General Considerations

According to the 2000 census, 281.4 million people were counted in the United States, a 13.2% increase from the 1990 census population of 248.7 million. The population growth of 32.7 million people between 1990 and 2000 represents the largest census-to-census increase in American history. The previous record increase was 28.0 million people between 1950 and 1960, primarily as a result of the post—World War II baby boom.

Of the 281.4 million people, 211.4 million (75.1%) were white;34.6 million (12.3%) were African American, or black;10.2 million (3.6%) were Asian;2.4 million (0.9%) were Native Americans (American Indian, Inuit and Inupiat, and Aleut);and 398,835 (0.1%) were Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders. "White" individuals are people whose origins are in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. This includes individuals who indicated their race(s) as "white" or their original nationality as English, Italian, French, Dutch, Scottish-Irish, Scottish, Irish, Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish, German, Italian, Polish, Lebanese, Near Easterner, or Arab. The members of the Asian community are Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indian, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other Asian. The actual numbers are probably several million higher, given that many people are uncounted because of their undocumented status (i.e., no immigration papers) and inadequate census counts.

There were 35 million people (12.5% of the total population) of Hispanic/Latino origin, who constitute a multicultural diverse group. The federal definition of Hispanic/Latino is ''a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.'' Among the Hispanic/Latino population, 66.1% were of Mexican origin;14.5% were Central and South American;9.0% were Puerto Rican;4.0% were Cuban; and the remaining 6.4% were of other Hispanic origins. The United States now ranks sixth in the world in terms of the numbers of Latinos residing within its borders.

There have been significant changes in the U.S. population since the 1950s: the white majority has been shrinking and aging, whereas the Hispanic/Latino, African American, Asian American, and Native American populations are young and growing. It has been projected that by the year 2010, there will be a decrease in white youth by 3.8 million and an increase in nonwhite youth by 44 million.

Language can be a significant barrier to good health care. According to the 2000 census, there are more than 15 million people in the United States who have ''limited English proficiency.''* More than 5% of the populations of California, New York, Texas, New Mexico, and Hawaii have limited English-language skills.

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