Poorest Cities In Hawaii For 2020

We used science and data to determine which places in Hawaii are basically dead broke.

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Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the poorest places in Hawaii.

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Hawaii brings to mind images of Urban Honolulu, beautiful landscapes, and some of the best people you'll find in the good ole US of A.

However, like all states, Hawaii has certain places that are going on hard times. These places have an above average percent of people that are living in poverty, out of work, or not making as much as they should be.

With all the talk about income inequality going on around the country, we thought it prudent to take a look at the places in each state that are struggling to make it even as the economy continues to improve. So we set our sites on bringing attention to the places in Hawaii that could use a helping hand.

To do so, we analyzed the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 56 places in Hawaii with more than 5,000 people.

Again, this isn't a commentary on the people that live there or the vibrant culture and traditions of these places. Instead, it's just a look at the facts.

What's the poorst city in Hawaii? According to the facts, Makaha is the poorest place in Hawaii for 2020.

Rich people more your cup of tea? Feel free to check out the richest places in Hawaii or the most dangerous.

For more on how we calculated the top ten, and for more information about these places, read on.

If you're looking for something more national, check out the poorest states in America or the poorest cities in America.

For more Hawaii reading, check out:

The 10 Poorest Cities In Hawaii For 2020

Makaha, HI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,740
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $52,097 (1st lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 16.7% (1st highest)
Poverty Rate: 28.0% (1st highest)
More on Makaha:  Data | Photos

Makaha, unfortunately, ranks as the poorest place in Hawaii thanks to combination of low pay and and a lack of jobs.

The city of 8,740 people averages the 1st lowest median household income in Hawaii and the 1st highest poverty rate. At the very least, the cost of living ranks in the bottom 15% of place in the state, so things like housing are relatively affordable.

Waianae, HI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 14,054
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Median Income: $59,213 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 14.6% (3rd highest)
Poverty Rate: 27.8% (2nd highest)
More on Waianae:  Data | Photos

The second poorest city in Hawaii is Waianae.

The city ranks as having the 2nd highest incidence of poverty and 3rd lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate 'only' ranks as the 3rd highest in the Aloha State.

Nanakuli, HI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,742
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 2)
Median Income: $64,229 (9th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 13.3% (4th highest)
Poverty Rate: 17.6% (5th highest)
More on Nanakuli:  Data | Photos

Placing as the third poorest city, Nanakuli's median income ranks as the 9th lowest.

And that's a sign that there's a relatively substantial jump in the quality of the economy from second to third place on our list. The poverty rate is 17.632994620442318% and ranks near the bottom of places in the state.

But what makes up for the relatively low incomes of the city is its low cost of living. The income you do make here goes further than in most parts of the Aloha State.

Hilo, HI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 46,284
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 2)
Median Income: $60,120 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.8% (13th highest)
Poverty Rate: 19.0% (3rd highest)
More on Hilo:  Data | Photos

Hilo ranks as the fourth poorest place in Hawaii.

The town ranks as having the 5th lowest median household income and the 3rd highest incidence of poverty in the state.

That being said, there's still a ton of cultural diversity in the city as it hosts many events throughout the year.

Wailuku, HI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 17,354
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 5)
Median Income: $71,768 (12th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.0% (10th highest)
Poverty Rate: 12.4% (10th highest)
More on Wailuku:  Data | Photos

The fifth poorest city in Hawaii is Wailuku.

The city ranks as having the 12th lowest median income in the state. However, an extremely low cost of living prevents a good number of folks from living in poverty as the poverty rate only ranks as the 10th highest in Hawaii.

Still not the best news for Wailuku.

Wahiawa, HI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 17,422
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 5)
Median Income: $62,987 (8th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (16th highest)
Poverty Rate: 14.2% (8th highest)
More on Wahiawa:  Data | Photos

Wahiawa ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Aloha State.

It ranks as having the 8th highest incidence of poverty and the 16th highest unemployment rate.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,479
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 3)
Median Income: $56,738 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 3.9% (27th highest)
Poverty Rate: 18.1% (4th highest)
More on Hawaiian Paradise Park:  Data

Hawaiian Paradise Park places as the seventh poorest city in Hawaii.

The city of over 11,479 ranks as having the 4th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.

Wailea, HI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,656
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 1)
Median Income: $72,072 (15th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.3% (17th highest)
Poverty Rate: 12.9% (9th highest)
More on Wailea:  Data | Photos

Wailea ranks as the eighth poorest city in Hawaii.

The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 17th highest in the state.

Maili, HI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,792
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Median Income: $84,717 (30th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.5% (5th highest)
Poverty Rate: 17.0% (6th highest)
More on Maili:  Data | Photos

Maili couldn't stay out of the top ten poorest places in Hawaii; it ranks number 9.

