DBEDT NEWS RELEASE: DBEDT releases report on non-English speaking population in Hawaii

Posted on Apr 14, 2016 in Latest News

HONOLULU – The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released a report today that examines the non-English speaking population in Hawaii based on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau from 2010 to 2014.  The department’s Research and Economic Analysis Division created the report.

The “Non-English Speaking Population in Hawaii” report looks at residents aged 5 and older, who can speak a language other than English.  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.

Some of the findings in the report include the following:

  •    Non-English language speaking at home was more prevalent in Honolulu County than in the neighbor island counties.  The proportion of non-English speakers was highest in Honolulu County at 28 percent and lowest in Hawaii County at 19 percent.
  •    Ilocano, Tagalog, and Japanese were the top three most common non-English languages spoken at home in Hawaii.  Speakers of these three languages made up about half of non-English speakers at home in Hawaii.
  •    English proficiency of the non-English speaking population varied substantially by language.  Among the top 10 most common non-English languages spoken at home in Hawaii, the German speaking population had the highest English proficiency with 84 percent of them speaking English “very well,” followed by the Hawaiian speaking population at 82 percent.  The proportion of fluent English speakers was relatively low among Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and Ilocano speaking population, with less than 40 percent of them speaking English “very well.”
  •    Compared with the adult population, the proportion of non-English speakers was lower and English proficiency was better in the 5 to 17 school-age children group.  The popular language spoken by the school-age children were also different.  The share of Hawaiian speakers was noticeably bigger in the school-age children group than in the adult group.
  •    The most distinctive characteristic of the non-English speaking population from the English-only speaking population was their nativity.  Of the non-English speakers at home, 63 percent in Hawaii were foreign born.  Compared with the English-only speaking population, the non-English speakers in Hawaii had a gender structure with more female population, and an age distribution with higher shares of older age groups.  The overall educational attainments of the non-English speakers were lower than that of the English-only speakers.
  •    English proficiency had strong impacts on an individual’s economic activities.  Labor force participation rate of the non-English speakers, who could not speak English well was about 15 percentage points lower than the rates for the English-only speakers and the non-English speakers who could speak English well.  The rate difference with these groups was bigger at 33 percentage points for the non-English speakers who could not speak English at all.
  •    English proficiency also played an important role in the selection of occupation. The occupational composition of the non-English speakers who could not speak English well showed a high concentration in two occupation groups: “Food preparation and serving” and “building/grounds cleaning and maintenance”.  About one in two non-English speakers worked in one of these two occupations if they could not speak English well.
  •    Earning disparities among various English proficiency groups were evident.  The median earnings of the non-English speakers were lower than that of the English-only speaking population for all English proficiency levels, and the earnings gap amplified as English proficiency decreased.

The full report is available at: dbedt.hawaii.gov/economic/reports_studies/non-english-speaking-population-in-hawaii/.

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Media Contacts:
Christine Hirasa
Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism
Phone: (808) 587-9006
Mobile: (808) 286-9017
Email: Christine.M.Hirasa@hawaii.gov
Website: dbedt.hawaii.gov