than the county rate.

The number of unoccupied homes in Lahaina (16%) was half the rate for the whole of Maui County (31%).

More households in Lahaina received earnings compared to the rate for Maui County, and fewer Lahaina households lived off retirement income. Full-time workers in Lahaina had a median salary of $50,581 compared to $55,624 for the county overall. Women in all of Maui County earn less than their male counterparts.

Lahaina had a higher percentage of people living in poverty (11.7%) compared to the county (9.3%), but there was a significant 5% difference in the child poverty levels between Lahaina (16.2%) and Maui County (10.9%), the bureau found.

The poverty level for people aged 65 years and over was slightly lower in Lahaina than the county rate.

More Lahaina households received supplemental nutrition assistance (SNAP) than the county, but fewer of them received cash public assistance compared to the county.

Life At Home

Lahaina’s households were slightly larger than Maui County as a whole, but younger by a margin -- 41.2% of Lahaina households had one or more people under the age of 18, compared to 32.7% for Maui County. The median age in Lahaina was 38.7 years compared to the county median age of 42.2 years.

Just over half of all Maui County households included a married couple, while women alone made up a quarter of all households in the county. However, there were substantially fewer single-person households in Lahaina (14%) when compared to Maui overall (22%).

More Lahaina grandparents were responsible for the needs of their grandchildren than in Maui County overall, but there was little difference between the number of people aged 65 and over, no matter where they lived.

There is little difference in heath insurance coverage across Maui County.

In keeping with Lahaina's larger Asian population, twice as many households (29%) spoke an Asian and Pacific Islander language when compared to the county. Twenty percent of Lahaina's population said they didn't speak English "very well," double the county rate.

In (And Out) Of The Workforce

Nearly 35% of people in Maui County weren't in the labor force in the five-year period, compared to 27% of people in the Lahaina census-designated place.

Lahaina's reputation as a tourist destination was clear from the category of workers there with 35% of the workforce employed in arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food -- twice the level for the county.

Fewer people in Lahaina worked in construction (4.5%) when compared to the county (7.6%).

People who live outside of Lahaina were more likely to be employed in management and business. It's probably no surprise that workers in Lahaina had a slightly shorter commute to work (18.8 minutes) when compared to the overall travel time for Maui (22.7 minutes).

Civil Beat's coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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