U.S. Census: Minority babies now majority, surpassing whites for first time

For the first time in history, there were more minority children born in the United States than white, according to 2011 census data released on Thursday.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 50.4 percent of children born in a 12-month period that ended July 2011 were Hispanic, black, Asian-American or from other minorities groups, while non-Hispanic whites accounted for 49.6 percent of all births in that span. In 2010, minority babies accounted for 49.5 percent of all births.

Overall, minorities in the U.S. increased 1.9 percent to 114 million, or 36.6 percent of the total U.S. population. But with the weak economy resulting in fewer Hispanics entering the U.S., demographers project that the tipping point when minorities become the majority in America may not happen as early as some predicted. After the 2010 census, experts suggested it could happen by 2040.

The census report signals "the dawn of an era in which whites no longer will be in the majority," the Washington Post said.

"Such a turn has been long expected," the New York Times noted, "but no one was certain when the moment would arrive--signaling a milestone for a nation whose government was founded by white Europeans and has wrestled mightily with issues of race, from the days of slavery, through a civil war, bitter civil rights battles and, most recently, highly charged debates over efforts to restrict immigration."
"The 2008 election of Barack Obama as America's first black president was in some ways emblematic of the nation's changing face," the Wall Street Journal said. "But as the population evolves toward a more-varied mix that includes fast-growing Asian and Hispanic populations, the black/white divide that characterized the civil-rights movement has itself become a relic."

And, as the Associated Press pointed out, the census report comes as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the legality of Arizona's strict immigration law, with many other states weighing similar get-tough measures.