By Anita Hofschneider January 10, 2018
Nearly half of Hawaii residents struggle to afford basic necessities, according to a new report by the nonprofit Aloha United Way.
Having a job isn’t enough to afford life in the Aloha State. The study of Census data from 2015 found that 37 percent of working households — more than 165,000 households — were above the federal poverty level but didn’t earn enough to afford necessities like housing and health care.
Another 11 percent of the state’s residents were impoverished.
“Though the Great Recession was not as severe in Hawaii as in other states, the number of households struggling financially is higher than in most states and showed only a slight reduction from 2012 to 2015,” the report found.
The federal poverty line doesn’t take into account the cost of living, so researchers calculated how much it costs to actually afford to live in Hawaii and took into account things like housing and child care services.
The median home price in Honolulu is $760,000 and rents have been rising steadily. Now more people are leaving the state than moving here, and many say they leave because they can’t afford to make ends meet.
ALICE stands for “Asset Limited, Income, Constrained, Employed” and refers to working households that can’t afford basic necessities.
But expensive housing, goods and services aren’t the only challenge. Sixty-two percent of Hawaii jobs pay less than $20 per hour, and low-wage jobs are expected to multiply much faster than better-paying jobs, the report found.
The analysis found that the the average wage for an adult to afford to live in Hawaii is $14.06. That’s what the study calls a “survival budget,” and it doesn’t leave any room for savings and leaves a person vulnerable to unexpected emergencies.
By comparison, the state’s minimum wage is just over $10. The survival budget for a family of four is $72,336 annually, the report said.
The biggest challenge for Hawaii residents is to find a well-paying job and affordable housing in the same county, the report said. Hawaii County had the highest percentage of people struggling at 55 percent of the population.
“The core issue is that these jobs do not pay enough to afford the basics of housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care,” the report said.
The study found that while the government provides $1.4 billion to help households annually on top of $2.2 billion in health care spending, there’s an additional need for $4.3 billion.
Inequality is also growing. The top 20 percent of Hawaii residents earn nearly half of all the wealth in the state.