U.S. Census Estimates Slower Population Growth, Hispanic Gains

The U.S. population grew at a slower pace overall in the past decade while the Hispanic birth rate surged, according to government data that offered estimates of what the decennial census is likely to show.

The Census Bureau yesterday put the U.S. population at 305.7 million to 312.7 million, compared with 281.4 million in 2000. The figures are based on an analysis of data available before the beginning of the census in April.

The projections mark the start of a stream of data released over the coming year that will provide a new snapshot of America and its residents, from gender and race to age and incomes. The final census count will affect the allocation of about $4 trillion in federal funds during the next 10 years and determine which states will gain or lose seats in Congress.

“A decline in immigration, an aging population and a reduction in childbearing” account for the slowdown in growth, said Jane De Lung, president of the Population Resource Center, a Princeton, New Jersey-based research organization. “But that can turn on a dime as soon as the economy picks up. If the economy rebounds, people will have the children they’ve sort of put off.”

Yesterday’s projections, based on the high estimate of 312.7 million, mean that the U.S. population grew 11.1 percent in the last decade, compared with the 13.1 percent pace in the previous 10 years. The U.S. population was 248.7 million in 1990, according to the Census Bureau.

The official 2010 figures will be released before Jan. 1 as required by law.

‘Honest Presentations’

“The 2010 Census provides the official population count, but demographic analysis provides an honest presentation of alternative estimates,” Robert Groves, director of the Census Bureau, said in a statement. These figures “make plausible assumptions,” he told reporters at a media briefing in Washington.

Yesterday’s report offered population estimates for categories such as gender, race and age. The analysis shows the number of males in the U.S. is as low as 151.9 million or as high as 155.5 million. For women, the range is from 153.7 million to 157.2 million.

Earlier surveys found that America is aging and become more diverse, according to a 2009 Census Bureau analysis. Some census watchers caution that the official count still may not capture groups that are hard to measure, particularly foreign-born workers.

Undocumented Immigration

“There’s so much uncertainty about the size of undocumented immigration,” said Terri Ann Lowenthal, a consultant with the Census Project, a Washington-based coalition of academics, advocacy groups and research organizations.

A decade ago, the demographic analysis by the Census Bureau was lower than its official 2000 count, 279.6 million compared with the final tally of 281.4 million, according to the Pew Research Center in Washington.

Hispanic birth rates climbed 27 percent from 1990 through 2010, according to a Bloomberg analysis of yesterday’s Census Bureau estimates. That compares with a 7.5 percent decline in the birth rate of the overall population and an 8.3 percent decline for blacks. Compared with 2000, the Hispanic birth rate increased 14 percent, while both the U.S. population and black birth rates declined 2 percent.

Black, Hispanic Populations

The black population in the U.S. ranged from 40.9 million to 41.7 million, the Census Bureau said in its estimate. The number of young Hispanics -- limited to residents under the age of 20 because not enough states began gathering detailed race information until 1990 -- ranged from 18.3 million to 21.3 million.

Estimates released yesterday did not include a number for white residents, although the Census Bureau gave a non-black population estimate.

“The non-black population has become a lot more diverse,” Jason Devine, head of methodology research in the agency’s population division, said in an interview. He said census demographers for this report focused more on the changing Hispanic population.

The non-black population estimate, which includes whites, Asians and Hispanics, ranged from 264.8 million to 271 million, the Census Bureau said.

Political Implications

The political implications of the final census tally are likely to hit the Northeast and Midwest the hardest. Nine states, including New York and Illinois, are projected to lose seats in the House of Representatives, according to a Bloomberg analysis using 2008 and 2009 population estimates to predict 2010 population counts for each state. Texas and Florida are likely to gain seats.

Later this month -- and before the overall population count is announced -- the agency will publish findings from an annual survey sent to about 3 million U.S. households. The data will be an average from 2005 to 2009 and will offer estimates for topics including income, poverty, foreign-born population, commute time to work and housing costs. Those numbers will be released Dec. 14.

The U.S. Constitution requires the federal government to count the population every 10 years.

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