By HOPE YEN of the Associated Press

racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the U.S.,

racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the U.S.

For the first time, racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the U.S., capping decades of heady immigration growth that is now slowing.

New 2011 census estimates highlight sweeping changes in the nation’s racial makeup and the prolonged impact of a weak economy, which is now resulting in fewer Hispanics entering the U.S.

“This is an important landmark,” said Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau who is now a sociologist at Howard University. “This generation is growing up much more accustomed to diversity than its elders.”

The report comes as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the legality of a strict immigration law in Arizona, with many states weighing similar get-tough measures.

“We remain in a dangerous period where those appealing to anti-immigration elements are fueling a divisiveness and hostility that might take decades to overcome,” Harrison said.

As a whole, the nation’s minority population continues to rise, following a higher-than-expected Hispanic count in the 2010 census. Minorities increased 1.9 percent to 114.1 million, or 36.6 percent of the total U.S. population, lifted by prior waves of immigration that brought in young families and boosted the number of Hispanic women in their prime childbearing years.

But a recent slowdown in the growth of the Hispanic and Asian populations is shifting notions on when the tipping point in U.S. diversity will come — the time when non-Hispanic whites become a minority. After 2010 census results suggested a crossover as early as 2040, demographers now believe the pivotal moment may be pushed back several years when new projections are released in December.

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