New Americans in Hawaii
The Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Asians, and Latinos in the Aloha State
Immigrants, Asians, and Latinos account for growing shares of the economy and electorate in Hawaii. Over 1 in 6 residents of Hawaii are immigrants (foreign-born), and more than half of them are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. “New Americans”—immigrants and the children of immigrants—account for 18.1% of registered voters in the state. Immigrants are not only integral to the state’s economy as workers, but also account for billions of dollars in tax revenue and consumer purchasing power. Moreover, Latinos and Asians (both foreign-born and native-born) wield $31.9 billion in consumer purchasing power, and the businesses they own had sales and receipts of $18.9 billion and employed nearly 116,000 people at last count. Immigrant, Latino, and Asian workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs are integral to Hawaii’s economy and tax base—and they are an electoral force with which every politician must reckon.
Immigrants and their children are growing shares of Hawaii’s population and electorate.
- The foreign-born share of Hawaii’s population rose from 14.7% in 1990, to 17.5% in 2000, to 17.6% in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hawaii was home to 246,464 immigrants in 2013.
- 56.7% of immigrants (or 139,732 people) in Hawaii were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2013—meaning that they are eligible to vote.
- Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 2.4% of the state’s population (or 35,000 workers) in 2013, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
- 18.1% (or 99,209) of registered voters in Hawaii were “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965—according to an analysis of 2012 Census Bureau data by the American Immigration Council.
Nearly half of all residents of Hawaii are Asian or Latino.
- The Asian share of Hawaii’s population was 37.8% (or 531,218 people) in 2013. The Latino share of the population grew from 7.4% in 1990 to 9.8% (or 138,064 people) in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Asians accounted for 41.9% (or 201,000) of Hawaii voters in the 2012 elections, and Latinos 5.2% (or 25,000), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- In Hawaii, 88% of children with immigrant parents were U.S. citizens in 2009, according to data from the Urban Institute.
- In 2009, 94.7% of children in Asian families in Hawaii were U.S. citizens, as were 98.9% of children in Latino families.
Immigrant, Asian, and Latino entrepreneurs and consumers add tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs to Hawaii’s economy.
- The 2014 purchasing power of Asians in Hawaii totaled $28 billion—an increase of 129.3% since 1990. Latino buying power totaled $3.9 billion—an increase of 308% since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
- Immigration boosts housing values in communities. From 2000 to 2010, according to the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, the value added by immigration to the price of the average home was $1,728 in Honolulu.
- Hawaii’s 56,872 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $18.2 billion and employed 111,924 people in 2007, the last year for which data is available. The state’s 4,374 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $671.7 million and employed 3,977 people in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners.
- From 2006 to 2010, there were 15,997 new immigrant business owners in Hawaii, and they had total net business income of $772 million, which makes up 19.8% of all net business income in the state, according to Robert Fairlie of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
- In 2010, 22.5% of all business owners in Hawaii were foreign-born, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.
Immigrants are essential to Hawaii’s economy as workers and taxpayers.
- Immigrants comprised 20.5% of the state’s workforce in 2013 (or 150,209 workers), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Latinos in Hawaii paid $468 million in federal taxes and $259 million in state/local taxes in 2013, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. In particular, foreign-born Latinos paid $88 million in federal taxes and $47 million in state/local taxes.
- The federal tax contribution of Hawaii’s Latino population included $324 million to Social Security and $76 million to Medicare in 2013. Foreign-born Latinos contributed $59 million to Social Security and $14 million to Medicare that year.
Unauthorized immigrants are important to Hawaii’s economy as workers and consumers.
- Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 3.7% of the state’s workforce (or 25,000 workers) in 2012, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
- If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Hawaii, the state would lose $2 billion in economic activity, $900.3 million in gross state product, and approximately 8,460 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.
Unauthorized immigrants pay taxes.
- Unauthorized immigrants in Hawaii paid $31.2 million in state and local taxes in 2012, including $19.8 million in sales taxes, $6.3 million in personal income taxes, and $5 million in property taxes, according to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy.
- Were unauthorized immigrants in Hawaii to have legal status, they would pay $41.2 million in state and local taxes, including $21.8 million in sales taxes, $13.8 million in personal income taxes, and $5.5 million in property taxes.
Immigrants are integral to Hawaii’s economy as students.
Hawaii’s 4,388 foreign students contributed $107.1 million to the state’s economy in tuition, fees, and living expenses for the 2013-2014 academic year, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
Foreign students contribute to Hawaii’s metropolitan areas. From 2008 to 2012, according to the Brookings Institution, 5,723 foreign students paid $77.3 million in tuition and $60.9 million in living costs in the Honolulu metropolitan area.
Foreign students also contribute to innovation in Hawaii. In 2009, “non-resident aliens” comprised 27.7% of master’s degrees and 42.9% of doctorate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy.
Naturalized citizens advance educationally.
- The number of immigrants in Hawaii with a college degree increased by 24.1% between 2000 and 2011, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute.
- In Hawaii, 86% of children with immigrant parents were considered “English proficient” as of 2009, according to data from the Urban Institute.
- The English proficiency rate among Asian children in Hawaii was 93.4%, while for Latino children it was 96.3%, as of 2009.