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California: The First `World State'

IF there was any doubt that California is becoming America's first "world state," consider these population projections to come out of the state Department of Finance this week:

* By the year 2002, Anglos will loose their status as the majority of the state population.

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* No ethnic group will constitute a majority until 2040, when Latinos will become the dominant group.

* By 2040, Los Angeles County will be 70 percent Latino. Anglos, who make up 40 percent of the population now, will represent only about 1 in 8 people.

Oh, and by the way, the state will add some 667,000 people - roughly a new San Francisco - each year for the next 50 years. That will add up to more than 63 million people, double what it is now.

"No society on the face of the earth today is changing more than Los Angeles County," says Alan Heslop, a demographic expert at Claremont McKenna College.

The latest population projections, based on the 1990 Census, reflect the dramatic impacts of immigration and the high birth rates of Latinos and Asians. As such, they will likely become fodder for a growing anti-immigration movement in California. They will also undoubtedly be used by state officials in their plea for more federal aid to handle immigration pressures.

Of course, 50-year population forecasts need to be taken with a "cellar full of salt," as Dr. Heslop puts it. The economic and political forces sending newcomers here could change. So could California's allure as a place to settle.

But for now it is Ellis Island II.

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