Census sees minority rates steadily rising in U.S.

WASHINGTON -- The nation's minority population is steadily rising and now makes up 35 percent of the United States, advancing a trend that could render it the new American majority by midcentury.

Census estimates released Thursday show that minority groups grew by more than 2 percent in 2009 to 107.2 million people, boosted by a surge in Hispanic births and more people who describe themselves as multiracial. During this time, the Anglo population remained flat, making up roughly 199.9 million, or 65 percent, of the country.

In 2000, Anglos made up 69 percent of the population and minorities 31 percent.

Currently four states -- Hawaii, New Mexico, California and Texas -- as well as the District of Columbia have minority populations that exceed 50 percent.

"The data shows the same trend for Texas as we have been seeing for a decade, a rapidly growing Hispanic population. The Texas of today is the U.S. of tomorrow," said Steve Murdock, a Rice University professor who was census director from 2007 to 2008.

By 2042, the census projects that the U.S. population will be less than half Anglo, said Murdock, noting that Texas hit that benchmark in 2003.

"The more dynamic figure is the projection that by 2033 more than half the children in the country will be non-Anglo," Murdock said.

The new estimates documented a widening age and race divide. They are also the last government numbers before completion of the 2010 Census.

Last year, seven U.S. counties 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.

In Tarrant County, which has grown from 1,368,937 people in 2000 to 1,789,900 in July 2009, the percentage of Anglo residents dipped from 62.2 percent to 53.2 percent.

During the same period, the percentage of Hispanics in the county grew from 19.7 percent to 26.7 percent. The percentage of blacks increased from 12.7 percent to 13.8 percent, and the Asian population increased from 5.3 percent to 6.3 percent.

The overall rise in the minority population is due to increases in births, especially among Hispanics, who made up more than half the total population gains last year. There are now roughly nine births for every one death among the Latino population, compared with a roughly 1-to-1 ratio for Anglos.

As a result, even with immigration of Hispanics slowing, minorities make up 49 percent of the children born in the U.S., up 1 percentage point from 2008. Based on current rates, data from the 2010 Census could show a new "tipping point" in which babies born to minorities outnumber babies born to Anglos.

Multiracial Americans, the fastest-growing U.S. demographic group, are also adding to minority gains. About 5.3 million people last year were identified as being of multiple race or ethnicity, up 3.2 percent from 2008.

Hispanics grew by 3.1 percent to 48.4 million and Asians increased 2.5 percent to 13.7 million. They now represent about 15.8 percent and 4.5 percent of the U.S. population, respectively.

Blacks, who make up about 12.3 percent of the population, increased less than 1 percent last year to 37.7 million.