WASHINGTON (AP) _ Hispanics have surpassed blacks as the nation's largest minority group, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.
The Latino population grew to 37 million in July 2001, up 4.7 percent from April 2000. The black population increased 2 percent during the same period, to 36.1 million.
The estimates are the Census Bureau's first statistics on race and ethnicity since results from the 2000 census were released two years ago.
Census Bureau demographer Roberto Ramirez said it has long been expected that Hispanics would someday surpass blacks because their birth and immigration rates are higher.
``And the trend shows it will clearly be increasing more in the future,'' Ramirez said.
Hispanics now comprise nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population, which grew to 284.8 million in July 2001. That's up from 35.3 million, or 12.5 percent of the country's 281.4 million residents in April 2000.
Blacks make up 12.7 percent of the nation's population, up from 12.6 percent in April 2000. The black population grew by 700,000 in the 15 months after the census was released.
Whites remained the largest single population group, numbering about 199.3 million in July 2001, nearly 70 percent of all U.S. residents.
Asians are the next largest minority group after blacks and Hispanics, at about 12.1 million, or 4 percent of the population.
The federal government considers ``Hispanic'' an ethnicity, not a race. Therefore people of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race.