The term “Asian American” is too general to describe ethnicity in Hawaii, said Jonathan Okamura, an ethnic studies professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
“Diversity is recognized,” he said. “We tend to use categories like Filipino, Japanese and Chinese to describe people who immigrated from Asia.”
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s Asian population grew 3.4 percent from July 2014 to 2015, with migration responsible for the majority of the growth, government officials said Thursday. There are now 21 million Asians in the United States, with Hawaii as the nation’s only majority Asian state.
But using the term “Asian” is too broad to describe ethnicity in the Aloha State, Okamura said.
“Talking about Asians as the fastest-growing group is meaningless,” he said.
Instead, people should take specific looks at the Filipino or Japanese population on Hawaii to get a feel for the Asian American population in the state, Okamura said.
Since 2010, Filipinos are the second-largest ethnic group in Hawaii, he said. In 2010, people who identified as Filipino increased 24 percent from the 2000 census. The ranking knocked the Japanese population down to the third-largest ethnic group in Hawaii.
There are several reasons for an increase in the Filipino culture, Okamura said.
“The Japanese don’t immigrate in large groups, and their birthrate is low, compared to the Philippines,” he said.
He estimates that the Filipino population moving to Hawaii is about 4,000, compared to the roughly 400 who move from Japan.
There are just over 71,000 people living on Kauai. According to the state and county population characteristics for 2014, 50.8 percent of the population on the Garden Isle identified as being Asian. Of that number, 18.5 percent of the population was Filipino and 8.7 percent was Japanese.
According to 2015 state and county characteristics released Thursday, the same 50.8 percent on Kauai identified as being Asian.
Additionally, from 2014 to 2015, Kauai reported roughly the same number of people identifying as Native Hawaiian or white. From 2014 to 2015, the Native Hawaiian population on Kauai decreased 0.1 percent to 25.6 percent. The white population increased 0.1 percent to 51.9 percent.
Eugene Tian, chief state economist with the Research and Economics Division of the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, expects those numbers to remain stable in the coming years.
“There’s no one moving out or no young people moving in,” he said.
Because the population remains stable from year to year, it’s not surprising that the numbers remain constant, he said.
“If the number of people being born and passing away is the same, the population stays the same,” he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, 0.7 percent of Kauai’s population was black, a 0.3 percent increase from the 2010 census, 0.6 percent was American Indian or Alaskan Native, a 0.2 percent increase, and 11.1 percent was Hispanic or Latino, a 2.3 percent increase.
The growing percentage of Hispanics or Latinos from the 2010 census is noteworthy, Okamura said.
“Most people don’t realize Hawaii has a growing Latino population,” he said. “But that’s because they tend to assimilate into their new way of life.”