Honolulu County in Hawaii is renowned for its stunning beaches, cultural diversity, and thriving tourism. Nevertheless, not all residents experience the same prosperity. In 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded a 10.2% poverty rate in the county, impacting around 99,000 individuals who lived below the poverty threshold. For a family of four in Hawaii, this threshold was set at $31,375 in the same year.
The extent of poverty varies widely across the county’s neighborhoods, influenced by factors like income, education, employment, housing, and service accessibility. Some neighborhoods struggle with poverty rates exceeding 30%, while others maintain rates as low as 5% or even less. Here are five of the county’s least affluent neighborhoods, as per data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey from 2017 to 2021:
Situated in central Honolulu, Kalihi-Palama is a densely populated urban area bordered by Liliha Street, Nimitz Highway, Moanalua Freeway, and Kapalama Canal. As one of the oldest and most diverse neighborhoods, it has a substantial immigrant population from Asia and the Pacific Islands.
However, it is also one of the poorest areas, with a poverty rate of 30.4%, three times higher than the county average. Median household income in Kalihi-Palama was $46,580, less than half the county median of $97,213. Unemployment was at 9.3%, nearly double the county’s 4.8% rate. The neighborhood grapples with issues like overcrowding, crime, homelessness, and a lack of affordable housing.
Occupying Oahu Island’s western shoreline from Nanakuli to Makaha, Waianae Coast is a rural region with roughly 50,000 residents, primarily Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Despite its breathtaking natural beauty and beaches, it faces economic challenges, exhibiting a 25% poverty rate, more than double the county average.
Median household income stood at $60,494, about two-thirds of the county median. Unemployment was at 8.8%, nearly twice the county rate. The area confronts issues like limited transportation, healthcare, education, and social services.
Nestled in central Oahu amidst mountains and pineapple fields, Wahiawa is a suburban area housing around 18,000 people, predominantly Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians. It hosts Schofield Barracks, a significant military base employing numerous locals. Despite this, it records a 20% poverty rate, twice the county average.
Median household income in Wahiawa was $59,583, around two-thirds of the county median. Unemployment was at 7%, higher than the county rate of 4.8%. The area contends with aging infrastructure, environmental concerns, and drug abuse.
Positioned in central Oahu along Farrington Highway and H-1 Freeway, Waipahu accommodates about 40,000 residents, mainly Asian Americans and Filipinos. It houses multiple industrial and commercial establishments providing employment and services.
Still, it’s among the county’s poorest areas, with a 16% poverty rate, higher than the 10.2% county average. Median household income in Waipahu was $66,250, around two-thirds of the county median of $97,213. Unemployment was at 6%, above the county rate. Challenges include traffic congestion, pollution, and inadequate green spaces.
5. Makiki-Lower Punchbowl-Tantalus
Found in central Honolulu, Makiki-Lower Punchbowl-Tantalus is bordered by H-1 Freeway, Ward Avenue, Nuuanu Avenue, and Round Top Drive. This urban area homes roughly 35,000 residents, primarily Asian Americans and Caucasians.
Notable for historic and cultural landmarks, it nevertheless experiences a 15.8% poverty rate, higher than the 10.2% county average. Median household income in this region was $54,583, approximately half the county median. Unemployment was at 5.5%, above the county rate. The area grapples with high living costs, gentrification, and parking scarcities.
While these neighborhoods in Honolulu County, Hawaii, encounter economic and social obstacles, they possess rich histories, cultures, and strong community bonds. Leveraging their assets and opportunities can enhance their well-being. Addressing fundamental poverty and inequality causes like low income, limited education, job scarcity, and insufficient services can empower these neighborhoods to surmount challenges and fulfill their potential.