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Whites as majority at 'tipping point'

| Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WASHINGTON -- Minorities make up nearly half the children born in the United States -- part of a historic trend in which minorities are expected to become the nation's majority during the next 40 years.

Demographers say this year could be the "tipping point," when the number of babies born to minorities outnumbers that of babies born to whites.

The numbers are growing because immigration to the United States has boosted the number of Hispanic women in their prime child-bearing years.

Minorities made up 48 percent of U.S. children born in 2008, the latest census estimates available, compared with 37 percent in 1990.

"Census projections suggest America may become a minority-majority country by the middle of the century. For America's children, the future is now," said Kenneth Johnson, a sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire who researched many of the racial trends in a paper being released today.

Whites now make up two-thirds of the total U.S. population, and recent census estimates suggest the number of minorities might not overtake the number of whites until 2050.

Right now, one in 10 of the nation's 3,142 counties already have minority populations greater than 50 percent. But one in four communities have more minority children than white children or are nearing that point, according to the study, which Johnson co-published.

Johnson said there now are more Hispanic women of prime childbearing age who tend to have more children than women of other races.

More white women are waiting until they are older to have children, but it is not yet known whether the trend will have a noticeable effect on the increase of minority newborns.

The numbers highlight the nation's growing racial and age divide, seen in pockets of communities across the U.S., which could heighten tensions in policy debates -- immigration reform, education, health care and Social Security.

There are also strong implications for the 2010 Census, which begins in earnest next week, when more than 120 million U.S. households receive their forms in the mail. The Census Bureau is running public-service announcements this week to improve its tally of young children -- particularly minorities, who most often are missed in the once-a-decade head count.

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