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Minority births top 50% in U.S., a first

The United States has reached a historic tipping point, with Latino, Asian, mixed-race and African-American births constituting a majority of births for the first time, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.

Minorities made up about 2 million, or 50.4 percent, of the births in the 12-month period ending July 2011, enough to create the milestone. The latest figure was up from 49.5 percent in the 2010 census.

The racial and ethnic shift was an expected, but still important, turning point for the nation, whose economic and political elites remain essentially white and primarily male. The new numbers indicate that the upcoming generations will be more diverse and could have an increasingly broader view of issues, such as immigration reform, that are based on race and ethnicity. There will also be cultural changes, as there have been in recent years, with foods, music and ideas from Latino cultures, for example, spreading into the mainstream.

The new numbers also raise interesting questions about, and challenges for, the upcoming generations who will have to deal with non-race-based issues such as the federal budget deficit and the social services needed for an aging population.

The Census Bureau numbers show a continuing graying of America, as the nation's median age rose slightly because of growth in the older-than-65 population, especially in the subset of those older than 85.

With the overall number of children younger than 18 declining and Americans living longer, fewer people will have to fund more benefits -- or find some other political solutions. Race and ethnicity could also play a role in the generational divide since the older group will be largely white.

According to the latest Census Bureau data, there were 114 million minorities in 2011, or 36.6 percent of the U.S. population. In 2010, it stood at 36.1 percent.

Four states plus the District of Columbia were considered "majority-minority" in 2011 -- those with a population greater than 50 percent black, Latino, Asian or mixed race. They were: Hawaii, 77.1 percent; the District of Columbia, 64.7 percent; California, 60.3 percent; New Mexico, 59.8 percent; and Texas, 55.2 percent. No other state had a minority population greater than 46.4 percent.

The most populous group in the nation remained Latinos at 52 million in 2011; it also remained the fastest-growing group. Latinos were 16.7 percent of the U.S. population in 2011, up from 16.3 percent in 2010.

African-Americans were the second-largest minority group in the United States, at 43.9 million in 2011, up 1.6 percent from 2010. New York had the largest African-American population at 3.7 million.

Asians, who numbered 18.2 million nationally in 2011, were the second fastest-growing minority group, up by 3 percent since 2010.