Hispanics will overtake blacks in the year 2013 as the largest U.S. minority group, according to government projections being released today.
The United States will become far more ethnically diverse in the 21st Century as white population growth slows, Latin American and Asian immigration remains high, and the younger minority population has more children than whites, the Census Bureau predicted.
The new projections offer this portrait of the United States in the year 2050: a population of 383 million that is 53 percent white (excluding Hispanics), 21 percent Hispanic, 15 percent black, 10 percent Asian-American and 1 percent American Indian, Eskimo and Aleut.
"We're becoming a very diverse society, a very changing population, much more dramatically than people realize," said TC Jennifer Day, author of the report.
The "very conservative" projections "take present trends and project them to the future," Ms. Day said.
But the projections may overstate the growth of ethnic minorities because they do not factor in intermarriage.
For example, if Hispanics become assimilated into U.S. society as other ethnic groups have, their numbers might not grow as projected.
"People choose how to identify their race or Hispanic origin" when being counted in the census, Ms. Day said. "When you have intermarriage, it's a question of what do you call yourself."
Today's population of about 255 million (4.86 million in Maryland) expected to grow about 1 percent a year in the 1990s and slightly less than that during the first half of the 21st Century.
No state-by-state projections were available. But preliminary state figures show Maryland's population increasing to 5.3 million in 2000 and 6.1 million by 2020.
The Census Bureau projections also show a gradually aging population. The median age of U.S. residents -- the point at which half the population is younger, half older -- is expected to increase steadily from 33.4 years now to 39.4 years in 2040.
The 1990s will feature the graying of the post-World War II "baby boom" (those born from 1946 through 1964). More Americans will enter the middle-aged, 45-54 age group than any other stage of life. Nearly one-third of Americans today are baby boomers, Ms. Day says.
Similarly, the number of elderly Americans is projected to soar from 40 million in 2010 to 70 million in 2030 -- fully one-fifth of the population -- as baby boomers reach old age.
School-age populations, which stalled in the 1980s, will increase again in the 1990s and beyond as the baby boomers' children grow up. For example, the number of children between 5 and 13 will jump by 4 million in the 1990s. That age group grew by only a million in the 1980s.
The 18-to-21 age group -- the main group entering college, the work force and the military -- will begin to grow again in 1995, the report says. By 2010, the number of Americans in that age group will have surpassed the 1980 peak of 17.4 million.
But the most dramatic change in the population is expected to be its ethnic makeup, the so-called "browning of America."
Non-Hispanic whites will account for only 30 percent of U.S. population growth from now through the year 2000 and even less in the 21st Century. The white population is expected to decline in size after 2030 as large numbers of baby boomers begin to die.
The black population, now 32 million, will nearly double by 2050, according to the projections. But the black share of the total population will increase only gradually.
Hispanics and Asians are projected to show the most rapid growth.
The number of Hispanics, now 24 million, is expected to double by 2020 and to reach 81 million by the middle of the 21st Century. After 1995, the Hispanic population is projected to add more people to the nation every year than any other group.
In 2013, when Hispanics are projected to displace blacks as the largest minority group, they will number 42 million out of a national population of about 300 million, the report says.
Asians, who now number 8 million, are expected to be the fastest-growing ethnic group in percentage terms. The Asian population is projected to double by 2009 and to quintuple by 2050, to 41 million.