CONCORD, N.H.- Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont remain among the whitest states, but just as they are elsewhere, minorities are becoming the major drivers of population growth in northern New England.

New census estimates show that, from 2000 to July 2009, the minority population grew to 5.1 percent in Maine and Vermont, and to 7.2 percent in New Hampshire.

The increase in minorities accounted for 73 percent of Vermont’s population growth during that time, compared with 56 percent in Maine and 43 percent in New Hampshire.

Those figures are consistent with the national picture, which shows a steadily growing minority population, said Kenneth Johnson, a demographer with the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute.

Hispanics are the largest minority in northern New England. The rise in the minority population nationally is due to sharp recent increases in births, especially among Hispanics.

In New Hampshire, for example, minorities make up 5.9 percent of the population that’s older than 20 and 11 percent of residents who are younger than

Among racial and ethnic groups, Hispanics grew by 95 percent in Maine, to 18,300. New Hampshire’s Hispanic population grew nearly 80 percent, to 36,900, and Vermont’s Hispanic population grew 67 percent, to 5,500.

The large percentage gains came on tiny population bases. Maine and New Hampshire each had about 1.3 million people in 2009; Vermont had about 622,000.

Maine, which was the whitest state in the country a decade ago, now shares the top spot with Vermont, according to the 2009 figures. New Hampshire, which used to be the third-whitest, has fallen to fourth, behind West Virginia.