Why is the 2020 Census Important to DBEDT?

Posted on Mar 3, 2020 in Decennial Census, Whats New Releases

In 2020, our state will participate in the national effort of counting each person residing in the United States. This huge undertaking is done every 10 years. Working toward a complete count of everyone here in Hawaii is important because this count impacts Hawaii’s economy.

A portion of our state revenue comes from the federal government. In FY 2017, Hawaii received an estimated $5.8 billion dollars from federal programs based on population counts. Two of the largest federal programs obtaining funds were Medicare and Medicaid and these two entities accounted for over 60% of the total funds. Under counts of our population as it relates to federal funding have a long term adverse effect since these population counts continue to be used over the next decade.

The decennial census provides us with valuable information about our population at one point in time. This vital information is used by our Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism for economic analyses. For example, DBEDT is responsible for producing long‐range population and economic projections covering the State of Hawaii and its four counties. The size of our state population in 2010 was 1.36 million people and this number is projected to increase over 20% by the year 2045. State law requires all departments in the executive branch to utilize DBEDT’s projections in their budgetary requests so good census data is essential. County governments, businesses and researchers are among other groups that depend on DBEDT’s projections. Changes to Hawaii’s demographic structure may be studied using census data, too. The Census Bureau collects data on age, gender and race. Are the proportion of young people who support our elderly population shrinking over time? Will there be an adequate number of working‐age adults for the jobs needed in the future? These are just a few of the questions that the projection data may help answer.

Census data provides good information on the geographic distribution of Hawaii’s population. DBEDT works on studies deemed critical as well as those requested from the legislature and other organizations. We sometimes conduct analyses on the economic impact of some occurrence affecting a specific area of the state. The decennial census is frequently the primary source of data for number of people living in a small area. One example of our census data use was a DBEDT study of the Kakaako area of Oahu completed a few years ago which looked at population size and growth in the area over time. The census data assisted our office in studying the relationship of population to the new and proposed housing in Kakaako. Other geographic areas of interest by our office and other researchers within our state have included the Waianae area of Oahu, the Kapolei area of Oahu, and the areas surrounding Kilauea Volcano on the Island of Hawaii.