Immigrants in Hawaii

October 13, 2017

Hawaii has a sizable community of immigrants, much of which emigrated from the Philippines. Nearly 18 percent of the state’s population was born in another country, while 16 percent are native-born Americans who have at least one immigrant parent. Foreign-born residents also represent a vital share of the state’s labor force in many sectors: more than 40 percent of workers in both the mining and agriculture industries are immigrants. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of Hawaii’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

Nearly one in five Hawaii residents is an immigrant, while more than one in seven is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 253,414 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 17.7 percent of the state’s population.
  • Hawaii was home to 139,093 women, 101,199 men, and 13,122 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were the Philippines (46.1 percent of immigrants), China (8.5 percent), Korea (7.9 percent), Japan (7.7 percent), and Vietnam (3.8 percent).
  • In 2016, 220,561 people in Hawaii (16 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

Over half of all immigrants in Hawaii are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 146,485 immigrants (57.8 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, and 52,525 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • More than three in four immigrants (77.2 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in Hawaii are distributed across the educational spectrum.

  • One in four adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2015, while one in five had less than a high school diploma. 

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

25.2

33.2

Some college

27.3

33.9

High school diploma only

26.2

27.4

Less than a high-school diploma

21.3

5.5

Nearly 30,000 U.S. citizens in Hawaii live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • Approximately 45,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 18 percent of the immigrant population and 3.2 percent of the total state population in 2014.
  • An estimated 60,202 people in Hawaii, including 17,594 born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 4 percent of children in the state were U.S. citizens living with at least one undocumented family member (13,536 children in total).

Approximately 300 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in Hawaii.

  • Of the estimated 2,000 DACA-eligible immigrants in Hawaii, 821 had applied for deferred action as of 2017.
  • Up to 1,000 additional residents of the state satisfied all but the educational requirements for DACA, and up to 1,000 others would be additionally eligible as they grew older.

One in five Hawaiian workers is an immigrant, making up a critical share of the state’s labor force across industries.

  • More than 150,000 adult immigrant workers comprised 21.2 percent of the labor force in 2015. 
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Accommodation and Food Services

37,333

Retail Trade

23,022

Health Care and Social Assistance

18,435

Construction

11,169

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

10,749

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following industries:

Industry

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all industry workers)

Mining, Quarry, Oil & Gas Extract

45.2

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting

42.5

Accommodation and Food Services

35.3

Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation

28.7

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

28.6

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

Immigrants are an integral part of the Hawaii workforce in a range of occupations.

  • In 2015, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

25,600

Sales and Related

22,453

Food Preparation and Serving Related

18,034

Office and Administrative Support

16,833

Management

13,279

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all workers in occupation)

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

51.4

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

40.6

Production

33.5

Food Preparation and Serving Related

30.0

Healthcare Support

29.6

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 4.6 percent of the state’s workforce in 2014.

Immigrants in Hawaii contribute over a billion dollars in yearly taxes.

  • Immigrant-led households in the state paid $1.2 billion in federal taxes and $668.5 million in state and local taxes in 2014.
  • Undocumented immigrants in Hawaii paid an estimated $32.3 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Their contribution would rise to $42.8 million if they could receive legal status.
  • DACA recipients in Hawaii paid an estimated $3.2 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

As consumers, immigrants add billions of dollars to Hawaii’s economy.

  • Hawaiians in immigrant-led households had $5 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

Immigrant entrepreneurs represent nearly one quarter of all Hawaiian business owners.

  • 19,586 immigrant business owners accounted for 24.5 percent of all self-employed Hawaii residents in 2015 and generated $384.7 million in business revenue.

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