the countdown begins

2050. That's the estimated year when whites will no longer make up the majority of Americans. The prediction, initially made last year, has been pushed back eight years because the recession and stricter immigration policies have slowed the flow of foreigners into the United States: White Americans' majority to end by mid-century.

This week, the Census Bureau released new figures, updating last year's prediction that white children would become a minority in 2023 and the overall white population would follow in 2042. The earlier estimate didn't take into account a drop in the number of people moving into the U.S. because of the economic crisis and the immigration policies imposed after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The United States has 308 million people today; two-thirds are non-Hispanic whites. Under the new projection, the total population should climb to 399 million by 2050, with whites making up 49.9 percent of the population. Blacks will make up 12.2 percent, virtually unchanged from today. Hispanics, currently 15 percent of the population, will rise to 28 percent in 2050.

Asians are expected to increase from 4.4 percent of the population to 6 percent.

The actual shift in demographics will be influenced by a host of factors that can't be accurately forecast -- the pace of the economic recovery, cultural changes, natural or manmade disasters, as well as an overhaul of immigration law, which may be debated in Congress as early as next year. So the projection could actually change either way.

More flexible government policies and an improved U.S. economy could again attract more foreigners. With higher immigration, the minority "tipping point" is moved up to 2040, and Asians would have a much larger share, at 8 percent, since their population growth is more dependent on immigration than birth rates.

You know there are people out there who are reading all this and completely freaking out. Whites no longer the majority? The thought is too frightening to bear. It's a siege. An invasion! Well, get used to it. This is the story of America -- a story that's still being written by a lot of people, and no one group holds claim to.

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