Hispanics lead U.S. population growth

One of every seven people in the United States is Hispanic, a record number that probably will keep rising because of immigration and a birth rate outstripping non-Hispanic blacks and whites.

The country’s largest minority group accounted for one-half of the overall population growth of 2.9 million between July 2003 and July 2004, according to a Census Bureau report being released today.

The agency estimated there are 41.3 million Hispanics in the United States. The bureau does not ask people about their legal status; that number is intended to include both legal and other residents.

Most immigrants to the United States tend to arrive in their 20s, when many people have children. A far greater percentage of whites than Hispanics is 65 or older; the opposite is true of those under 18.

The Hispanic growth rate for the 12 months starting July 2003 was 3.6 percent compared with the overall population growth of 1 percent.

The growth rate was 3.4 percent for Asians, 1.7 percent for native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, 1.3 percent for blacks, 1 percent for American Indians and Alaska natives, and 0.8 percent for whites.

That meant that at the beginning of July last year, the population was an estimated 294 million with the following racial and ethnic breakdown: 240 million whites, 39.2 million blacks, 14 million Asians, 4.4 million native Indians and Alaskans, and 980,000 native Hawaiians and other islanders.

The numbers for all races and ethnic groups do not add up to the total because 4.4 million people listed themselves as having more than one race.

The Census Bureau counts “Hispanic” or “Latino” as an ethnicity rather than a race, so Hispanics can be of any race. The population of non-Hispanic whites indicating no other race increased just 0.3 percent in the past year, to 197.8 million.