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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 20:13 GMT 21:13 UK
US sees ethnic minority baby boom
Child at immigration rally
Immigrants have staged a series of mass protests in recent weeks
Nearly half of American children aged under five are from an ethnic minority, according to a new report from the US Census Bureau.

The latest figures show 45% of US pre-schoolers are non-white, with the Latino population growing the fastest.

Of the overall US population, one-third are now from an ethnic minority.

The report comes amid a series of huge immigrant demonstrations protesting against tough anti-immigration measures being considered by the US government.

Immigrant increase

In 2005 the minority population was 98 million, 33% of the 296.4 million people in the US, the census agency said.

These mid-decade numbers provide further evidence of the increasing diversity of our nation's population
Louis Kincannon
US Census Bureau director
Latinos are the largest minority, now numbering 42.7 million, and the fastest growing, with a population increase rate of 3.3%, the figures show.

Of the 1.3 million more Latinos than when the figures were last gathered 500,000 were immigrants, the bureau said.

Numbering 39.7 million, blacks form the second-largest minority, with a growth rate of 1.3%.

The Asian population of 14.4 million grew by 3%, an increase also driven by immigration, with 239,000 of the 421,000 new members having arrived from abroad.

American Indians and Alaska natives number 4.5 million and grew by 1%. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific islanders total 990,000, with a 1.5% growth rate.

Congress debate

With almost 67% of the overall population, non-Latino whites are still the largest group, but they have an older average age and much lower growth rate, increasing by just 500,000 in the period measured.

"These mid-decade numbers provide further evidence of the increasing diversity of our nation's population," Census Bureau director Louis Kincannon said.

Immigration, especially illegal immigration, has become a hot issue in recent weeks as Congress mulls a bill passed in the House of Representatives last year that includes provisions to criminalise illegal immigrants and bolster border security.

A bipartisan Senate bill, currently stalled, would provide illegal immigrants a path toward citizenship and a guest-worker programme long favoured by President George W Bush.

But there is some way to go before the competing bills are reconciled and a compromise reached. A number of US politicians say illegal migrants should be sent home.

On 1 May more than a million US immigrants boycotted work or school and avoided spending money as a way of showing their worth to the economy.

About 11.5m illegal immigrants live in the US, many of them of Latino origin.

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