Big Island reaches population milestone while state sees overall drop

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    Nearly all of the seating is claimed Thursday at the McDonald’s inside Hilo Walmart. If it seems like there are more people on the Big Island, it’s because there are, according to population estimates from the U.S. Census. Hawaii County’s population broke the 200,000 mark last year.

Hawaii County reached a new milestone last year when its population broke 200,000, according to U.S. Census estimates.

As of July 1, there were 200,381 residing on the isle, up from 198,681 in 2016.


The county also topped the charts when it comes to annual growth, according to figures released Thursday. From 2010 through 2017, the county, aided by migration, saw an average annual increase of 1.1 percent. Kauai and Maui counties tied for second at 1 percent.

However, not every part of the state is getting more crowded. In fact, the Census estimates Hawaii’s total population, which includes military personnel, dropped by 1,145 — or 3 people per day — from the year before to 1,427,538.

Eugene Tian, state economist, said that’s the first population drop since 1998.

The reason?

People fleeing Oahu for the mainland.

Between 2010 and 2017, the City and County of Honolulu saw more people moving elsewhere than moving in.

Tian said that’s been a trend for several years because of the high cost of living. But, in the past, migration from other countries offset that.

During those seven years, Oahu recorded a net loss of 6,853 people each year on average because of domestic migration. The average annual net increase from international migration was 5,773.

Other states to see a population loss between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, were West Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Illinois, North Dakota, Wyoming and Alaska.

The migration trend for Hawaii County, on the other hand, is going in the opposite direction.

From 2010 through 2017, the island saw a net average annual increase of 753 people through domestic migration — the highest in the state. International migration added 635 people on average each year.

Tian said Hawaii Island is more attractive for people looking to relocate because of its lower cost of living, at least when compared with Oahu.

“I think for the long term the Big Island will be growing faster” than the rest of the state, he said.

The population has shifted slightly away from Oahu — which saw its population peak at 993,716 in 2015 — through the years. In 2000, 72.3 percent of people in Hawaii lived in the City and County of Honolulu. Today, that number is 69.3 percent.

As of July 1, 2017, Oahu’s population was 988,650, according to the Census estimates.

Since 2000, Hawaii County’s share of the population increased from 12.3 percent to 14 percent, a trend other neighbor island counties have followed.

The population estimates are based on tax returns and birth and death records, Tian said.

Email Tom Callis at



State: 1,427,538

City and County of Honolulu: 988,650

Hawaii County: 200,381

Maui County: 166,348

Kauai County: 72,159


(Annual average from 2010-17)

City and County of Honolulu: 13,394 births; 7,599 deaths

Hawaii County: 2,412 births; 1,645 deaths

Maui County: 1,977 births; 1,164 deaths

Kauai County: 878 births; 573 deaths


(Annual average from 2010-17)

City and County of Honolulu: -6,853 domestic; 5,773 international

Hawaii County: 753 domestic; 635 international


Maui County: 55 domestic; 752 international

Kauai County: 32 domestic; 377 international

  1. Steve Dearing March 23, 2018 6:53 am

    Residents are leaving Hawaii because the demo rats are taxing them out of existence.

    1. Hilo Jack March 23, 2018 11:29 am

      To the contrary my head your ass idiot Steve.

      Expect a tremendous influx of people trying to escape from the orange haired baboon real soon!

      1. burned_out March 23, 2018 12:19 pm

        You are just seeing the people that escaped the Mulatto. They are probably in the pavilion on bayfront.

  2. burned_out March 23, 2018 12:17 pm

    Hard to believe our population is growing this much.
    Housing way overpriced, jobs don’t pay much.
    High taxes, medical is pretty busy, schools are really
    What are all these people doing?

  3. metalman808 March 23, 2018 3:52 pm

    Definitely more cars on the road.

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