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.
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–one in 10–have minority populations of 50 percent or greater. That’s up from around 250 counties in 2000.
The Census estimates released Thursday 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 kids 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 U.S. 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.
Multiracial Americans, the fastest growing U.S. demographic group, are also adding to minority gains. About 5.3 million last year were identified as being of multiple race or ethnicity, up 3.2 percent from the previous year.
Among racial and ethnic groups, 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.