There is a common belief around here that people moving here from the Mainland, particularly white people, are displacing local families. I strongly suspect this is highly inaccurate, if not a downright lie. I am not white, but I did move here from the Mainland. I know firsthand how difficult it is to do such a move without some type of support structure in place here to facilitate it. There are numerous barriers preventing a large influx of Mainland people to Kauai, and additional issues which make it difficult to remain here.
But does even a cursory look at actual data support the idea that Mainlanders, and white people in particular, are to be blamed for population growth on Kauai?
An article in TGI on March 30, “Kauai’s small island sees population bump,” provides some interesting information. It states that between 2010 and 2013, the population of Kauai grew by 2,422 (3.6 percent). It further breaks down the sources of this growth: 2,860 births, 1,913 deaths, 1,100 new residents from outside the United States, and 338 from within the United States.
Notice that during this period, over three times as many people moved here from outside the United States as did from the Mainland. In other words, over 76 percent of the people who moved here during that time period did not come here from the Mainland.
Well, that clearly suggests Mainlanders are not the problem in terms of recent growth. So where did these non-U.S. people come from? I think we can safely say they aren’t coming from Europe, Australia, or New Zealand, so that means they likely aren’t white, either.
Let me reiterate something I said earlier in regards to moving here — it is very difficult to do unless you have some ready-made support structure here on the island to facilitate it. I challenge everyone to think critically about what group(s) might be providing such a support structure to facilitate such moves.
There is your answer as to which “transplants” are primarily responsible for Kauai’s population growth. It’s not white people. It’s not developers. It’s not even rich people. I am willing to bet that if such an analysis is carried backward several years, you will find that Kauai’s population growth is dominated by the same, non-white group(s) the majority of the time.
The problem is that as soon as these groups arrive, they are treated as and act as if they are “local,” because it is nearly impossible to tell otherwise. White people make an easy target, thus they get the blame even though the data doesn’t support the claim. White people may make up the majority of the tourists (transients), but they do not make up the majority of the people moving here (transplants).
And who do you think is responsible for the majority of the births? White Mainlanders? Very unlikely. That’s for another article. If we are going to have a discussion about population growth, we need to start being honest about it.
Michael Mann is a resident of Lihue.