American whites 'will be minority by 2042'

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White people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2042, according to new US government projections. That's eight years sooner than previous estimates, made in 2004.

The United States has been growing more diverse for decades, but the process has sped up through immigration and higher birth rates among minority residents, especially Hispanics.

It is also growing older.

"The white population is older and very much centered around the aging baby boomers who are well past their high fertility years," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

"The future of America is epitomised by the young people today. They are basically the melting pot we are going to see in the future."

The Census Bureau released population projections until 2050, based on rates for births, deaths and immigration.

They are subject to big revisions, depending on immigration policy, cultural changes and natural or manmade disasters.

The US has nearly 305 million people today. The population is projected to hit 400 million in 2039 and 439 million in 2050.

White non-Hispanics make up about two-thirds of the population, but only 55 per cent of those younger than 5.

By 2050, whites will make up 46 per cent of the population and blacks will make up 15 per cent, a relatively small increase from today. Hispanics, who make up about 15 per cent of the population today, will account for 30 per cent in 2050, according to the new projections.

Asians, which make up about 5 per cent of the population, are projected to increase to 9 per cent by 2050.

The population 85 and older is projected to more than triple by 2050, to 19 million.