Minority population growing in the United States, census estimates show


Across the nation, the number of minorities continues to rise and the white population continues to decline, according to U.S. census estimates released Thursday.

Minorities now make up about 35% of the population in the United States, an increase of 5% from 2000, reflecting demographic changes seen most powerfully in the Golden State.

“More of the country is going to be like California,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. Minorities make up 57% of the population in California.

Last year, minorities helped the overall U.S. population grow by 2%, boosted by a surge in births and people who identified themselves as multiracial. In 2009, 5.3 million Americans classified themselves as multiracial, up 26% from 3.9 million in 2000.

The figures released Thursday come from estimates based on data collected last year. “As we get closer to the 2010 census, we’re seeing a decade where the white population is aging,” Frey said.

In 42 states, numbers show a loss of non-Hispanic whites under age 45. Nationally, this group declined by 8.4 million.

In contrast, the number of states in which the majority of children under 15 are minorities has increased, with Florida, Maryland, Georgia and Nevada bringing the number of such states to 10.

Much of the nation’s demographic change is seen among children. In California, minorities make up 72% of those under age 15. In 2000, they made up 65%.

Nationally, 46% of children under 15 are minorities, compared with 40% in 2000.

In 2000, the District of Columbia and three states — Hawaii, New Mexico and California — had minority populations which exceeded 50%. In 2009, Texas joined that group.

“That’s just the barometer of things that are likely to come over the next decade,” said Michael Stoll, a professor of public policy at UCLA.

“Much of the future of labor supply, of leadership in the United States is going to come from groups that historically have not received attention,” Stoll said.

Among Latinos, there are nine births for every one death, according to census data. For whites, the ratio is 1-1. “That’s a huge difference,” Stoll said.

There are still 16 states in which the child population is more than 75% white, including Utah, South Dakota, Missouri, West Virginia, Maine and Vermont.

The estimates released Thursday are the last sets to be released before the 2010 census is completed.