Monday, June 14, 2004

The Hispanic and Asian populations in the United States each are growing nearly four times faster than the American population as a whole, the Census Bureau reported yesterday.

The bureau said the number of Hispanics in the country has increased 13 percent and Asians have increased 12.5 percent since the 2000 census. The total population growth rate in that period was 3.3 percent.

As of July 1, 2003, there were 39.9 million Hispanics in the United States, up from 35.6 million in April 2000.

This made Hispanics the largest minority population in the country. Blacks were second with 38.7 million. While the Hispanic population increased 13 percent during the 39-month period examined, the number of blacks rose 4.4 percent

Hispanics accounted for about half of the 9.4 million residents added to the U.S. population since the previous census, according to the report.

National attention has focused on the swelling ranks of Hispanics on the population rolls, as border states have spent unprecedented amounts for the education and health care of illegal immigrants. However, the swift growth of the numbers of Asians in the country is less well recognized.

The number of Americans with Asian origins totaled 13.5 million as of mid-2003. That was up from 12 million in April 2000, according to J. Gregory Robinson, a demographic statistician for the Census Bureau who helped prepare the study.

One reason Asians may have been comparatively overlooked in the debate over immigration is that so many of them are working-age adults, 18 to 64 years old. As of last summer, 66 percent of Asians were in this age group, the highest proportion of any race or ethnic group, the Census Bureau said.

Hispanics had the largest proportion of preschoolers (children under 5). The bureau said 10.4 percent of Hispanics were preschool age, compared with 5.7 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

The study showed that 17.1 percent of Hispanics were ages 5 to 13, compared with 11.1 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

Those numbers “are a byproduct of the high rate of illegal immigration and the failure of state and local governments to enforce immigration laws,” said Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which opposes illegal immigration and supports restrictions on legal immigration. “The number of illegals coming into public schools in this country is skyrocketing, and schools are struggling under the burden.”

Asked why few complaints are heard about the increase in the numbers of Asians, Mr. Stein said: “The baseline is so much lower to begin with. And Asians, as a group, are quite varied and diverse. Many have financial and geographic mobility that contrasts with the incredible poverty rates of many Hispanics.”

Non-Hispanic whites remain the largest racial/ethnic population in the country. In July 2003, their numbers totaled 237.7 million. However, since the 2000 census, their growth rate increased 2.8 percent, below the national average.

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