A Demographic & Geographic Profile Of The Commonwealth Of The Northern Mariana Islands Population
The Commonwealth's total population in 1995 was 58,846, (Saipan – 52,698 ; Tinian – 2,631; Rota – 3,509; Northern Islands – 8). The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands ranks fifty third (53 rd ) among the fifty four (54) states and territories (1) in its 1995 per capita income level of $6,984. This is a decline from the $7,199 per capita income recorded in the CNMI's 1990 census of population and lower than that of the Virgin Islands ($11,052 -'94); Guam ($7,116 – '94) and exceeds Puerto Rico's per capita income of $6,360 ('94) by only $624. The United States poverty level in 1989 (2) for a family of 4 was $14,763 at which time 13 percent of the U. S. population was below the official U. S. government determination of the poverty level.
By contrast In the CNMI in 1990, 28.3 percent of the owner occupied housing units and 43.4 percent of renter occupied units were below the poverty level. Five thousand three hundred twelve, (5,312) families or 32.1 percent of all families were below the poverty level. In 1995 the unemployment rate was 7.1 percent. In 1989, (the most recent data available resulting from the 1990 census) of the 6,873 households at that time, 2,550 or 37.1 percent had total incomes of $14,999 or less. In terms of the 5,312 individual families, 1,869 or 35.2 percent had incomes of $14,999 per year or less.(3) While not all data collected in the 1995 census are available at this time, the census revealed 10,854 "family" and "non-family" households on Saipan, 522 on Tinian and 690 on Rota for a total of 12,066. Cost Of Living: In terms of living costs the economy of the Commonwealth, particularly Saipan, has undergone marked change in recent years as prices have increased across the board and in many instances are a reflection more of those in Japan than the United States. The CNMI has become a very expensive place to live and it is expected to become increasingly more so in the decade of the 90's. Local people who already possess land and a home can escape the payment of high rents, but all are subject to high food and utility costs. New residents of the Commonwealth are sometimes surprised at the higher prices for some items, particularly food. The cost of living in the Commonwealth has been said to be from 25 to 30 percent higher than on the United States mainland and possibly higher. The higher prices observed by those moving from the United States mainland not only result from exorbitant shipping costs but also because distributors cannot take advantage of economies of scale with the result that the small CNMI market translates into smaller volumes in shipping, warehousing and distribution. There is little flexibility in the disposal of excess inventories which means that discount retailing, factory outlets, etc., are not usually found in the islands. Competition, which elsewhere might tend to drive prices close to production and distribution costs, is limited in the Commonwealth. Other reasons for such high prices are related to greater costs for doing business which can be considerably higher than on the mainland. Commercial building costs, whether leased or constructed, are higher and most require air conditioning with the result that there are expensive electricity charges associated with businesses. Premiums for typhoon insurance are expensive and, in the case of perishable items such as certain foods, higher rates of spoilage can be expected all of which add to the cost of doing business which are ultimately passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices. The Japanese have also influenced prices in the Commonwealth as the Japanese traveler has become increasingly affluent. High prices for quality goods and services are expected by the Japanese visitor with the result that local businesses accommodate this expectation to the fullest extent. Obviously this is to the detriment of local residents as it results in higher prices for the non tourist as well. Natural Disasters: Tropical storms, fires, floods, droughts, earthquakes, volcanic eruption and tsunami can happen at any time within a particular season of the year. Except for earthquakes, tsunami and volcanism – which have not recently affected Saipan, Tinian and Rota – by far the most frequent threat is from typhoons. All agencies of the CNMI government have contingency plans to implement during a disaster and are particularly adept at mitigating loss of life during these storms. Location: The Mariana Islands and the Philippines are the only western oriented societies situated in the eastern hemisphere.
The islands are about as far west of the United States as Tokyo or Melbourne and about the same distance north of the equator as Mexico City or Manila. The Marianas archipelago is closer to Moscow than Washington, D. C. At 7,000 miles, the area is the most distant member of the American political family and the United States Capitol. The Mariana Islands are 9 time zones west of Washington D.C.; 6 zones west of San Francisco and 4 zones west of Honolulu. At no time do normal working hours on the United States east coast coincide with those of the Northern Marianas, indeed, because of geography and the International Date Line communication with the United States can only occur during four business days of the week. Saipan is located at 15 degrees 15 minutes North Latitude, 145 degrees – 45 minutes East Longitude,120 miles north of Guam. To provide some appreciation of the size of the Pacific the flying time between Guam or Saipan and Honolulu is about seven hours. This portion of the Pacific alone is about equal in distance to the Atlantic Ocean between the United States east coast and Europe. (1) Source: 1994 data for the fifty states from the 1996 edition of: "World Almanac." CNMI per capita income from the 1995 Census of Population. (2) Ibid em: "World Almanac" 1989 data was collected in the 1990 census. (3) In the census a distinction is made between "households" and "families." A family consists of all related members while a household contains one or more unrelated persons. A census is usually conducted at midyear, thus the income question is posed to cover a full year, namely, the year prior to the year in which the census is conducted.