ATLANTA (Reuters) - The number of people in the United States from ethnic or racial minorities has risen to more than 100 million, or around one third of the population, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report on Thursday.
The minorities figure stood at 100.7 million, up from 98.3 million a year earlier. Within that, the Hispanic population was the fastest growing at a rate of 3.4 percent between July 2005 and July 2006.
Hispanics were also the largest minority group, accounting for 44.3 million people on July 1, 2006, or 14.8 percent of the overall U.S. population which, according to census data released in October 2006, stood at more than 300 million.
The United States prides itself as a country built on successive waves of immigration, with the Statue of Liberty in New York a powerful symbol of the welcome to immigrants. But the nation remains divided over the subject.
President George W. Bush supports a comprehensive approach to immigration reform but an attempt to pass legislation failed last year.
Members of a bipartisan group of senators are pushing to reach agreement on immigration reform that would offer some illegal immigrants a chance to become citizens.
Lawmakers have been struggling to come up with a formula providing tougher border and workplace enforcement while addressing the status of some 11 million illegal immigrants who live and work in the shadows.
"About one in three U.S. residents is a minority," said Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon.
"There are more minorities in this country today than there were people in the United States in 1910. In fact, the minority population in the U.S. is larger than the total population of all but 11 countries (on the planet)."
The black population grew 1.3 percent in the year from July 2005 and reached 40.2 million in 2006, the census said, while the number of native Hawaiians and members of other Pacific islander groups reached 1 million.
Asians were the second fastest-growing minority group at a rate of 3.2 percent, with their numbers standing at 14.9 million.
The population of non-Hispanic whites who indicated no other race grew 0.3 percent during the one-year period.
New York state had the largest black population with 3.5 million people, followed by Florida at 3 million and Texas at 2.9 million. The median age of African Americans was 30.1 years, lower than the 36.4 for the whole population.
Four states and the District of Columbia now have more minorities than members of the majority white population.
Hawaii has a population that was 75 percent minority in 2006. The District of Columbia stood at 68 percent, with New Mexico at 57 percent, California at 57 percent and Texas at 52 percent, the report said.