While the median income is the 30th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Maili ranks as having the 6th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Hawaii.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,443
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 3)
Median Income: $72,008 (13th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.2% (9th highest)
Poverty Rate: 8.0% (28th highest)
More on Waipio Acres:  Data

And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in Hawaii is Waipio Acres.

The city of 5,443 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Aloha State.

How We Determined The Poorest Places In Hawaii for 2020

The first thing that comes to most people's minds when they think about determining the poorest places is to simply the poverty rate. That is, the number of people living below a federally established level of income for a household of a certain size.

However, we don't think that one statistic wholly encompasses what it means to be one of the "poorest places". So we looked at this set of criteria from the newly released 2014-2018 American Community Survey:

  • Poverty Level
  • Median Household Income adjusted for the cost of living
  • Unemployment Rate

The "median household income adjusted for the cost of living" attempts to gauge how expensive it is to live in a place and how that impacts the quality of life. For example, a town might have fewer people living below the official poverty line, but the cost of living is so high they'd still feel poor.

The unemployment rate tries to capture the prospects for improvement in the city or town. If more people are employed, the brighter the future looks and vice versa.

After we collected the data for all 56 places with more than 5,000 people in Hawaii, we ranked each place from 1 to 56 for each of the criteria, with 1 being the poorest.

We then averaged all the rankings for a place into a "Poor Score" with the place having the lowest overall Poor Score, Makaha, crowned the "Poorest Place In Hawaii For 2020". You can download the data here.

There You Have It - The Poorest Places In Hawaii For 2020

Like we said earlier, when we set out to identify the poorest places in Hawaii, we weren't sure what we'd encounter, but it ended up being some of the best places to live in Hawaii.

When you look at the data, the cities and places mentioned above meet the criteria for being at the very bottom of the income ladder for everyone that lives there.

If you're curious enough, here are the richest cities in Hawaii, according to data:

    Richest: Mililani Mauka
    2nd Richest: East Honolulu
    3rd Richest: Waikele

For more Hawaii reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In Hawaii

Rank City Population Poverty Rate
1 Makaha 8,740 28.0%
2 Waianae 14,054 27.8%
3 Nanakuli 11,742 17.6%
4 Hilo 46,284 19.0%
5 Wailuku 17,354 12.4%
6 Wahiawa 17,422 14.2%
7 Hawaiian Paradise Park 11,479 18.1%
8 Wailea 5,656 12.9%
9 Maili 10,792 17.0%
10 Waipio Acres 5,443 8.0%
11 Kaneohe Station 11,075 5.2%
12 Schofield Barracks 19,796 4.3%
13 Urban Honolulu 350,003 11.3%
14 Waipahu 40,427 11.8%
15 Lahaina 13,103 9.0%
16 Kapaa 10,544 11.7%
17 Kihei 21,879 7.7%
18 Kula 7,541 10.3%
19 Waimea Cdp (Hawaii County) 11,687 10.7%
20 Kahului 32,312 10.0%
21 Laie 6,111 9.2%
22 Hanamaulu 5,422 5.5%
23 Kalaoa 11,604 9.0%
24 Hickam Housing 9,258 3.5%
25 Kailua Cdp (Hawaii County) 15,268 9.6%
26 Wailua Homesteads 5,900 7.3%
27 Pukalani 7,769 9.9%
28 Makawao 7,570 11.6%
29 Kalaheo 5,224 9.1%
30 Ewa Beach 14,717 10.6%
31 Waimanalo 6,135 16.4%
32 Waikoloa Village 6,412 8.6%
33 Holualoa 9,136 8.6%
34 Waihee-Waiehu 8,802 6.5%
35 Lihue 7,381 4.7%
36 Kapolei 21,474 4.0%
37 Napili-Honokowai 7,258 6.8%
38 Makakilo 20,920 4.7%
39 Waimalu 13,384 5.6%
40 Halawa 14,640 6.7%
41 Mililani Town 27,926 6.0%
42 Haiku-Pauwela 8,061 8.7%
43 Kailua Cdp (Honolulu County) 36,662 5.2%
44 Waipio 11,508 7.0%
45 Pearl City 46,129 4.3%
46 Kaneohe 33,739 5.1%
47 Royal Kunia 14,449 4.2%
48 Aiea 9,439 5.3%
49 Ewa Villages 7,118 4.2%
50 Ahuimanu 8,239 3.7%
51 Ocean Pointe 14,037 4.2%
52 Ewa Gentry 25,752 3.8%
53 West Loch Estate 5,177 2.7%
54 Waikele 7,062 3.1%
55 East Honolulu 47,770 3.3%
56 Mililani Mauka 19,955 2.7%

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