WASHINGTON — White people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2043, according to new census projections. That is part of a historic shift that is already reshaping the nation’s schools, workforce, and electorate, and that is redefining long-held notions of race.
The official projection, released Wednesday by the Census Bureau, now places the tipping point for the white majority a year later than previous estimates, which were made before the impact of the recent recession was fully known.
America continues to grow and become more diverse because of higher birth rates among minorities, particularly for Hispanic people who entered the Unites States at the height of the immigration boom in the 1990s and early 2000s. But since the mid-2000 housing bust, the arrival of millions of new immigrants has slowed.
The country’s changing demographic mosaic has stark political implications, shown clearly in last month’s election that gave President Obama a second term — in no small part because of his support from 78 percent of non-white voters.
There are social and economic ramifications, as well. Longstanding fights over civil rights and racial equality are going in new directions, promising to reshape race relations and common notions of being a ‘‘minority.’’ White plaintiffs now before the Supreme Court argue that special protections for racial and ethnic minorities dating to the 1960s may no longer be needed, from affirmative action in college admissions to the Voting Rights Act, designed for states with a history of disenfranchising black people.
Residential segregation has eased and intermarriage for first- and second-generation Hispanic and Asian people is on the rise, blurring racial and ethnic lines and lifting the numbers of people who identify as multiracial. Unpublished 2010 census data show that millions of people shunned standard race categories such as black or white on government forms, opting to write in their own cultural or individual identities.
The multiracial population is projected to jump from 7.5 million to 26.7 million by 2060.
The non-Hispanic white population, now at 197.8 million, is projected to peak at 200 million in 2024, before entering a steady decline in absolute numbers as the massive baby boomer generation enters its golden years. Four years after that, racial and ethnic minorities will become a majority among adults 18 to 29.
‘‘The fast-growing demographic today is now the children of immigrants,’’ said Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, an immigration specialist and dean of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. Even with slowing immigration, Suarez-Orozco says, the ‘‘die has been cast’’ for strong minority growth from births.
As recently as 1960, white people made up 85 percent of the US population, but that share has steadily dropped after a 1965 overhaul of US immigration laws opened doors to new immigrants from Mexico, Latin America, and Asia. By 2000, the percentage of US white people had slid to 69 percent; it now stands at nearly 64 percent.
‘‘The US will become the first major post-industrial society in the world where minorities will be the majority,’’ Suarez-Orozco said.
The United States has nearly 315 million people today. According to the projections released Wednesday, the US population is projected to reach 400 million in 2051, 12 years later than previously projected. The population is projected to hit 420.3 million in 2060.
By then, white people will drop to 43 percent of the US population. Black people will make up 14.7 percent, up slightly from today. Hispanic people, currently 17 percent of the population, will more than double in absolute number, making up 31 percent, according to the projections. Asian people are expected to increase from 5 percent of the population to 8 percent.
Among children, the point when minorities become the majority is expected to arrive much sooner, by 2018 or so. Last year, racial and ethnic minorities became a majority among babies under age 1 for the first time in US history.
The US population as a whole is aging, driven by 78 million mostly white baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. By 2030, roughly 1 in 5 residents will be 65 and older.