WASHINGTON (AP) — Racial minorities accounted for roughly 85 percent of U.S. population growth over the last decade — one of the largest shares ever, with Hispanics counting for a large share of the gain.

Preliminary census estimates also suggest the number of multiracial Americans jumped roughly 20 percent since 2000, to over 5 million.

The findings, based on fresh government survey data, offer a glimpse into 2010 census results that are being released on a state-by-state basis beginning this week. New Jersey, Mississippi, Virginia and Louisiana are the first to receive the data, which will be used in the often contentious process of redrawing political districts based on growing populations and racial makeup.

“There are going to be a lot of additional Hispanic officials elected when redistricting is done,” said E. Mark Braden, a former chief counsel to the Republican National Committee who now advises state governments on redistricting.

Broken down by voting age, minorities accounted for roughly 70 percent of U.S. growth in the 18-and-older population since 2000, and Hispanics made up about 40 percent. Hispanics also represented more than half the growth share of the voting-age population in Texas and California.

“The growth of the Hispanic community is one of the stories that will be written from the 2010 census,” Census director Robert Groves said Wednesday, previewing major demographic trends, including the movement of many minorities from city to suburb. “We should see a big difference from 2000 to 2010.”

The preliminary demographic numbers are based on the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey as of March 2010, as well as comparisons of the 2000 census with 2009 demographic estimates and the 2009 American Community Survey, which samples 3 million U.S. households.

According to those figures, minorities represented between 81 percent and 89 percent of the U.S. population growth since 2000, higher than the official 80 percent share in 2000.

The minority growth share in 2010 is the largest in recent memory, with only the influx of European minority immigrants such as Italians, Poles and Jews in the late 1800s possibly rivaling it in scope, said William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings Institution who analyzed the census data.

Other findings:

—In all, non-Hispanic whites make up roughly 65 percent of the U.S. population, down from 69 percent in 2000. Hispanics had a 16 percent share, compared with 13 percent a decade ago. Blacks represent about 12 percent and Asians roughly 5 percent. Multiracial Americans and other groups made up the remaining 2 percent.

—California, Texas, New York and Hawaii were among the states with the largest number of people who identified themselves as multiracial.

—Some 40 states show population losses of white children since 2000 due to declining birth rates. Minorities represented all of the increases in the under-18 population in Texas and Florida, and most of the gains in the child population in Nevada and Arizona.

“The new engines of growth in America’s population are Hispanics, Asians and other minorities,” Frey said. “But it’s just the tip of the iceberg. For the under-18 population — potential voters in the not-too-distant future — minorities accounted for virtually all the growth in most U.S. states.”

“Political strategists and advocates, especially in growing states, cannot afford to ignore this surging political wave,” he said.

In December, the Census Bureau officially reported the nation’s population was 308,745,538, up from 281.4 million a decade ago. The growth rate for the past decade was 9.7 percent, the lowest since the Great Depression, with most of the growth occurring in the South and West.

The population changes will result in a shift of seats in the House of Representatives taking effect in 2013.

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Associated Press writer Suzanne Gamboa contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.