Hispanics overtake African Americans as largest minority group in US

 

US: Hispanics  have overtaken African Americans as the largest minority group in the US, according to statistics released by the US Census Bureau.

The population originating in Latin American rose 4.7 per cent to 37 million in July 2001, compared to the black population which increased 2 per cent, to 36 million. A year earlier there were 35.3 million Hispanics in the US, compared to 35.7 million African Americans. Demographers attributed the steep rise in Hispanic numbers to a higher birth rate and a steady flow of immigrants from Latin America. Two-thirds of Latinos are Mexican in origin, and a quarter are non-citizens.

"It is a turning point in the nation's history, a symbolic benchmark of some significance," said Mr Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington-based research and policy analysis organisation.

"If you consider how much of this nation's history is wrapped up in the interplay between black and white, this serves as an official announcement that we as Americans cannot think of race in that way any more."

More than 50 per cent of the Latino population remains concentrated in Texas, California and New York. The speed of population shift, which took Census Bureau officials by surprise, was partly due to greater co-operation between the Census Bureau and Latino organisations in counting undocumented migrants.

The rate of Latino immigration remains high, with would-be migrants taking severe risks to cross the border from Mexico. Some 22 people died since October trying to illegally cross the Mexican border, according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It said that 320 people perished on the border in the 12 months up to October.

The overall US population rose 3.4 per cent, to 284.8 million, the bureau stated. The white population is still predominant at 196.2 million (excluding "white" Hispanics), a rise of some 2 per cent.

There are now 11 million Asians in the US, compared to 10.6 million a year earlier. The Native American population, including those in Alaska, rose 1.5 per cent, to 4.3 million.

The demographic shifts are not expected to have major political implications. However, both major political parties are expected to increase their outreach to the Latino community with more Spanish-language commercials. Last year, the two top Democratic candidates for governor of Texas debated in Spanish.