One in 10 county residents lives below poverty line

Census Bureau releases 2017 data

One in 10 Maui County residents lives below the poverty line, which is lower than the national poverty rate of 12.3 percent for 2017, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

But a nonprofit Hawaii group that works with low-income residents said that the report focuses on available cash resources and does not take into account the state’s high cost of living. When that is factored in, Hawaii falls among states with the highest poverty levels.

The percentage of Maui County families in poverty was 7.4 percent in 2017, an increase from the 6 percent of families in 2016. Maui County’s rate was second lowest in the state — lower than Hawaii County’s 11.5 percent of families and Kauai County’s 10.2 percent but higher than the City and County of Honolulu’s 6.3 percent.

The bureau released income, poverty, health insurance, housing and other data from its American Community Survey for 2017. The bureau releases one-year data for communities with populations of 65,000 or more.

About 1.7 percent of the state’s population was surveyed in 2017.

The survey showed that 9.2 percent of Maui County families with children under 18 years old garnered income in the previous 12 months below the poverty level, according to the survey. The totals were higher for families with children under 5, 10.7 percent of those families’ incomes were below the poverty line.

Only 3.8 percent of married couples were under the poverty line, while 19.3 percent of families with a female head of household and no husband present fell below the line. Additionally, 24.1 percent of single mothers with children under 18 and 44.8 percent of moms with kids under 5 were below the poverty line.

About 10 percent of all Maui County residents and nearly 6 percent of people in families were in poverty. More than a quarter of unrelated individuals 15 years old and older also were in poverty.

The percentage of people in poverty in Hawaii was 9.5 percent, which was not statistically different than the previous year. The state ranked third lowest in the nation for 2017 for those in poverty.

Although Hawaii was one of the lowest states in terms of poverty in the survey, supplemental poverty measure data paint a different picture, according to the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice.

The nonprofit advocacy group for low-income residents and families argued in a post on its website Thursday that the bureau’s data is based solely on available cash resources of residents in a state. The nonprofit said that when the supplemental data is considered, which includes housing subsidies and transportation costs, Hawaii has one of the highest poverty rates in the country.

From 2015 to 2017, Hawaii had the 10th lowest poverty rate at 10.2 percent according to the American Community Survey. With supplemental data, the state falls to the 10th highest poverty rate in the nation at 15 percent, or 210,000 residents in poverty, according to the group.

“When you hear that Hawaii has one of the lowest poverty rates in the nation, remember that’s because the official rate doesn’t take into account our highest-in-the-nation cost of living,” the nonprofit said on its website. “Also remember that the Census Bureau has a more accurate poverty measure, one that shows that Hawaii actually has one of the nation’s highest poverty rates, which more accurately reflects what we see here every day.”

Two new tables on income and earnings were added to this year’s bureau survey. The tables provide estimates for the number of earners per family and the median earnings for the total population 16 years and older who worked full time, year-round in the previous 12 months.

Maui County workers’ median full-time, year-round earnings were $44,779 in 2017. Maui was second behind Honolulu’s $48,730 and ahead of Kauai’s $42,384 and Hawaii County’s $42,048.

The state average was $46,978, just over the national median of $46,881.

Of Maui County’s 36,397 families, 41 percent have two income earners followed by 29 percent with one earner; 17 percent have three or more earners. About 13 percent reported no earners.

Hawaii continued its streak of having the highest median housing values in the U.S. since 2007, according to an analysis of the bureau survey conducted by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Hawaii’s median housing value was $617,400.

Hawaii also remained the state with the highest median monthly housing costs for renter-occupied units in 2017 – $1,573. Adjusting for inflation, the cost was a 4.4 percent increase from 2016’s $1,506.

Hawaii ranked third highest in median monthly housing costs for homeowners with mortgages at $2,337 in 2017, according to the state analysis.

Median household income for Hawaii was $77,765, good for fourth highest in the U.S. It was a 2.4 percent increase from 2016.

Hawaii’s median family income was $91,460, which was a 3 percent increase from 2016, the state analysis said. The income was the sixth highest in the nation.

Nearly 4 percent of the nonmilitary population in Hawaii has no health insurance coverage, which ranks the state second lowest in the nation.

Some modifications were made to this years’ bureau survey relating to age and sex, foreign-born population, grandparents, income and earnings, industry and marital history, according to the state analysis. New tables relating to group quarters, the citizen voting-age population and health insurance also were added.

For more information on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey, go to acs-2017/.

For more information on the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, go to

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at