Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Census, Part III: More 2010 Data and Analysis

I was exploring this interactive census map on CNN's website, and if we dare take this site's mapping of 2010 census data as mostly accurate, here are a couple things I've discovered since my last post in the "census" series:

1) On a state-by-state level, I thought that the State of Hawaiʻi certainly must have the highest number of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders of any state in the Union, right? Was I wrong? Yes. According to CNN's map, California (with 128,577 Pacific Islanders) edged out Hawaiʻi (with 128,222 Pacific Islanders) in 2010. As you can see, California takes the honor with only 355 more persons that Hawaiʻi.

This is an amazing turn of events in Pacific history. During the period of Mexican and early American California that I am currently researching (1830s-1860s), Hawaiians lived and worked along CA's coasts, and even in deep inland, mountainous regions fishing and mining for gold. But all indications seem, so far, that even at its peak during the Gold Rush there were only hundreds, but certainly not thousands, of Hawaiians living in California. Now the Pacific Islander American population has grown so much that more people from Pacific Islander backgrounds live in the Golden State than in the Aloha State!

2) I have wondered for years now why Jefferson County in Northern New York State has a disproportionate amount of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders as compared to the rest of the Empire State. The CNN data, which allows viewers to break down demographics to the level of the census tract, has finally let me see exactly what is going on in Jefferson County, NY.

Of the 273 people in Jefferson County identified as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (note that my data in the last post in this series, from the U.S. Census, lists 298 individuals for the county), a majority -154 individuals - live within two relatively small census tracts centered around the U.S. Army Base Fort Drum. Now this makes more sense. That's because Pacific Islander Americans serve in the U.S. armed forces in disproportionately high numbers compared to other racial groups. In fact, during research for my class this summer on Pacific Islands History, I discovered that American Samoans in fact have the highest rate, per capita, of any U.S. state or territory, of service in the U.S. armed forces. From this CNN data we can't know if Fort Drum's Pacific Islanders are mostly Hawaiian, or American Samoan, or Chamorro, or what; but this seems to explain, once and for all, why Jefferson County has an unusually high Pacific Islander population.

3) Finally, the CNN map also shows population change (from 2000 to 2010) in the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population, something that I haven't seen in any other map yet with 2010 data. What it shows is remarkable.

Of all the states, California had the greatest growth in Pacific Islander population, not Hawaiʻi. Massachusetts had the greatest decline in population (just a few hundred individuals though. The overall national trend is towards fast growth in the Pacific Islander population; on this, see my previous post in this series). Arkansas had the greatest increase (percentage-wise) in Pacific Islander population, whereas Massachusetts again had the greatest decrease in Pacific Islanders.

The overall trend in Pacific Islander American migration appears to be away from the Northeast (specifically New England, but the Mid-Atlantic isn't faring much better), and towards the South, the southern Plains states, and the Far West (especially the Southwest). These trends largely mimic the entire American population's movements, so I hesitate to say there is much uniquely Pacific Islander American about this data...but more interpretation might shed light on more unique trends.

And here, for fun, are a couple really unique trends in Pacific Islander American demography for the twenty-first century:

Of any county in the entire United States, Buena Vista County, Iowa saw the greatest increase in Pacific Islanders from 2000 to 2010. This is because in 2000 there was apparently only 1 person in the county identified as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and in 2010 there were 95! Is this a case of earlier underreporting? Or of a major migration? It's not clear.

And here is the strangest and most surprising find of all: On the level of the census-tract, of any place in the entire United States, Eloy, Arizona had the greatest increase in Pacific Islanders from 2000 to 2010. The population apparently spiked from 3 Pacific Islanders in 2000 to 932 in 2010!

How did this happen? Well, Eloy is a small city of about 10,000 people, halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. But about 1,800 of that population consists of prison inmates. And not just any prison inmates...

Apparently the Saguaro Correctional Center, which opened in 2007, is run by a private correctional services corporation, Corrections Corporation of America, that has a contract with the State of Hawaiʻi worth tens of millions of dollars for providing "correctional services" for Hawaiian male inmates. Based on the numbers we have, it seemed that about half, if not more, of the prison facility is comprised of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, whereas we have to imagine that the other inmates are from Hawaiʻi, but are not ethnically Polynesian or other Pacific Islander. Still, 50% Pacific Islander is totally disproportionate to the real demographic breakdown in Hawaiʻi where Pacific Islanders only comprise at most 20% of the population. What does this all mean? Well, it means that the State of Hawaiʻi is sending a disproportionate amount of Pacific Islander men to jail - and not just to any jail - but they are shipping them out to a small desert town in the middle of Arizona. If you are familiar with the history of British "transportation" of convicts to Australia, this, to me, is eerily reminiscent of that dark episode...

The data from Eloy, AZ, reminds us that not all migration is voluntary. Forced migration still takes places in this troubled world. It is exciting to see the shifting Pacific Islander American populace across this vast country, and for the most part I think these shifts reflect voluntary choices across what is becoming an evermore complex diaspora. But that the largest shift in Pacific Islander American population occurred in the past decade because of the forced transportation of Hawaiian criminals to the U.S. mainland suggests that the dark stain of U.S. colonialism and ongoing racial discrimination still operates in our contemporary world. And that Hawaiians, who have lived under U.S. colonial rule for nearly 115 years now, are still not nearly free.


  1. Very detailed research and a great way to present all the data :) I love your blog!