WASHINGTON - The estimated time when whites will no longer make up the majority of Americans has been pushed back eight years - to 2050 - because the recession and stricter immigration policies have slowed the flow of foreigners into this country.

Census Bureau projections released yesterday update last year's prediction that white children would become a minority in 2023 and the overall white population would follow in 2042.

The earlier estimate did not take into account a drop in the number of people moving to the United States because of the economic crisis and more restrictive immigration policies imposed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The United States has 308 million people today; two-thirds are non-Hispanic whites.

The total population should climb to 399 million by 2050, under the new projections, with whites making up 49.9 percent of the population. Blacks will make up 12.2 percent, virtually unchanged from today. Hispanics, currently 15 percent of the population, will rise to 28 percent in 2050.

Asians are expected to increase from 4.4 percent of the population to 6 percent.

The projections are based on rates for births and deaths and a scenario in which immigration continues its more recent, slower pace of adding nearly one million new foreigners each year.

The point when minority children become the majority is expected to have a similar delay of roughly eight years, moving from 2023 to 2031.

The population 85 and older is projected to more than triple by 2050, to 18.6 million.

The actual shift in demographics will be influenced by a host of factors that cannot be accurately forecast - the pace of the economic recovery, cultural changes, natural or man-made disasters, as well as an overhaul of immigration law, which may be debated in Congress as early as next year.

As a result, the Census Bureau said the projections should be used mostly as a guide.