High cost of living continues to drive away Hawaii residents

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii urges lawmakers to cut taxes and ease homebuilding regulations to stem the state’s population decline

HONOLULU, Dec. 29, 2022 >> Hawaii recently experienced the fifth-highest population decline in the nation, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau reported earlier this month that Hawaii’s population dropped by almost 7,000 people, or 0.5%, between July 2021 and July 2022, marking yet another year that Hawaii’s population has dwindled.

During that time period, the state logged 15,788 births and 13,328 deaths, for a natural increase of 2,460 people. As for people moving in and out of the state, overall international migration was a positive 5,785 people, but Hawaii lost 15,212 people to moving within the U.S., for a total decrease of 9,427 people.

“Too many local families who have lived in Hawaii for generations are seeing their children move to the mainland or out of the country to better support themselves,” Grassroot Institute of Hawaii President and CEO Keli’i Akina said.

“In addition to facing this emotional toll, those of us who still live in Hawaii are left to foot the bill for our oversized government.”

Hawaii’s population has declined every year since 2016, and surveys have shown that the state’s high cost of living is the main reason.

“Now, we need lawmakers to take concrete steps to reverse this trend,” Akina said, noting that state and county lawmakers could start by lowering taxes and making it easier to build housing.

The Institute’s conversations with people who left Hawaii, documented in its “Why we left Hawaii series, confirm that high housing costs are driving residents away.

“Rent is far too high, even if splitting the costs with a friend,” former Wahiawa resident Colyn Slocum told the Institute this fall. He now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“One day, I do wish to return. But until the economic possibilities make it appealing enough, there is little to incentivize anything other than a few return trips,” Slocum said.

Said Akina, “Lawmakers should aim to cut down on the size of government and reduce taxation in 2023 to make Hawaii more affordable.”

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