Wealth by Association? How Social Networks Drive Inequality in Hawaii

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Studies show that economic connectedness, a poor individual’s share of wealthy friends, significantly impacts economic mobility. Hawaii ranks highly in this metric compared to other states, but disparities exist in local schools. Private high schools have much higher economic connectedness than public schools, driven mainly by students’ exposure to wealthy peers. To improve connectedness, policymakers should consider strategies such as housing voucher programs, which have been shown to improve mobility for low-income families, paired with evidence showing that reducing regulatory constraints on homebuilding can improve housing affordability. Implementing such strategies could create a more opportunity-rich future for Hawaii’s low-income residents.

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4 thoughts on “Wealth by Association? How Social Networks Drive Inequality in Hawaii”

  1. I think giving all students greater access to the best education is a great goal. However, I think this would be very complex to implement. At what age would a student be eligible? If eligibility starts later, rather than at the earliest start date (i.e. pre-K – K) then the child will start off at a disadvantage and may suffer from alienation. This could make things worse. If a system is developed to start at early (pre-Kt) age, then I believe this can help (some). However, we know that there really is no “middle-class” anymore. My husband are middle-class professionals, I have a BA from UH. Because of this, my kids were ineligible for accelerator programs open only to kids who received public assistance. These were excellent programs and truly helped students whose parents did not have degrees. The only problem is, so many of the kids who go through these programs DO NOT go on to complete college. I have witnessed this over and over again. I my view, this was due to their parents not pushing them through with the understanding and support their kids needed to persevere. Until the State of Hawaii invests in competitive wages for good teachers, improves school infrastructure and takes college prep seriously – vouchers will be another wedge in economic equality.

  2. Please also research wealth based on who uses public transportation. I know when I was in college and rented, waiting for and catching the bus plus walking to my apartment from the bus stop took longer than the time I had to spare. I eventually purchased a used car so that I could get home faster, study longer and then take other part time jobs (as well as, obtain a real estate license which eventually allowed me to make more income).

    I believe the goal of having only 1 parking space per lot or 2 to a few spaces per apartment building is unwise as it pretty much limits the mobility of the occupant(s). Please note that we have a large section of individuals involved in construction where people carry tools and materials. Our island culture encourages extracurricular and social activities (ocean, park, athletic, classes, social gatherings). Not everyone can ride a bike. Taking into consideration our lifestyle and the necessity to have more than one job or income source, please provide more options.
    Otherwise, the state or city will have to continue offering subsidies to the growing lower economic demographic class, tax the wealthier, and possibly experience more of our workforce leaving the islands to live in a less expensive place.

    We should consider creating higher paying jobs, attracting diverse industries to accomodate the different cultural backgrounds and talents, as well as, nurturing an entrepreneurial culture so that our community have at least hope that they can improve their financial situation.

  3. Education with students and teachers from diverse backgrounds is good.
    We need to hear the disadvantages or points of controversy re a voucher system.

    I understand that All voucher proposals reduce funding to neighborhood schools, meaning fewer textbooks, fewer teachers per student and more overcrowded classrooms. At the same time, these programs cost taxpayers millions of dollars and increase bureaucratic and administrative costs.

    Perhaps we need to teach financial and wealth building concepts in the public schools. We can also introduce students to trades that are financially rewarding.

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