The nation’s Hispanic and Asian populations continued to grow at much faster rates than the population as a whole, according to new estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau today.

The population of Hispanics (who may be of any race) reached 39.9 million on July 1, 2003, accounting for about one half of the 9.4 million residents added to the nation’s population since Census 2000. Its growth rate of 13 percent over the 39-month period was almost four times that of the total population (3.3 percent).

The number of people who reported being Asian grew 12.5 percent to 13.5 million. Following Asians were native Hawaiians and other Pacific islanders (5.8 percent, to 960,000), blacks (4.4 percent, to 38.7 million), American Indians and Alaska natives (3.3 percent, to 4.4 million) and whites (2.8 percent, to 237.9 million).

The population of non-Hispanic whites who indicated no other race increased 0.9 percent, to 197.3 million.

Hispanics were the most likely to be preschoolers (under age 5), with more than 10 percent (or 4.2 million) in this age group. The total number of preschoolers in the United States was estimated at 19.8 million.

Meanwhile, about 18 percent of native Hawaiians and other Pacific islanders were of elementary-school ages (5 to 13); this rate was the highest among all race and ethnic groups. The number of elementary school-age children in the nation totaled 36.8 million.

Almost 8 percent of American Indians and Alaska natives and native Hawaiians and other Pacific islanders were high school-age children (14 to 17), which topped all race and ethnic groups. The total number in this age range nationwide was 16.5 million.

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