Hawaii Ethnicity

Hawaii – an Ethnically Mixed Plate

Hawaii is one of the most racially diverse places in the world as there is no majority – everyone is in a minority. In the 2010 Census, 23.6% of Hawaii residents claimed multi-ethnic backgrounds (two or more races), far more than any other state in the USA (the second highest is Alaska with 7.3%). You will find a “mixed plate” of ethnic groups in Hawaii; 38.6% of Hawaii's population is Asian, 24.7% is White, 10% is Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders, 8.9% is Hispanic, 1.6% is Black or African American, 0.3% is American Indian and Alaska Native, and 23.6% of all Hawaii residents are of multi-ethnic background (two or more races).

As Hawaii has become home to many different ethnic groups over the last 200 years, each ethnic group has added elements of its own culture to local life. Hawaii's variety of cultures can be traced back to the old “plantation days” in the Islands, when various ethnic groups migrated to Hawaii to earn a living and support their growing families. Today, contemporary culture in Hawaii is a mix of the different cultures and ethnic groups that make up its unique population.

There are also many options to learn and connect with Hawaiian culture throughout the Islands, for example by taking a hula or Hawaiian language class, visiting a museum (such as the Bishop Museum), or going to a musical event (such as the annual Merrie Monarch Festival, Ukulele Festival or Hawaiian Slack Key Festival).

Native Hawaiian Population

In 1778, when English explorer Captain James Cook arrived in Hawaii, there were, according to historic estimates, between 300,000 and 400,000 Native Hawaiians (kanaka maoli) living in the Islands. However, over the following century, the Native Hawaiian population declined by 80 to 90% due to introduced diseases, including small pox, measles, influenza and whooping cough.

A century later, in 1878, the native population had dropped to an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people. At that time, Native Hawaiians still comprised about 75% of Hawaii's total population. However, over the last 120 years, the Native Hawaiian population (those with pure Hawaiian blood) has continued to decline. There are fewer than 8,000 pure Hawaiians living today, but the number of those who are part-Hawaiian, has increased steadily over the last century. Most Native Hawaiians today have less than 50% pure Hawaiian blood.

According to the 2010 Census, about 540,000 people were Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (NHPI) alone, and about 685,000 people were NHPI in combination with one or more other races. So about 1.2 million people in the United States identified themselves as NHPI alone or in combination with one or more other races. This group represents about 0.4 percent of the U.S. population. Out of that number, about 356,000 Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders (in combination with one or more other races) reside in Hawaii.

In the 10 years from the 2000 Census to the 2010 Census, the Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone population increased more than three times faster than the total U.S. population, growing by 35% from 399,000 to 540,000 people (the total U.S. population grew by 9.7% in the same timeframe). And the NHPI alone-or-in-combination population experienced even more growth than the NHPI alone population, growing by 40% from 874,000 in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2010, making it the second fastest growing race group in the country (following the Asian alone-or-in-combination population).