WASHINGTON - For the first time ever, white births in the US are no longer in the majority, according to US Census Bureau estimates Thursday that underscored the growth of the Hispanic population. Hispanics, blacks, Asians, indigenous peoples and those of mixed ethnicity or race accounted for 50.4pc of births in the 12 months to July 2011, the federal agency said in a statement. That compares to 49.5pc from the last national census taken in April 2010. Leading the trend were Hispanics, or those of Latin American or Spanish origin, who remained the biggest (52 million) and fastest-growing (up 3.1pc from 2010) of all groups.

"This boosted the Hispanic share of the nation's total population (of 311,592,000) to 16.7 percent in 2011, up from 16.3 percent in 2010," the Census Bureau reported.

"This is a sign that the future is here," Vanessa Cardenas, director of the Progress 2050 program at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, told AFP.

"It adds urgency to the fact that we need investment in communities that are growing the most," especially investment in education, she said.

Whites still made up the largest single share of the total births, at 49.6 percent. They also constituted a majority of the overall population of the United States at 63.4 percent.

But as the Census Bureau projected in 2008, they will no longer be in the majority by 2042.

William Frey of the Brookings Institution think tank told the New York Times the estimates reflected a "transformation from a mostly white baby boomer culture to the more globalized multi-ethnic country that we are becoming.”