Friday, July 8, 2011

The Census, Part II: Pacific Islanders in New York City

Last year, I wrote a post about the 2000 U.S. Census data on Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the United States, in New York State, and in New York City. Now the data is in from the 2010 census - yay! - and it is very interesting stuff!

In the United States

First off, much of my data for this post is from this U.S. Census Bureau report, and this interactive U.S. Census Bureau website.

As you may recall, the 2000 census was the first time in U.S. history that respondents could select more than one race in describing themselves. What we got, then, with the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population was a greater number of respondents checking "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander" in combination with other races than those who checked "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander" alone, suggesting that most Pacific Islander Americans self-identify as multiple races rather than as only Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

The big news about the 2010 census has been the surprisingly new and large number of respondents self-identifying as more than one race. In terms of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population, the 2010 data maintains the trend from 2000: 55.9% of the respondents in 2010 identifying as "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander" also listed one or more other races, while 44.1% identified as "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander" only. It should be noted that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are the only racial category in the 2010 census where a majority of respondents identified as multiracial. For all other racial categories, including American Indian and Alaska Native, the majority of respondents identified as only one race.

In the United States as a whole, the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population grew phenomenally over the past decade! The Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (one race only) population grew from 398,835 in 2000 to 540,013 in 2010, a 35.4% increase! In addition, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in combination with one or more other races now comprise 685,182 persons in 2010. (Sorry, can't find 2000 data to compare right now.) In sum, Americans claiming some Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander racial identity comprise 1,225,195 persons. When we look at the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander-only population's 35.4% increase in the past decade, we need to keep in mind that the U.S. population on a whole only increased 9.7% since 2000, and non-Hispanic Whites grew by only 1.2%, the smallest increase of any ethnic/racial category. The only racial group outpacing Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in growth were Asians, growing 43.3% since 2000. Students of Hawaiian history who are familiar with the rapid decline in the indigenous Hawaiian population since 1778 (and well into the twentieth century) will be heartened by these numbers!

As a percentage of total population, every racial category in the United States grew except for one, Whites, whom altogether decreased from 75% to 72% of the total population. Taking up some of that lost ground are the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders who from 2000 to 2010 increased from 0.1% to 0.2% of the U.S. population. Not such a great gain, but I always like to keep in mind that Native Hawaiians make up a full 1% of the U.S. Senate (Daniel Akaka)! (It is nice to see some overrepresentation of racial minorities in U.S. government for a change!)

Now, wouldn't it be interesting to break down the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population that identified as multiracial into subcategories based on which other races they identified as? I couldn't find this data in 2000, but the Census Bureau has made it available for 2010, so let's do it! I'm about ready to label the 2010s as the decade of U.S. multiracialism! (I find these trends really exciting, as does the New York Times, and ya know, if white supremacists don't like that, well then they can just stop reading this blog!) :)

Total multiracial Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population: 685,182
Two races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and White: 169,991
Two races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Black/African American: 50,308
Two races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native: 11,039
Two races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Asian: 165,690
Two races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Some Other Race (not listed): 58,981
Three races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, White, and Black: 9,245
Three races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, White, American Indian/Alaska Native: 8,656
Three races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, White, and Asian: 143,126
Three races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, White, and Some Other Race (unlisted): 9,181
Three races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Black, and Am Indian/Alaska Native: 2,142
Three races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Black, and Asian: 7,295
Three races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Black, and Some Other Race (unlisted): 4,233
Three races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Am Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian: 3,827
Three races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Am Indian/Alaska Native, Other Race: 2,000
Three races: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Asian, and Some Other Race: 5,474
Data for four or more races not available at this level.

