Residents Leave Paradise: A Study of Outmigration from Hawaiʻi to the Mainland

Wright, Paul
Fuller, Gary A.
Geography and Environment
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 1979]
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Notwithstanding the fact that official attention in Hawaii has been focused almost entirely on newcomers entering the state, the annual number of persons leaving Hawaii is almost equal to the number entering the state. Little has been known concerning the numbers and motivations of local residents who leave Hawaii each year to live on the Mainland. This study was undertaken with the intentions of providing insights on why some local residents "leave Paradise" and using these insights to add to the general understanding of migration as a process. Structure for the study was provided by a broad range of research concerns, the answers to which were believed by the author to give a broad understanding of migration as it relates to Hawaii. A number of research tools were used to provide answers to these concerns. Among these were an understanding of the Hawaii context, a historical analysis of past migration patterns, published and public use census data, a questionnaire survey of 1964 graduates of Hawaii high schools, and personal interviews of those 1964 graduates living on the west coast. An integration of insights provided by the differing levels of information enabled the research concerns to be satisfactorily answered. In terms of the research questions raised, the major research findings are as follows: (1) Prior to World War II, the annual outmigration of local residents was minimal. The annual volume increased rapidly at the end of World War II and peaked in the mid-1950s. Between the mid-1950s and 1970, the yearly rate was constant. Since 1970, the annual volume has declined. These fluctuations have been largely uninfluenced by economic conditions in Hawaii. (2) Most of the local residents who leave are young, unmarried adults. At one time, most were male, but both sexes are now equally represented. The local outmigrants are disproportionately Haole. (3) Underlying the departures of most local outmigrants are desires for personal growth, new experiences, independence and, for some, escape from restrictive family ties. Economic considerations are minor or absent in most of the moves. At the time of the initial moves, almost all assume an eventual return to Hawaii. (4) The choices of initial Mainland destinations are largely dependent on the overt purposes of the moves. Many who initially move to the Northwest or to non-west coast areas later move to California. As a result, the proportion of outmigrants permanently living in California is much higher than the proportion who initially move there. (5) Those who return to Hawaii generally have stronger social orientations than their counterparts who stay on the Mainland. Few of the returnees are "failures"; indeed, most evaluate their Mainland moves to be successful in terms of the original goals. The rate of return is high by national standards, but is sensitive to economic conditions in Hawaii. Nonwhites are more likely than whites to return to Hawaii. On the basis of the research findings, propostions concerning the nature of local outmigration from a given area are presented. The research findings suggest that the population policies pursued by the present state administration are self-defeating, whereas alternative policies would accomplish the twin goals of limiting the numbers of new residents and keeping most of the local residents in Hawaii. Finally, this research demonstrates that the complex reality of migration can best be understood with a multilevel analysis.
PhD University of Hawaii at Manoa 1979
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 650–663).
Hawaii, United States, internal migration, economic history, Hawaii economic conditions, emigration and immigration, Hawaii population
xxi, 663 leaves : illustrations, maps ; 29 cm
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Geography.
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