Counties in Hawaii With the Most Rapid Population Decline

Exploring the 5 Counties in Hawaii With the Most Rapid Population Decline

Hawaii is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural diversity, and welcoming atmosphere. Nevertheless, not every region in the Aloha State is prospering.

Recent census data reveals that, between 2010 and 2020, five counties in Hawaii witnessed a notable decrease in population. These counties include Kalawao, Maui, Hawaii, Honolulu, and Kauai. This article aims to delve into the factors influencing this trend and examine the obstacles and possibilities it presents for these specific counties.

CountyPopulation (2020)Population Change (2010-2020)

Kalawao County: The Smallest and Most Isolated County in the US

Kalawao County, situated on the northern coast of Molokai, spans just 13 square miles and boasts a population of 86 residents. As the smallest and most secluded county in the United States, Kalawao was established in 1865 as a quarantine haven for individuals affected by leprosy, or Hansen’s disease.

Today, the county serves as a residence for a handful of former patients, their caretakers, and a limited number of state and federal personnel. Strikingly devoid of roads, stores, restaurants, and internet connectivity, Kalawao County can only be accessed by plane, boat, or mule.

The county’s population has experienced a 20.4% decline since 2010, primarily attributed to the aging and passing of former patients.

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Maui County: The County Hit Hardest by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Maui County encompasses the islands of Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Kahoolawe, spanning 1,162 square miles with a population of 167,207 people. Renowned for its breathtaking attractions like Haleakala National Park, the Road to Hana, and the Molokini Crater, the county is a sought-after tourist destination, drawing over 3 million visitors annually.

Counties in Hawaii With the Most Rapid Population Decline
Image By: Maui News

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted Maui County’s economy and population. The county has witnessed a 9.3% decline in population since 2010, the most substantial percentage drop among all Hawaiian counties.

The pandemic has led to numerous business closures, job losses, and residents departing in pursuit of better opportunities elsewhere.

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Hawaii County: The County Facing Natural Disasters and Housing Shortages

The Big Island, officially known as Hawaii County, holds the distinction of being the largest and most recent addition to the state’s islands. Spanning an expansive 4,028 square miles, it is inhabited by a population of 201,513 individuals.

This county boasts two active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, both instrumental in shaping the island’s unique terrain and influencing its cultural identity.

Renowned for its biodiversity, Hawaii County features 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones and harbors numerous endemic species. Unfortunately, the county has experienced a 3.4% decline in population since 2010, primarily attributed to natural disasters and housing shortages.

Over the past decade, Hawaii County has faced a series of challenges, including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes. These events have left a mark on homes, infrastructure, and agriculture. Additionally, the county grapples with a shortage of affordable housing, with median home prices exceeding $400,000 and median rent surpassing $1,500.

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Honolulu County: The County With the Highest Cost of Living and the Lowest Quality of Life

Honolulu County encompasses the entirety of Oahu, the most populous and urbanized island in the state, spanning 597 square miles with a population of 963,826. Serving as the state government’s seat and the hub for commerce, education, and culture, Honolulu County is a primary tourist destination, boasting attractions like Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, and Diamond Head.

Counties in Hawaii With the Most Rapid Population Decline

Despite its allure, Honolulu County has experienced a 2.9% population decline since 2010, attributed primarily to the high cost of living and a perceived low quality of life.

Notably, the county holds the highest median home price ($720,000) and median rent ($1,800) in the state, accompanied by the highest taxes, gas prices, and electricity rates. Additionally, the county grapples with challenges such as traffic congestion, pollution, homelessness, and crime.

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Kauai County: The County With the Most Strict Travel Restrictions and the Most Environmental Concerns

Kauai County comprises the islands of Kauai and Niihau, covering a land area of 622 square miles and inhabited by a population of 72,293. Renowned for its natural splendor, the county boasts lush green mountains, cascading waterfalls, and unspoiled beaches.

Adding to its appeal, Kauai County exudes rural charm with quaint towns, local farms, and vibrant cultural festivals. However, the county has experienced a 1.8% decline in population since 2010, largely attributed to stringent travel restrictions and environmental concerns.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kauai County implemented some of the strictest regulations for travelers, mandating multiple tests and quarantine measures.

These precautions have dissuaded both visitors and residents alike. Additionally, the county confronts the looming challenges of climate change, manifesting in sea level rise, coastal erosion, coral bleaching, and the proliferation of invasive species.

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Hawaii exhibits a tapestry of differences, encompassing varied geography, culture, and economy. Yet, within this diversity lies a landscape of challenges influencing its population fluctuations.

The five counties undergoing the most pronounced population decline over the last decade each harbor distinctive reasons and repercussions. A closer examination of these counties offers insight into the complexities, issues, and prospects that shape the lives of Hawaii’s residents.

With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.