Fascinating! I am especially intrigued by how neck-and-neck the two-race White mix is with the two-race Asian mix. And then there is the three-way Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Asian, and White mix that is almost as large as either of the two. As a historian, I think about the frequency of White-Hawaiian mixing in the early nineteenth century, and then the rise of Asian-Hawaiian mixing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries due to the importation of tens of thousands of Asian "coolies" to labor on Hawaiian sugar plantations. But even beyond these multiracial groupings, which are well-known to most residents of Hawaiʻi if not most Americans (or at least students of history like me!), each other combination tells an equally compelling and intriguing story about American history. But we can't so easily come up with over-arching narratives for each category. I could speculate as to why, for example, historically, Hawaiians and Alaskans have intermarried (although marriage doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it, and also, the data above does not exactly support any claim that Hawaiians and Alaskans specifically have had mixed-race children; it is just a hypothetical example), but the reality is that each person and his or her family has a unique story to tell. Yes there were reasons why Hawaiian laborers traveled abroad in search of work (a sub-topic of my forthcoming dissertation!), but that can't explain why people fell in love with who they did, or didn't. I'd love to know some of these stories, to trace the genealogies of multiracial Pacific Islander America. Maybe in 2020 they can include a section for stories on the census form! Let people identify themselves by their heritage: not just the color of their skin or the nation of their birth, but by reciting the stories that have been handed down by parents, grandparents and ancestors that all come together in that big mash-up of narrative history that is our own biography.

Looking back at these numbers, it seems certain (I'm crunching numbers in my head here!) that people claiming Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander racial identity comprise well over 5%, if not close to 10%, of all Americans identified as multiracial. Remember that one-race-only Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders comprise only 0.2% of the entire U.S. population, but they are much better represented when shown as a proportion of the American multiracial community.

In New York State

Now the fun stuff. Last year I noted that in 1990, 4,457 New York State residents identified as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (no multiple race option in 1990), but that number jumped to 8,818 Pacific Islanders (one race only) and 28,612 multiracial Pacific Islanders in 2000. That big change was apparently due to changes in reporting. Anyway, in 2010 the number of New York State residents identifying as Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (one race only) is 8,766. Sadly, a decrease of 52 persons since ten years ago! Unfortunately, I do not have state-level multiracial data to compare with 2000, so it could be possible that the total population identifying as at least part-Pacific Islander may have increased since 2000, but the one race only population has indeed fallen.

I also reported last year that in 2000 the top three New York State counties with Pacific Islander populations comprising more than 0.3% of the total population (above the national average of 0.2%) were Bronx, Jefferson, and Tompkins counties. Strange, yes, but true.

I am sad to report that in 2010 the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population of beautiful upstate Jefferson County where Lake Ontario flows into the sparkling St. Lawrence River fell to just 298 people, 0.256% of the county population. Thus, be it due to reporting errors or a mass exodus from this northern paradise, we have to take Jefferson County off that special list from 2000.

Tompkins County is even more distressing. In 2010 only 45 locals identified as Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, just 0.044% of the county population! There would have been over 250 other Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders in town ten years ago to account for the 2000 data. What happened? Perhaps they were all enrollees at Cornell - a massive influx of Pacific Islanders getting Ivy League degrees ten years ago, but now graduated and moved on to greener pastures?

And in The Bronx? 1,288 Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders. Just 0.093% of the county population! That means close to 3,000 Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders took the last MetroNorth out of town (headed to Jefferson County?) in the past decade, abandoning the Bronx's once thriving Pacific Islander American community.

But wait! I am sorry to say that this data analysis is reflective of a major reporting error on my part. See, those three counties made the list in 2000 because 0.3% of the population comprised not just Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (one race only) respondents, but also those who listed multiple races including Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. That data, however, is not available yet on the county level for 2010, so we just can't say which county has made the list this decade, and which one has not. But as for Jefferson County, with almost 0.3% of the population comprised of one-race-only respondents, it might just have the highest proportion of Pacific Islanders of any New York State county! What is going on up there? If there is a reader of this blog from Jefferson County, NY, would you please explain this to me!

In New York City

Let's take it to the Big (Pine)Apple. I previously reported that in 2000, 5,430 New Yorkers identified as Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander alone. 19,203 New Yorkers identified as Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander as one of multiple races.

In 2010, 5,147 New Yorkers identified solely as Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, a decrease of 283 persons. Unfortunately, the data on multiracial Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders in NYC is not yet available at this time.

