WASHINGTON — In a first, America’s racial and ethnic minorities now make up about half of the under-5 age group, reflecting sweeping changes by race and class among young people. Due to an aging population, non-Hispanic whites last year recorded more deaths than births.

These two milestones, revealed in 2012 census estimates released Thursday, are the latest signs of a historic shift in which whites will become a minority within a generation, by 2043. They come after the Census Bureau reported last year that whites had fallen to a minority among newborns.

Fueled by immigration and high rates of birth, particularly among Hispanics, racial and ethnic minorities are growing more rapidly in numbers than whites. The decline in the U.S. white population has been occurring more quickly than expected, resulting in the first “natural decrease” for whites — deaths exceeding births — in more than a century, census data show. For now, the non-Hispanic white population continues to increase slightly, but only because of immigration from Europe.

Based on current rates of growth, whites in the under-5 group are expected to fall below 50 percent this year or next, said Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau’s acting director.

“This is the tipping point presaging the gradual decline of the white population, which will be a signature demographic trend of this century,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “More so than ever, we need to recognize the importance of young minorities for the growth and vitality of our labor force and economy.”

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