Census: 1 in 6 Hawaii residents live in poverty

Published: Sep. 13, 2016 at 6:01 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 13, 2016 at 6:19 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii has the ninth-highest poverty rate in the nation when the state's cost of living is taken into account, Census estimates released Tuesday show.

One in 6 Hawaii residents live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau's "supplemental poverty measure."

The calculation incorporates regional cost of living differences and considers government benefits aimed at relieving poverty, unlike the official poverty measure.

Nationally, according to the supplemental measure, 15.1 percent of Americans are living in poverty. Hawaii, with 16.8 percent below the poverty line using the supplemental measure, ties with Georgia for its percentage of people in poverty.

New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate using the supplemental measure, at 8.7 percent.

Hawaii's supplemental poverty measure is considerably larger than its official poverty rate – 10.9 percent in 2015.

In fact, Hawaii had the biggest percentage point difference in the nation between its official and supplemental poverty rates, and that gap translates to about 80,000 people.

Under the official poverty rate, some 149,000 Hawaii residents are considered to be living in poverty. Under the supplemental poverty measure, 229,000 fall below the poverty line in the islands.

(Worth noting: Using the official poverty rate, Hawaii has one of the lowest poverty rates in the nation.)

"We are the clearest story in the nation of how the official poverty rate doesn't provide a full picture," said Nicole Woo, senior policy analyst at the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. The supplemental measure "is a reflection of the costs in Hawaii."

The supplemental measure was borne out of concerns about the official poverty numbers, and is believed to more accurately represent the number of Americans who are living in poverty. But the official poverty measure continues to be used more widely, including in determining state-by-state funding distributions for key government programs.

The number of Hawaii residents living in poverty under the supplemental measure has declined slightly since 2011. Back then, about 17.4 percent of residents were believed to be living below the poverty line.

Year Official poverty measure Supplemental poverty measure
2013-15 10.9% 16.8%
2011-13 12.4% 18.4%
2009-11 12.5% 17.4%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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