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What Are The Three Main Ethnic Groups That Populate Hawaii?

Updated on August 23, 2012
Flag of Hawaii
Flag of Hawaii | Source

The state of Hawaii has been a member of the United Stated of America since August 21, 1959. The state is arguably the most beautiful and exotic place in the whole United States. It’s a destination for luxurious vacations, beautiful beachside and/or waterfront weddings and parties. It’s both home to breathtaking vistas and the resting place of World War II battleships and soldiers at Pearl Harbor. Over the centuries Hawaii and been visited and occupied by a vast and varied amounts of diverse groups of people both ethnically and nationality (Chinese, Japanese, American, and European).

The history of this island state goes back hundreds of years and its inhabitants have been varied over the centuries. With the state being a favored destination for many people around the world, and its geographic position in the Pacific Ocean, there are many different ethnic groups of people who call the place home.

With the over 1 million inhabitants, there are a few ethnic groups that outnumber the others. As of 2010, the population of Hawaii numbered 1,360,301 of various background and ethnicities. Here is a list of the three main ethnic groups that populate Hawaii.


38.6 percent of Hawaiians are of Asian ancestry or descent. The Asian population of Hawaii is the largest in the state and the largest in the whole United States per capita per state (meaning that Hawaii has the largest population of Asian people than any other state). Of course, “Asian” is just the basic term for the ethnic groups from the Asian Continent and its immediate surrounding islands. The mixture of Asian nationalities and ethnic groups is broken down like this: Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, and Korean. The Chinese were among the first Asian immigrants, but they eventually were outnumbered by the Japanese, and they (the Japanese) became the largest of the Asian immigrants. The Filipino and Korean migrations were primarily during the 20th century.


24.7 percent of Hawaiian residents are designated as White. British Captain James Cook was the first documented explorer to make contact with the native Hawaiians in 1778. In the centuries since there has been multiple documented rulers of the Hawaiian Islands: The House of Kamehameha (1810-1872), there was a Hawaiian constitution written in 1887, a governmental overthrow in 1893, and then there was The Republic of Hawaii (1894-1898); and then the Territory of Hawaii (1898-1959). The American / European immigration was primarily during the 20th century. In between the end of World War One and the attack on Pearl Harbor, American had established a colony and military base on the Hawaiian Islands. Since the end of the Second World War, White Americans have established homes and lives on the Hawaiian Islands. Interestingly, Hawaii has the lowest percentage of White residents in all of the United States.

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Mixed Races

23.6 percent of other Hawaiians inhabitants are of mixed ancestries (two or more races). This is unique because Hawaii has the largest percentage of people whose families come from multiple ethnic backgrounds in America. It should also be noted that like the Asian population of Hawaiians, the mixed race percentage is higher than the white population. Hawaii has the largest mixed race population and the lowest white population. This percentage is also very high for Eurasians (an ethnic group that is a mixture of Asian and European) Hawaii’s entire population is almost a quarter of this Eurasian Group.


The other 13 percent of Hawaii is mixed (10 percent native Hawaiians and the other 3 percent is African American, native Alaskan and American Indian. Recently the Native Hawaiian Population has become more passionate about maintaining and protecting their history and especially their culture (include their native language: Olelo Hawai’I which has been the state second official language since 1978; not to be mistaken or confused with Hawaiian Pidgin (Hawaiian Creole English).


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    • Edgar Arkham profile image

      Edgar Arkham 5 years ago from San Jose, CA

      Like other countries, it was the desire for exploration and resources that mostly likley drove them to emigrate. Thank you for reading.

    • theblackedition profile image

      Shane Brown-Daniels 5 years ago from Jamaica

      Interesting... I've noticed a number of Hawaiians having Japanese names. What fueled Asian migration to the island in the first place?