Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 1,392,313
Population (2000 CB est.) 1,211,537
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 251,866
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 212,229
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 18.1 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 16.4%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 140,194
Share Naturalized (2012) 55.7 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 64,825
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 35,702
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 30,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $154,978,115
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 1,802,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Hawaii in 2012 was 1,392,313 residents.

Between 2000 (population 1,211,537) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 14,757 residents. That was an annual average change of 1.1 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 1,108,229) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 10,331 residents. The annual average rate of change was 0.9 percent compared to the national rate of change of 1.2 percent.

Foreign-Born Population

According to the Census Bureau the foreign-born population of Hawaii was about 251,866 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 18.1 percent. The chart above shows the long-term change in the state's foreign-born population based on Census Bureau data.

Foreign-Born Change

Between 2000 and 2012 the Census Bureau estimate indicates an average annual rate of change in the foreign-born population of about 3,235 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 14,757  people. That is a 21.9  percent share of the state's population change (not including the children born in the United States to illegal aliens). The foreign-born population grew by 18.7 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Immigration also contributes to population growth through the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Nationally the share of births to the foreign-born is about double their share of the population. A 36.2 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 6,710 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 9,945 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 67.4 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 38.9 percent of Hawaii's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 34.1 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Hawaii's immigrant population may be seen in data on the share of the population over five years of age that speaks a language other than English at home. Between 2000 and 2012, the share of non-English speakers changed from 26.6 percent to 25.1 percent. In 2000, 47.5 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 50.9 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 7.2 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 4.1 percent of those who spoke English less than very well.

The chart above shows the regional composition of the state's foreign-born population and how it has changed from between 2000 and 2012.


Census Bureau data in 2012 indicate that 140,194 residents of Hawaii, or 55.7 percent of the foreign-born population in Hawaii, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 127,532 residents, or 60.1 percent, in 2000.

Nationally, 40.3 percent of the foreign-born population was naturalized in 2000, and 45.8 percent in 2012.

Net International Migration (NIM)

Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Census Bureau estimated that between 2000 and 2012, the change in Hawaii's population resulting from net international migration has been about 11,925 people. It was 51.3 percent of total change (not including the children born to the immigrants after their arrival in the United States). 1   The remainder was due to net domestic migration and natural change (births minus deaths).


  1. A negative percentage results when there was an overall population decrease. A percentage greater than 100 percent results when domestic migration is negative, i.e, a net loss from interstate migration.

Immigrant Admissions

Recent "green card" recipients who intend to reside in Hawaii were 87 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 3,702 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 6,920 persons. Immigrant admissions data are from the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

The chart above shows recent immigrant admissions and the cumulative amount of immigrant admissions since FY'65. The cumulative total of immigrant admissions to Hawaii between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 339,352 persons.

The data for fiscal years 1989-91 were artificially raised by the inclusion of former illegal aliens who were amnestied in 1986. According to INS data (1991) the number of amnesty applicants from Hawaii was 2,219 (1,245 pre-1982 residents and 974 agricultural workers). These data were published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and reported in "Report on the Legalized Alien Population," March 1992.

Admissions by Nationality: FY'96 - FY'05

The table below furnishes INS data by nationality on the immigrants who were admitted for residence in Hawaii between 1996 and 2005.

The INS data are for nationals of the countries with the largest number of immigrants admitted or adjusted to legal residence each year since 1996. The absence of data means that the total number of admissions to the United States by nationals of that country was not enough to merit detailed reporting in that year.

The Department of Homeland Security website has detailed data on immigrant admissions since FY'03 by year and by source country and intended state of residence. (See http://www.dhs.gov/files/statistics/publications/yearbook.shtm) then select the desired year, click Legal Permanent Residents, data and then select "supplemental table 1."

Chart of Immigrant Admission by Fiscal Year


Hawaii has received 35,702 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 1 refugees in fiscal year 2012. The chart above shows the annual admissions over the last ten years and the cumulative total of those admissions using data complied by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. government program that distributes new refugees among the states is the only immigration program that provides state governments the opportunity to participate in deciding how many newcomers will come to that state each year.

Illegal Aliens

Hawaii Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $70.80 45.7%
LEP educ. $14.20 9.2%
Medicaid+ $13.30 8.6%
SCHIP $3.00 1.9%
Justice $11.10 7.2%
Welfare+ $15.30 9.9%
General $27.30 17.6%
Total $155.00  
Tax receipts $5.90  
Net Cost $149.10  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Hawaii as of 2010 was about 30,000 persons. This is part of an overall estimate of the U.S. illegal alien population of about 11,900,000 persons.

DHS Estimate - The current estimate by DHS of the illegal alien population in Hawaii was n/a in 2012. The DHS estimate is available for only the 10 states with the largest illegal alien populations. The DHS estimate of the national illegal alien population in 2012 was 11,430,000.

Other Estimates - The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the illegal alien population of the state at 40,000 as of 2010.