I can say this time around that the borough with the most one race only Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders is Queens County with 1,530 people. The Bronx is next with 1,288. Brooklyn has 1,243. Manhattan has 873. Staten Island - not so friendly to other "islanders," it seems - has only 213 Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders. On a whole, well over half of all Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders in NYS live in the big city rather than upstate or on Long Island.

Unfortunately, my favorite Hawaiian friend in New York City - my former Hawaiian language teacher - has left for the islands - the real islands, Hawaiʻi nei - and that means we've suffered a decrease of yet another 1 person of Native Hawaiian ancestry in this Big (Pine)Apple. But Hālāwai goes on, with hula classes and performances, and get-togethers with lots of yummy food and always lots of aloha. I have cherished so much making new Hawaiian friends here in NYC. They have no reason to share their aloha with me, but they do. And for that I am constantly reminded, and re-motivated, to attend to my dissertation research on Hawaiian history. There are such amazing stories about the past to be told, and somehow it all unfolds into this magical, mysterious present. And somehow it makes sense of the census data, or at least it will make sense someday once I figure out all this damn data!

Aloha kākou!


  1. Hi Greg

    We have similar trends here in NZ with over 36% of those identifying as Pacific Island (not including Maori) also identified with one or more other ethnicities.

    While statistically it may seem like an improvement when considering the near extinction of some Polynesian societies after Western contact, identity politics creates many issues in today's statistics. For while the number of people identifying as Polynesians are increasing, those practising the Polynesian cultures appear to be decreasing.

    For example in NZ, Samoans recorded the largest decline in those who spoke Samoan. Eight in every 10 Samoans with one ethnicity spoke their first language, compared with around one in 10 Samoans with three or more ethnicities.

    Modern identity politics allows people to choose their ethnicity, but that does not mean they are culturally engaged with their ethnicity.

    Of course cultures change and are flexible, but language is a core anchor to the identity of any ethnicity. And if the same is happening in the US as it is here in NZ, an increasing group of people who identify as Polynesian cannot participate in their culture due to the loss of language.

    Food for thought?

  2. Hi FreshyNZ:

    You have made an excellent point. Just because the number of people identifying as Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Pacific Islander, etc., is increasing, it does not necessarily mean the number of people speaking Hawaiian or Samoan, or the number of people aware of Hawaiian or Samoan history or culture is increasing. I suspect, from the perspective of the United States here, that the number of people speaking Hawaiian IS in fact increasing, as is the number of people returning to Native Hawaiian religious and cultural practices, etc. This is well documented in Hawaiʻi, but the amazing thing is how many Hawaiians (and non-Hawaiians like myself) on the mainland are also learning Hawaiian language, culture, and history! I can't really explain why. I think for Native Hawaiians it is a matter of cultural preservation and pride. And for non-Hawaiians like myself it is motivated by "white guilt" over American colonialism?? I really don't know.

    From your perspective, though, it is sad to hear that as more and more Samoans live in New Zealand and elsewhere abroad rather than in Samoa, that the use of Samoan language is decreasing. One of the facts I have noted in this blog is that apparently more Native Hawaiian people live in California today than live in Hawaiʻi. I imagine it is that much harder for Hawaiians in California (or in NYC here) to hold onto language, culture, etc. Perhaps this is the best analogy we have for the Samoan New Zealander experience?

    Well, your point was definitely food for thought. I am actually spending this Saturday afternoon in a cafe in Manhattan practicing my Hawaiian language translation skills. Now wouldn't it be cool if some white New Zealander like myself was sitting around studying Samoan language in a cafe in Auckland? Or maybe not? It is certainly not up to white scholars to preserve indigenous languages or history. We all know what a massive, colonial failure that academic project has been and continues to be - and how much white scholarly "authority" and "expertise" has hurt native peoples and native ways of knowing their world. I am suggesting, though, that it certainly wouldn't hurt all Americans to learn some indigenous languages, as a way to mediate past and present colonialism. And it probably would be similarly great if all New Zealanders were mandated to learn some Māori, and maybe even some Samoan, too!

    Anyway...good food for thought!