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Census figures show slow rise in Native population
Friday, May 2, 2008
Filed Under: National

The American Indian and Alaska Native population rose by 1 percent from 2006 to 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau reported on Thursday.

Although the percentage increase was lower than most other racial and ethnic groups, the figures show the Native population has steadily risen since the 2000 Census. Based on the latest estimates, the number of people claiming to be American Indian or Alaska Natives has grown 6.9 percent in the last seven years.

With the 2010 Census fast approaching, the federal government will be able to get a more accurate count of the population. Yesterday's figures show 4.5 million people claim Native heritage, up from 4.2 million in 2000.

On the 2000 Census, respondents were able to able to report multiple racial heritages. When the data is limited to single race, the number of American Indians and Alaska Natives drops to 2.9 million, which still shows an increase from 2.6 million seven years ago.

Going by state, California continued to rank at the top in terms of sheer numbers. According to the data, 689,000 Native Americans live in the Golden State, which is home to more than 100 federally recognized tribes.

Oklahoma came in a distant second, with 394,000 Native Americans in the state. Arizona was third, with 335,000 Native Americans.

In terms of percentage of the population, Alaska continues to rank on top. Based on yesterday's estimates, 18 percent of the population claims to be Native.

Oklahoma, which is home to 38 federally recognized tribes, came in second, with 11 percent of the population reporting Native heritage. New Mexico was a close third, with 10 percent of the state's population claiming to be Native.

The data also showed that the Native American population tends to be younger than the general population. The median age of single-race Native Americans was 30.3, compared to 36.6 for the entire country.

About 27 percent of the American Indian and Alaska Native population was younger than 18, compared with 25 percent of the general population, according to the figures.

The steady growth among American Indians and Alaska Natives contrasted with the exploding Hispanic population. Between 2006 and 2007, the Hispanic population grew by 3.3 percent, the Census Bureau said.

Meanwhile, the Asian population grew by 2.9 percent, the Native Hawaiian population grew by 1.6 percent and the African-American population grew by 1.3 percent. The white population grew by 0.3 percent, the only group with a lower percentage increase than Native Americans.

Across the nation, Hispanics represent the second-largest minority group. But Native Americans were the largest minority in Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

The Census Bureau figures are an important tool for federal funding and community planning. The agency readily acknowledges it undercounts the reservation population more than any other group in the nation.

Relevant Documents:
Press Release: U.S. Hispanic Population Surpasses 45 Million Now 15 Percent of Total | Detailed Tables

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