Washington's population grows less youthful, increasingly diverse

SEATTLE - Residents of Washington state are trending a little older, and the number of minorities is increasing, especially Hispanics, according to new data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau released age and race estimates for 2006 that found the nation's minority population reached 100.7 million, about one in three people. But only about 21 percent of Washington's population was listed as minority.

Washington grew from 5.8 million residents in the 2000 Census to 6.3 million estimated July 1, 2006.

Of those, 1.5 million were younger than 18 and 4.1 million were ages 18 to 64. There were 738,000 who were 65 and older, 7.6 percent of the population, compared with 12 percent nationwide. The largest single age group was 45- to 49-year-olds, who made up 502,000 Washingtonians.

The median age in Washington climbed from 35.3 years in 2000 to 36.7 years in 2006 estimates.

The state had 3.189 million males in 2006 (median age 35.8), and 3.206 million females (median age 37.8) in 2006. Both groups were about a year older than the 2000 census found.

Washington state's population was estimated at 79 percent white, non-Hispanic.

People of Hispanic origin were an estimated 581,000 in Washington in 2006, up from 441,000 in 2000, an increase of 31.6 percent, the report said. They made up

9.5 percent of the population.

The report found 422,000 people of Asian descent in 2006, up from 330,000 in 2000.

Blacks totaled 227,000 in 2006, up from 199,000 in 2000.

American Indians and Alaska Natives were 104,000 in 2006, up from 96,000 in 2000. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders were 29,000 in 2006, from 25,000 in 2000.

People reporting two or more races were 190,000 in 2006, compared with 160,000 in 2000. That ranked Washington fifth in that category, after California (883,000) Florida (228,000), Hawaii (248,000) New York (283,000) and Texas (271,000).

Theresa Lowe, who produces population estimates for the state Office of Financial Management, said the federal numbers largely agreed with state figures. But she cautioned against considering any of them absolutely accurate.

"Race data is very difficult to do," Lowe said, mostly because there are not agreed upon definitions of races and who belongs in racial categories. "Anybody's race estimates will have significant errors."