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Census Bureau: Native populations to double

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WASHINGTON - Native populations, continuing the robust growth they've shown over the last decade, will nearly double in the next 50 years the U.S. Census Bureau projects.

The Census Bureau said American Indian and Alaska Native populations grew to 2.4 million as of Aug. 1 of this year. The 371,000 person increase over 1990 represents a growth rate of 17.9 percent for the decade - well more than the United States' overall growth rate of 10.7 percent.

And the bureau predicts that by 2050, the Native population will reach 4.4 million, nearly double what it is now, growing at a rate faster than whites or African-Americans (but not as fast as Hispanics, Asians, or Pacific Islanders).

Natives still account for only .09 percent of the country's total population, though, the agency reports.

In the next 10 years, the government agency estimates Native households will climb from around 750,000 to around 900,000, a 20 percent jump.

Median age of Native populations as of Aug. 1 was a very young 27.8, eight years younger than the national median. There were 167,000 Native elders age 65 and older, and the bureau estimates there were 22,000 85 and older.

It forecasts that many more Natives will be living to be elders by 2050: 662,000 in the 65-plus age group, and 148,000 older than 85. These would represent, respectively, a fourfold and a sevenfold increase in seniors, far more in percentage terms than for Natives as a whole.

On a state level, California had the most Natives as of July 1, 1999, (314,000), and Los Angeles led the nation's counties, with 56,400 American Indians or Alaska Natives.

The bureau estimates that Oklahoma (263,000), Arizona (261,000), New Mexico (166,000) and Washington (105,000) trailed California for total Native population. Arizona had the largest net growth, adding 46,700 Natives between 1990 and 1999, while Florida registered the largest percentage increase, 63 percent.

The population statistics quoted by the bureau come from the 2000 Census survey, the Statistical Abstract of the U.S., Census Bureau estimates and projections, and the federal Property Owners and Managers Survey.

The bureau has released them now because November is American Indian Heritage Month.