Using U.S. Census data collected from 2010 to 2014, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) has released a new 47-page report on Hawaii’s non-English speaking population.
“The Non-English Speaking Population in Hawaii report looks at residents aged 5 and older, who can speak a language other than English,” states an Apr. 14 DBEDT news release. “The report shows 17.9 percent of the population are foreign born, and speak more than 130 languages. About one in four Hawaii residents speak a language other than English at home, which is higher than the U.S. average of 21 percent. The data shows 12.4 percent of the state’s population speak English less than ‘very well,’ which is much higher than the U.S. average of 8.6 percent.”
Diving into the data, a number of fascinating trends emerge. Most notably: the portion of the population that speaks a language other than English varies pretty significantly by county.
“The share of those speaking English ‘very well’ in the total non-English speakers was 48 percent in Honolulu County,” states the report. “The share was higher in Hawaii County and Kauai County by 20 percentage points and 15 percentage points, respectively [Maui County’s share was 54 percent].”
What’s more, the report shows that about 21 percent of Maui County’s population speaks a language other than English at home, while that percentage drops to 18.5 percent in Hawaii County and rises to 27.5 percent in Honolulu County.
The report also lists 19 census-designated places (CDPs) in which at least 30 percent of the population speaks a non-English language at home. Just one of these spaces is in Maui County: Kahului, in which 37.7 percent of the population speaks a non-English language at home.
So what languages are we speaking? Nationally, Spanish is by far the most popular non-English language–in fact, 62 percent of non-English speaking people in the U.S. speak Spanish. But here in Hawaii, the distribution of languages is far more diverse, as the pie chart above .
The most popular language is a tie between Llocano and Tagalog (17.6 percent each), with Japanese at 13.8 percent. Just eight percent of non-English speakers in Hawaii speak Spanish–less than the nine percent who speak “Chinese” (the report clumps Mandarin, Cantonese and other languages spoken in China all together) but more than the 5.4 percent who speak Korean.
There’s also a distinct difference in the languages spoken by children and adults. “Compared with the adult population, the share of non-English speakers at home was 7.5 percentage points lower in the 5 to 17 school-age children,” states the report. “English proficiency was also better in the school-age population.”
There were also differences in the actual languages spoken by children and adults. “Especially, the share of Hawaiian speakers was noticeably bigger in the school-age group than in the adult group,” states the report. “Spoken by 13 percent of the non-English speaking school-age children statewide, Hawaiian was as common as Japanese and Ilocano among the school-age children in Hawaii… This is mainly because native Hawaiians have an age structure younger than most other races in Hawaii, which means more school-age children in its population than in other races. Conversely, Ilocano and Tagalog were less popular among the school-age children.”
Click here to read the new report.
Pie Chart Source: National statistics: U.S. Census Bureau, ACS 2010-2014 5 year, table B16001, Hawaii statistics are estimates by DBDEDT based on Public Use Microdata Sample of the 2010-2014 5 year ACS *Chinese includes Mandarin, Cantonese and other Chinese languages