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Minority population growing, census says

Young Hispanic parents driving surge in numbers

By Hope Yen
Associated Press / June 11, 2010

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WASHINGTON — The nation’s minority population is steadily rising and now makes up 35 percent of the United States, advancing an unmistakable trend that could make minorities the new American majority by midcentury.

As white baby boomers age past their childbearing years, younger Hispanic parents are having children — and driving US population growth.

“The aging of baby boomers beyond young middle age will have profound impacts on our labor force, housing market, schools, and generational divisions on issues such as Social Security and Medicare,’’ said William H. Frey, a demographer at The Brookings Institution. “The engine of growth for the younger population in most states will be new minorities.’’

New Census estimates show minorities added more than 2 percent in 2009, to 107.2 million people, boosted by a surge in Hispanic births and more people who described themselves as multiracial. During this time, the white population remained flat, making up roughly 199.9 million, or 65 percent, of the country.

By comparison, whites made up 69 percent of the total population in 2000, and minorities 31 percent.

Currently four states — Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and Texas — as well as the District of Columbia have minority populations that exceeded 50 percent. That’s one state more than in 2000, when Texas was not on the list.

About 311 of the 3,143 counties — 1 in 10 — have minority populations of 50 percent or greater. That’s up from around 250 counties in 2000.

The census estimates released yesterday documented a widening age and race divide. They are the last government numbers before completion later this year of the 2010 Census, which could change the balance of political power when legislative districts are redrawn based on population and racial diversity.

A key factor in the demographic transformation is aging baby boomers, a predominantly white group now shepherding college children instead of starting young families.

Since 2000, the number of whites under age 45 decreased by 8.4 million, while the number of whites over that age rose by 12.6 million.

The result is that the number of white younger adults and children fell in 42 states. Fifteen states — led by California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan — have lost more than 10 percent of their younger white population since 2000.

Locally, the changing race dynamics were widespread.

Seven US counties last year saw their minority populations become the majority: Gwinnett County, Ga.; Titus and Victoria counties in Texas; Finney County, Kan.; Saguache County, Colo.; Contra Costa County, Calif.; and Yakima County, Wash.

The rise in the minority population is due to recent sharp increases in minority births, especially among Hispanics, who accounted for more than half of the total US population gains last year.

There are now roughly 9 births for every 1 death among Latinos, compared with a roughly 1-to-1 ratio for whites.

Based on current rates, data from the 2010 Census could show a new “tipping point’’ in which babies born to minorities outnumber that of babies born to whites.

About 1 in 4 counties now have more minority children than white children or are nearing that point.

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