EL PASO -- Texas has become the fourth state to have a non-white majority population, the US Census Bureau said today, in a trend driven by a surging number of Hispanics moving to the state.
According to population estimates based on the 2000 Census, the non-white population in Texas is now at about 50.2 percent. In the 2000 Census, non-whites made up about 47 percent of the population in Texas, the nation's second-largest state.
Texas joins California, New Mexico, and Hawaii as states with non-white majority populations -- with Hispanics the largest group in every state but Hawaii, where it is Asian-Americans.
Five other states -- Maryland, Mississippi, Georgia, New York, and Arizona -- are not far behind, with non-white populations pegged at about 40 percent.
Public policy analysts said these states and the country as a whole need to bring education and professional achievement among non-whites to the levels of whites. Otherwise, these areas risk becoming poorer and less competitive.
William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., said lawmakers need to start with immigration reform, while striving to bring education and salary levels among non-whites in line with that of whites.
''Immigration is good for the United States . . . it's important for us to keep our doors open, but we need to keep an eye on the people coming in," Frey said.
''While initially it will be a state problem, eventually it will be a national issue, and education is the best way to deal with it," he said.
Complications from the cultural shift are not likely to be exclusive to states that already have non-white majority populations, Frey said.
Nevada, for instance, has seen a massive influx of non-whites in the past 15 years, reducing the percentage of whites since the 1990s from nearly 80 percent to about 60 percent.
Such a rapid shift is likely to cause growing pains that include trying to balance the needs of a bigger and younger community of non-whites with an aging white community, Frey said.
''That's the kind of state that is going to have to deal with quick transition," Frey said.
Though some areas may never see this shift, the country as a whole is expected to continue the trend first noticed more than a decade ago.
Non-whites are expected to make up more than half of the population by 2050, said Steve Murdock, a demographer at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
''If you look in the 1990s, in every one of the 50 states, non-Anglo Hispanic populations grew faster than Anglo populations," Murdock said. ''It's a very pervasive pattern."