A Most Buddhist State

Today, Hawaiʻi celebrates 50 years of statehood. Lawrence Downes writes in the New York Times:

Hawaii has given a lot to the Union. It got its own native-son president in January. Only 21 states are in that club. The guy who really invented baseball is buried in Honolulu. And if you could go to any of the 50 states right now, which would it be?

That list could be much, much longer, but the item I’d like to add is that Hawaiʻi is also the most Buddhist state! To be precise, Buddhists make up a greater proportion of the Aloha State than any other in the Union (in contrast, my home state has the largest number of Buddhists). In the United States, Buddhism is strongest in the West—its frontier is in the East.

Reassessing Buddhists in Hawai’i

Thanks to helpful comments over at Dharma Folk, I was alerted to two issues that I overlooked. I’ve since changed my number yet again. The new adjusted figure is still 1.9 million Asian American Buddhists (current estimate: 1.862m; previously: 1.902m) out of 3.3 million Buddhists nationally.

First, I’ve been using the word “count” interchangeably with “sample”, and this practice is misleading. The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey wasn’t a census. A sample of the American demographic was taken and then weighted according to national parameters using a type of regression. Proper samples often get a pretty good look at demographics, but sometimes the sample is skewed in favor of one demographic over another, as is the case with the Pew’s Survey. My goal has been to adjust the Pew numbers to compensate for this skewedness. When I said “undercounted” what I meant to say was “the underestimated population of a certain demographic.”

Second, in at least one of my adjustments, I made an assumption I’d like to take back. I assumed that the underestimated number of Buddhists in Hawai‘i (106,021) were all Asian American. I’d like to be a little more conservative and assume that this underestimated number be proportioned according to Hawai‘is racial/ethnic makeup, leaving 61,693 in the Asian American box (that includes multiethnic individuals). The end result doesn’t change much, but I hope it’s some comfort to know that I made the effort to take these issues into account.

All feedback is great. Thanks Marcus and Rev. Danny Fisher!