Some time in the next month or so, Harris County likely welcomed its four millionth resident. Assuming it hasn't already happened, that is.
The county's population as of July 2007 was 3.94 million, representing a 1.5 percent bump of 60,000 residents from the July 2006 estimate. A similar rise in the next year could push Harris County past the 4 million mark. Experts attribute the growth to ongoing immigration, high Latino birth rates and a healthy local economy.
The biggest factor in Harris County's growth was a surge of 58,000 new Hispanic residents, bringing their estimated population to 1.5 million. The white population dropped by 5,500 residents to 1.4 million, while the number of African-Americans increased by 2,500 to 764,000.
The county's Asian community added 7,200 residents, bringing its estimated population to 239,000.
The Census data reinforce the county's position as one of the most diverse regions of the nation.
Of U.S. counties with populations exceeding 1 million, Harris is now estimated to have the third-highest number of minority residents. They comprise 63 percent of the county's population, which is the ninth-highest percentage in the country. Texas counties ranking higher than Harris are Bexar County with 68 percent and Dallas County with 64 percent.
"It shows largely the continuation of important recent trends, which is that Texas is a state that is leading the nation in its ethnic and racial changes," said Karl Eschbach, director of the Texas State Data Center in San Antonio and a University of Texas-San Antonio professor. "There are a large number of counties in the state that are majority-minority, and the proportion of minorities in the state continues to increase."