WASHINGTON—Hispanics accounted for nearly half the nation’s population increase between 2000 and 2004, the Census Bureau is reporting today, another indication of how quickly the United States’ growth is becoming dependent on racial and ethnic minorities.
The Hispanic population grew nearly 17 percent to 41.3 million during the four-year period, according to the census estimates, while the number of non-Hispanic whites grew barely 1 percent.
The census numbers, however, demonstrate that far more than immigration is now at work. Over the last four years, the natural increase in the Hispanic population (births minus deaths) accounted for more growth (3.3 million people) than did legal and illegal immigration (2.7 million).
By contrast, the natural increase of the non-Hispanic white population was 1.3 million, the Census Bureau said.
“There are now two powerful engines working to increase the Hispanic population,” said Ken Johnson, a demographer at Chicago’s Loyola University. “Everybody knows about immigration. But the big story now is that it’s homegrown births that have taken the lead.”
The new study underscores how quickly Latinos and other racial minorities have become the new lifeblood of the nation. In the 1990s, demographers were shocked to find that Latinos accounted for 40.6 percent of the nation’s growth, much higher than most predicted. Yet in the first four years of this decade, the Hispanic portion of overall growth has soared to 49.2 percent.
“We have an older white population fading into the sunset, being replaced by a diverse global population that represents the future of America,” said William Frey, a demographer at Washington’s Brookings Institution.
Growth among Asians between July 2000 and July 2004 matched the Hispanics’ 17 percent increase, while the number of African Americans was up 5.2 percent. (Hispanics are included in both groups.)
The Census Bureau report lays bare the extent to which the United States’ population growth is no longer driven by white America.
Non-Hispanic whites, who make up about two-thirds of the population, accounted for less than 20 percent of the growth since July 2000.
Before the midpoint of this century, according to Census Bureau projections, the non-Hispanic white majority will quit growing completely.