(AP) For the first time, America’s racial and ethnic minorities now make up about half of the under-5 age group, the government said Thursday. It’s a historic shift that shows how young people are at the forefront of sweeping changes by race and class.

The new census estimates, a snapshot of the U.S. population as of July 2012, comes a year after the Census Bureau reported that whites had fallen to a minority among babies. Fueled by immigration and high rates of birth, particularly among Hispanics, racial and ethnic minorities are now growing more rapidly in numbers than whites.

It’s the latest in a series of reports that have signaled a major, long-term shift in the demographics of the United States, as non-Hispanic white Americans are expected to become a minority group over the next three decades. For years, Americans of Asian, black and Hispanic descent have stood poised to topple the demographic hegemony historically held by whites.

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