For the first time in U.S. history, the majority of the population under the age of 1 are minorities, according to figures released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

According to estimates, 50.4 percent of U.S. babies were from minority groups as of July 1, 2011, compared with 49.5 percent the previous years.

The Census Bureau confirmed that the total percentage of the population belonging to minorities in 2011 was 36.6 percent, an increase of 0.5 percent in a little more than a year compared with the figures for 2010.

"Today's news on the Census numbers confirms what we've known for a while: In the next few decades, there will not be an ethnic majority in our nation," the Center for American Progress' Vanessa Cardenas said.

"The new numbers," she said, "also require us to pause and reflect about what kind of country we want to be 20, 30 years from now and are an urgent call for us to address the education, health care, and economic disparities that plague the communities that are growing the most."

"If we are successful in giving them the tools they need, the United States will be poised to be more innovative and more competitive in an increasingly globalized economy," according to Cardenas, director of CAP's Progress 2050 initiative.

Jurisdictions where the presence of minorities is greatest include Hawaii, with 77.1 percent; the District of Columbia, 64.7 percent; California, 60.3 percent; New Mexico, 59.8 percent; and Texas, 55.2 percent.

No other state has a minority population exceeding 46.4 percent.

On the national level, the minority group with the greatest numbers continues to be Hispanics with 52 million people in 2011 and the highest growth rate - 3.1 percent - which increased the proportion of Hispanics in the country's total population from 16.3 percent in 2010 to 16.7 percent last year.

"The Latino population is very young, which means they will continue to have a lot of births relative to the general population," Mark Mather, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau, said.

"But we're seeing a slowdown that is likely the result of multiple factors: declining Latina birth rates combined with lower immigration levels. If both of these trends continue, they will lead to big changes down the road," he predicted.