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Census: Hawaiian cities are shrinking as state population decreases


(The Center Square) – Hawaii has lost over 41,000 people to domestic migration since 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and its cities’ populations are shrinking in kind.

New data released Thursday shows Hawaii’s largest city, Honolulu, lost 9,158 residents from 2020 to 2023, a population decline of 2.6%.

From July 2022 to July 2023, Hawaii lost 6,566 people to net migration. Over 11,000 people moved elsewhere in the United States. However, Hawaii gained 4,627 new residents due to international migration.

The loss to domestic migration is even greater when looking at data from 2020 to 2023. Hawaii lost 41,670 people to domestic migration in that period, but it gained 12,706 people through international migration.

Some of Hawaii’s counties have experienced modest growth. Hawaii County grew by 6,871 people from April 2020 to July 2023, an increase of 3.4%, according to the bureau.

Kauai County added 661 residents, a 0.9% increase. However, census data shows that Hawaii’s counties experienced a 1.1% drop in population, losing 16,043 people since 2020.

Honolulu County dropped below one million, declining by 2.2%. It went from 1,012,399 residents in 2020 to 989,408 people in 2023 – a loss of 22,991 residents.

Maui County dropped by 585 people during that period – a 0.3% decrease.

Meanwhile, Hawaii has been working to grow its housing stock. The Aloha State added 10,998 new housing units between 2020 and 2023, representing 2% growth.

Hawaii’s housing unit growth follows the national trend, with most states growing at least modestly, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Across the U.S., 1.6 million housing units were added in just one year, from July 2022 to July 2023, representing a 1.1% increase.

Census data shows that California’s housing stock grew the most, by 14.8 million units, while Alaska’s grew the least, adding 330,000 housing units.

Gov. Josh Green made housing one of his priorities, signing an emergency proclamation related to housing in July 2023 and another one related to affordable housing in September, both with the goal of “breaking down the obstacles hindering the creation of affordable housing and advancing the state’s vision of providing accessible and sustainable housing solutions for our residents,” according to the governor’s office.

Hawaiians are burdened with the most expensive housing costs in the nation, which are over two times the national average, according to the governor’s office. Housing prices have tripled in Hawaii since the 1990s, which the governor’s office says has contributed to migration to the mainland.