New Report Shows 5 Percent of Hawaii Resident Population Were New Immigrants

Posted on Dec 27, 2019 in News

For Immediate Release: December 27, 2019

HONOLULU—The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) today released a report, “Hawaii Migration Flows: 2013-2017,” which shows that 5 percent or 69,600 Hawaii residents over the age of one-year old were migrants who moved from out-of-state during the five-year period with 3.9 percent, or 54,100 from the U.S. mainland and 1.1 percent, or 15,500 from abroad. During the same period, 61,700 migrated out of Hawaii to the U.S. mainland each year, resulting in a net loss of 7,600 persons to the U.S. mainland. Excluding the movement of military personnel and their families, the net loss of civilian family population averaged 13,200 each year during the five-year period.

“It is important to understand that migration has become an important component of the economic data that is used for planning and it will continue to be essential going forward,” said DBEDT director Mike McCartney. “Hawaii’s future population growth will mainly depend on migration since our natural growth (birth-death) in population decreased 49 percent in the past eight years, from 9,090 persons in 2010 to 4,666 in 2018. Migration impacts many areas of our economy from labor force, housing demand, business development to government services and will continue to influence the development of sustainable economic plans for the future of Hawaii.”

Chief State Economist Dr. Eugene Tian noted that international migration generally has had larger net inflows to Hawaii, but the net inflows in 2017 and 2018 of around 4,000 was not enough to offset the large outflows to the U.S. mainland, which was the main cause of population decrease in the two-year period.

This report provides a broad assessment of migrations that Hawaii experienced in the past several years based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013-2017 American Community Survey data. The report analyzed the overall moving behaviors of Hawaii residents during the period and the characteristics of three types of migrants; domestic in-migrants, domestic out-migrants, and international in-migrants were analyzed.

Some of the highlights of the report:

  • Migrants were much younger than overall Hawaii residents, which was true for both domestic and international in and out migrants. The young adult and prime-working age population in ages 18-34 was the largest age group among migrants making up nearly half of domestic in and out migrants. The proportion among migrants was twice as high as the proportion of overall Hawaii residents.
  • California was both the top destination and source state for Hawaii migrants, receiving and sending more than 20 percent of domestic migrants to and from Hawaii. Many domestic out-migrants headed to states with geographic proximity or similar climate, metro areas with possibly more job opportunities or states with a large military base.
  • Of the estimated 15,500 annual international in-migrants to Hawaii during the 2013-2017 period, 61.5 percent came from Asia. By country, Japan and Philippines were two main countries of origin for the international in-migrants to Hawaii. Philippines was the top origin of civilian families while Japan was where both many civilian and military families came from.
  • The active duty military personnel composed 15.2 percent of domestic in-migrants, 9.8 percent of international in-migrants and 8.6 percent of domestic out-migrants. By comparison, they composed less than 3 percent of the total Hawaii resident population aged one year and over.
  • “White-alone population” made up 62.9 percent of domestic in-migrants reflecting the dominance of White-alone population in the mainland. The U.S. Census Bureau defines White-alone as how the respondents categorize themselves. Interestingly, White alone was the dominant race of domestic out-migrants as well, composing 56.2 percent of total domestic out-migrants. Even after excluding armed forces and their families who contained more White-alone population, the category composed more than half of each domestic in and out migrants.
  • A significant number of domestic out-migrants were born on the U.S. mainland. About two in three domestic out-migrants during the 2013-2017 period were mainland-born. Among those, 35 percent moved back to the state where they were born.
  • Compared to Hawaii residents, domestic migrants were more educated in general. Migrants from abroad showed a different pattern that included more migrants at each end of the education spectrum: both the least-educated people and the most-educated people.
  • Compared to overall Hawaii residents, domestic migrants showed higher labor force participation rates. However, their unemployment rate was also high especially among domestic out-migrants. This is partially because the unemployed were more likely to move looking for a job and partially because moving left the migrant unemployed temporarily after the moving.
  • There were more people living in poverty among the migrants who moved to and from Hawaii in the past 12 months. The poverty rate was especially high among the migrants who moved from foreign countries. Nearly 20 percent of international migrants in Hawaii were living in poverty in their first year of migration.
  • The propensity of Hawaii residents to migrate out increased with education. With only 1.8 percent of them moving out annually, the persons with education less than a high school diploma was the least mobile. The propensity to move out increased with education showing 5.4 percent out-migration rate for the individuals with a master’s degree or higher education.
  • Compared to migrants who ever worked in the past 12 months, the migrants who were in the labor force but didn’t work in the past 12 months showed much higher propensity to move out. By occupation, a distinctively higher out-migration rate was observed for workers in computer, engineering, and science (CES) occupation.

The report is available at A dashboard including the origin/destination maps and the characteristic charts of Hawaii migration is available at

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About the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT)
DBEDT is Hawaii’s resource center for economic and statistical data, business development opportunities, energy and conservation information, and foreign trade advantages. DBEDT’s mission is to achieve a Hawaii economy that embraces innovation and is globally competitive, dynamic and productive, providing opportunities for all Hawaii’s citizens. Through its attached agencies, the department fosters planned community development, creates affordable workforce housing units in high-quality living environments, and promotes innovation sector job growth.

Media Contacts:
Dr. Eugene Tian
Research and Economic Analysis Division
Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism
(808) 586-2470

Charlene Chan
Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism
Phone: (808) 824-0134