According to the state demographer, "non-Hispanic whites" are now officially a minority in the state of Texas.
Buried within a new Census Bureau report, "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States," was an estimate that 49.5 percent of Texans in 2003 were "non-Hispanic whites."
Texas State Demographer Steve Murdock said demographic trends had long shown that the milestone would inevitably be passed, just not quite so soon. "Recent projections suggested 2004 or 2005," he said.
Anglos already made up far less than half of the population in Houston, Harris County and the Houston metro area.
The 2003 state population estimate showed Hispanics at 35.4 percent and blacks 11.4 percent. Hispanics are the largest ethnic group in Houston, by 40.1 percent to 29.2 percent Anglos, and have edged past blacks as the largest U.S. minority.
Estimates show Texas was 49.5 percent white in 2003, down 1.5 percentage points from 2002 but still a large plurality. Almost all the loss was made up by Hispanics, who made up about 35.3 percent of the populace.
"The future of Latinos is the future of Texas, as the population numbers show," said Luis Figueroa, legislative staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The black population remained basically flat at around 10.8 percent. Asian-Americans now accounted for about 3 percent of Texas.
The dip of whites below the 50 percent mark was inevitable, although its occurrence in 2003 was at the early end of the predicted scale, Murdock said.
"We thought it probably would happen this year or next, so it's only a year different," Murdock said. "It does indicate that Hispanic growth is occurring more rapidly than we anticipated it would."
Murdock said Texas' continued explosion in Hispanic growth, fueled largely by international immigration that made up 36 percent of the state's growth from April 2000 to July 2003, helps explain the socio-economic numbers.
Most states did not report a significant change in income or poverty from 2001-02 to 2002-03, according to the Census Bureau. Not Texas, which had an estimated 3.8 percent decline in median household income to about $41,000 along with a 1 percent hike in the poverty rate.
The Census Bureau's definition of poverty varies by the size of the household.
There was little change in the percentage of Texans without health insurance, which was basically flat at 24.7 percent. But with nearly a quarter of its residents uninsured, Texas still easily leads the nation in that unwanted statistic.
Figueroa pointed to a recent report that immigrant teens with sterling academic records are having trouble getting into college because of a lack of citizenship.
"If you keep putting up barriers to obtaining success, a lot of times the result is going to be a cycle of no insurance and lower incomes," he said from his San Antonio office.
Not all the numbers paint such a grim socio-economic picture for Texas. The percentage of Texans at least 25 years old with a high school diploma grew slightly to 77.8 percent while those with college degrees was flat at 24.5 percent.
However, the rate of Texas adults who didn't even make it to high school also rose slightly, to 10.8 percent.