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(sacbee.com) The Department of Finance’s demographic unit projects that the state’s population, 37.3 million in the 2010 census and nearly 39 million now, will top 51 million by 2060, 38 percent higher than the census number.

That would continue the state’s relatively slow growth of the past two decades, under 1 percent a year.

The demographers project that the state’s Latino population will grow by 11.4 million during that 50-year period, or 81 percent, while the Asian-American population will grow by 3.2 million or 67 percent.

The state’s rapidly aging white population, meanwhile, is expected to decline by 2 million during that period while the black population is projected to remain virtually unchanged.

Latinos are already the state’s largest single ethnic group, but Latino growth is also slowing due to a declining birthrate and virtually no net gain from migration in recent years. By 2060, Latinos should be close to half of the state’s population.

The Department of Finance projections also apply to counties. Demographers see Kern County as the state’s fastest growing county during the 50-year period, with a 112 percent gain, followed by Madera at 101 percent. A few rural counties are projected to lose population.

Los Angeles County, home to more than a quarter of the state’s population now, is projected to grow by less than half the rate of the state as a whole. That’s true of most other coastal counties, while inland regions, particularly those with high Latino populations, have the highest projected gains.