The Ethnic Composition Of The Population Of Hawaii

People swim at the beach in Honolulu. Editorial credit: Steve Heap /
People swim at the beach in Honolulu. Editorial credit: Steve Heap /

Hawaii is a 10,931 square mile state with a population of about 1,427,538 people according to 2017 estimates by the US Census Bureau. Hawaii is one of the more densely populated states in America with a population density of roughly 221 people per square mile, the 12th highest population density in the US. Human settlement on Hawaii has had a long history stretching back to around 300 CE. Various communities arrived in waves the first from the Marquesas Islands and the second from Bora Bora and Raiatea. The ancient communities that lived in Hawaii had a complex social structure as most of them were ruled by chiefs, and the society was divided into castes. The current Hawaiian society is a diverse, multiracial group encompassing people from different backgrounds.

Asian - 37.3%

According to 2015 estimates, 37.3% of the Hawaiian population was of Asian descent. Asians had made up the most significant ethnic majority in the state since 2000 when they made up 41.6% of the population. Since 2000 the percentage of Asians in Hawaii has been steadily declining. Of all the American states, Hawaii has the most significant proportion of Asians within its territory. Most of the Asians on Hawaii are descended from laborers who migrated to Hawaii towards the close of the 19th century. Most of the Asians in Hawaii, nearly 14% of the state's total population, trace their origins to the Philippines. Filipinos, mostly men, were brought to the island to work on sugarcane plantations.

White - 27%

Of all the American states, Hawaii has the smallest percentage of Caucasian Americans at slightly less than 27% according to 2015 estimates. James Cook was the first European whose arrival on the island was documented. Cook's arrival generated a lot of interest among Europeans on the island. Most of Hawaii's Caucasian population is descended from the Germans who account for 7.4% of the total. People who claim either Irish or English descent make up a combined total of approximately 9.8% of the population. After a consistent decline since 1970, Hawaii's population of Caucasians has been gradually increasing since 2000, when they made up 24.3% of the island's residents, to 2015 when their percentage increased to 26.7%.

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders

The two communities make up about 10% of Hawaii's residents. Before the coming of the Europeans to the island, the number of native Hawaiians was estimated at 300,000. The population declined dramatically, and in 2010 the number of native Hawaiians was 156,000. Immigration by indigenous communities has also contributed to the decline in the population.


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