Fiscal Cost of Illegal Aliens

FAIR's most recent estimate of the cost outlays due to illegal immigration and tax receipts from illegal aliens in Hawaii are as shown on the right:

Limited English Proficiency Students

Data are not available nationally on immigrant students (either legally or illegally resident in the United States) who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools (K-12). However, a large majority of these students enrolled in Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learning (LEP/ELL) instruction programs may be assumed to be children of either legal or illegal immigrants with a predominance of children of illegal aliens.

In Hawaii, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 18,734) was 145.5 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 97.0 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Hawaii's population in 2050 likely would be between 1,725,000 million and 1,802,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (1,433,000) if immigration were reduced to a level where it balanced the number of U.S. residents leaving to reside outside of the United states, i.e., zero-net immigration. See "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050: Four Immigration Scenarios," FAIR 2006.

Foreign Students

Data compiled by the Institute of International Education (IIE) record the number of foreign students attending post-secondary school in Hawaii as 4,450 in 2013.

The chart above illustrates the change in the number of foreign students attending school in Hawaii since 1997.

For information on foreign student issues see: Foreign Students in the United States.

Immigration Impact


Disappearing Open Space: Each year, Hawaii loses on average 1,400 acres of open space and farmland due to development.1

A study of urban sprawl between 1970 and 1990 that calculated the impact of population increase and per capita land use found that 23.7 square miles of additional land were consumed by urban sprawl in the Honolulu metropolitan area, and 100 percent of that sprawl was attributable to population increase.2

Crowded Housing: An estimated 39,055 of Hawaii's housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 8.9 percent of the state's housing units. In addition, 12,101 units were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.3 All three metropolitan areas in Hawaii with more than 65,000 people ranked among the nation's top 20 for crowding in 2008. Kahului-Wailuku is seventh, Hilo is 13th, and Honolulu is 18th.4

Nationally, crowded housing rates are driven upward by immigration, where 27 percent of children in immigrant families live in crowded housing compared to 9 percent of children with native-born parents. In Hawaii, the shares are 35 percent of children in immigrant families are in crowded housing compared to 23 percent of those in native-headed households.5

Poverty: Hawaii's immigrants are more likely to be poor than their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 9.3 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 7.7 percent of native households. An additional 8.1 percent of the foreign-born and 5.2 percent of native households were not in poverty but had incomes less than 1.5 times the poverty level.6 19.5 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 11.2 percent of native children.7

Traffic:Vehicle traffic on Hawaii highways increased by 24 percent from 1990 to 2008. Unfortunately, its road system has not kept up with the increased volume. Almost three-fourths (75%) of the state's roads are in poor or mediocre condition, resulting in $515 in additional repairs and operating costs for each driver in 2010 (or $456 million statewide).8

Nearly half (45%) of Hawaii's major urban highways were considered "congested" by The Road Information Project (TRIP) in 2010.9 The typical Honolulu commuter lost about 26 hours and burned 18 gallons of fuel due to traffic congestion in 2007, resulting in an estimated cost of $199 million.10 About 17 percent of Hawaii commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.11

Solid Waste: Hawaii generates 1.4 tons of solid waste per capita each year.12

Education: It is projected that the enrollment of Hawaii's K-12 students will increase by over 20,000 (11 percent) students by the year 2015, to a total K-12 enrollment of 203,000.13 Hawaii's student-teacher ratio of 16.3 currently ranks 38th in the U.S.14

As a result of the swelling student population, schools throughout the state are struggling with overcrowding. Some schools on Windward Oahu and East and Central Honolulu are stretched beyond their physical abilities, and even new schools are finding themselves filled beyond capacity within a few years. Some schools are trying to cope by switching to year-round, multi-track scheduling.15

The state Department of Education forecasts a classroom shortage crisis in the next few years, which will result in even more overcrowding. "New schools, additional classroom building, and additional classrooms to alleviate overcrowding will not be built in sufficient quantities or in a timely manner," says one school official.16

In some areas, like Kane'ohe, classes are being held in converted closets, stage dressing rooms, teacher's lounges, and a patio. In some cases, two classes are forced to share the same room at the same time.17

  1. "State Rankings by Acreage and Rate of Non-Federal Land Developed," Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
  2. Beck, Roy and Leon Kolankiewicz, "Weighing Sprawl Factors in Large U.S. Cities," NumbersUSA, March 2001
  3. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  4. American Community Survey, One-Year Estimates 2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  5. Kids Count Data Center, which used 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  6. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  7. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.
  8. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Hawaii's Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Texas Transportation Institute, "Urban Mobility Report 2009."
  11. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  12. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  13. "Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment, High School Completions, and Staff From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2005-06', National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, June 2007. Projections of Education Statistics to 2015, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
  14. "Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment, High School Completions, and Staff From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2005-06', National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, June 2007.
  15. Jennifer Hiller, "Schools Facing Space Crunch," Honolulu Advertiser, January 6, 2002.
  16. Crystal Kua, "Crisis in Crowded Classrooms," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January 18, 2002.
  17. Eloise Aguiar, "Space Crunch Hampers Schools," Honolulu Advertiser, November 25, 2001.