Some Comparisons of Honolulu with Other Cities

The objective in this presentation is to compare Honolulu with large cities on the US mainland, to get notion of how the city fits into the scheme of things. The source of the data for these comparisons is the Statistical Abstract of the United States 1998.


Honolulu ranked 11th in population among US cities in 1994, 12th in 2007. That puts us well behind NYC, LA, Chicago, and Houston, but just behind Detroit and just ahead of San Jose in rank. But then it depends on how you count... Using Metropolitan Statistical Areas rather "cities", Honolulu is 53rd, counting the whole of Oahu.

Changes in the US Census CDP reporting units make making sense of data through time all the harder. Up through 2000 census, Honolulu CDP included leeward Oahu from Moanalua, across downtown, and out to Hawaii Kai. For the 2010 Census, that was split into two CDPs the "Urban Honolulu CDP" (2010 census count 337,256 people), and the "East Honolulu CDP" (49,914 people), divided along Waialae Nui Gulch / stream. Among incorporated cities, the rank (if the Urban Honolulu CDP were an incorporated place) would be about 52nd (just about 1,000 more than Anaheim CA or Tampa FL, and about 10,000 smaller than Bakersfield, CA).

We can use census data to compare ethnic diversity of the populations. Consider Table 23 in the 2010 US Statistical Abstract which lists counts and percents of population for MSAs in the census's white / black / native-american-alaskan / asian/ hawaiian-pacific-islander and two-or-more categories (and yes that is a problematic framework). Honolulu is the least white (20.8%), almost least black (2.0%), midling on native american or alaskan, most asian (43.9%, only six other MSAs break into double digits) and most hawaiian or pacific islander (9.5%, no other places break 1%). Perhaps more interesting is the proportion of people who claim two or more races: 22.3% --- next highest is 7.6% and most are below 4%. Racially, this is a very atypicla US city.

City Government Employment and Payroll (Table No. 536 in 1995, and No. 467 in 2010)

Honolulu, in 1995 and in 2009, had about 10,000 government employees. That may seem like a lot, but it ranks (1995 and 2009) 24th in absolute size of city government emplyment and (1995) 53rd in size per 10,000 population. Our 112 employees per 10,000 population is lower than top ranked NYC's 545, San Francisco's 341, or Baltimore's 381. It is about the same as Fort Worth, TX, Charlotte, NC, Oklahoma City, OK and Tulsa, OK.

The average full time government employee in Honolulu earned $4,937/mo. in 2009 (ranked 39th). Compared with NYC paying $5,535/mo Santa Clara CA $8,101 (highest), and Albuequeque NM at $3,612 (lowest among the seventy-six largest cities). Cities with 2009 pay similar to Honolulu's include Colorado Springs CO, Arlington TX, Anchorage AK, and Plano TX.

City Finances

Table 524 reports figures for city finance for 1995, which was an economically lagging year in Honolulu, but a booming year on the mainland. City revenues for 1995 were about $1,114,000,000 (21st ranked) or about $2,189 (22nd) per capita. Our per capita taxes of about $605 ranked 13th, well below NYC at $2,413 and Washington DC at $4,397, almost tied with Detroit's $609, and yes, higher than the $261 in Austin, TX. In terms of expenditure per capita, Honolulu ranks 17th ($1,177), well behind Washington DC ($8,086) or NYC ($5,241), and more like LA's $1,252 or Milwaukee's $1,168. When we look at outstanding city debt per capita, Honolulu ranks 21st with only $1,819. This about ties us with Baltimore, MD, and leaves us well behind NYC's $5,834 or Washington DC's $7,297 per capita outstanding debt.

The picture that this seems to paint is one of fairly conservative fiscal policies.


Table 338, using 1996 data, indicates that our "total crime index" of 6,840 per 100,000 population ranks about 51st among the 76 largest cities in the US. That is lower than Atlanta, GA's 17,070, St. Louis MO's 15,128, Tampa FL's 14,549. But it is higher than New York City's 5,212, Los Vegas' 4,129, and Santa Ana, CA's 4,479.

When you break it out by kinds of crime, Honolulu ranks 76th in "total violent crime" (313 per 100,000) and also for "murder" (3.1 per 100,000). Washington, DC has 73.1 murders per 100,000, and NYC has 13.4. We make up for it with a rank of about 35th in "total property crime".


Statistical Abstract of the United States 1998.
(Tables 338, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 520, 524, and 536 are included in the class reader)

Statistical Abstract of the United States 2010.

Copyright 2000 Matthew McGranaghan