Growth of Hispanic, Asian Population Slows Unexpectedly, Census Reports

By Hope Yen
Associated Press
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Deterred by immigration laws and the lackluster economy, the population growth of Hispanics and Asians in the United States has slowed unexpectedly, causing the government to push back estimates on when minorities will become the majority by as much as a decade.

Census data being released today also showed that fewer Hispanics are migrating to suburbs and newly emerging immigrant areas in the Southeast, including Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia. Instead, Hispanics are staying in traditional gateway locations such as California.

The nation's overall minority population continues to rise steadily, increasing 2.3 percent in 2008 to 104.6 million, or 34 percent of the total population. But the slowdown among Hispanics and Asians continues to shift conventional notions on when the tipping point in U.S. diversity will come -- estimated to occur more than three decades from now.

Thirty-six states had lower Hispanic growth in 2008 compared with the year before. The declines were in places where the housing bubble burst, such as Nevada and Arizona, which lost construction jobs that tend to attract immigrants.

Other decreases in the Hispanic growth rate occurred in new immigrant destinations in the Southeast, previously seen as offering good manufacturing jobs in lower-cost cities compared with the pricier Northeast. In contrast, cities in California, Illinois and New Jersey showed increased growth rates.

The Census Bureau projected last August that white children will become the minority in 2023 and the overall white population will follow in 2042. It now says it will recalculate those figures, typically updated every three to four years, because they do not fully take into account the economic crisis as well as anti-immigration policies instituted after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

The new projections, expected to be released later this year, could delay the tipping point for minorities by 10 years, given the current low rates of immigration, David Waddington, the Census Bureau's chief of projections, said in a telephone interview.

According to the latest data, the growth of the Hispanic population slowed from 4 percent in 2001 to 3.2 percent last year. The slowdown in population growth would have been greater if not for their high fertility -- nearly 10 births for every death.

Asian population growth also slowed, from 3.7 percent in 2001 to about 2.5 percent. Hispanics and Asians still are the two fastest-growing minority groups, making up about 15 percent and 4.4 percent of the U.S. population, respectively.

Blacks, who make up about 12.2 percent of the population, have increased at a rate of about 1 percent each year. Whites, with a median age of 41, have increased very little in recent years because of low birth rates and an aging boomer population.

Minority populations became the majority in six U.S. counties, including Orange County, Fla., the nation's 35th most-populous county and home to Orlando. Webster County in Georgia was majority-minority in 2007 but reverted to white majority in 2008.

In all, about 309 of the nation's 3,142 counties, or one in 10, have minority populations greater than 50 percent. Other counties that became majority-minority in 2008 were Stanislaus in California, Finney in Kansas, Warren in Mississippi, and Edwards and Schleicher in Texas.

The 2008 census estimates used local records of births and deaths, tax records of people moving within the United States, and census statistics on immigrants.

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