300 million Americans, and counting
Share with others:
Get this party started
We're supposed to hit 300 million people as a nation tomorrow, but no festivities are planned. No one's baking a humongous cake for us all to share. No one's creating teams to try to achieve some Guinness world record, such as largest national volleyball game ever.
"We are not in the business of celebrating," Census Bureau spokesman Mark Tolbert told USA Today, sounding very much like a guy who would rather be locked in an office with a calculator than sharing cigars and matching shots with the proud papa of American No. 300,000,000.
The Census Bureau put out a rather minimalist note last week announcing that "the nation's population will reach the historic milestone of 300 million on Oct. 17 at about 7:46 a.m. This comes almost 39 years after the 200 million mark was reached on Nov. 20, 1967."
There's no precise way to know just when the milestone is reached and by whom. But census demographers figure that one U.S. birth is taking place every seven seconds (once every eight seconds, if not for Pittsburgh's female TV news anchors) and one net international immigrant is being achieved every 31 seconds. Those are offset by one death every 13 seconds. The result is one more American to stand behind in the wrong supermarket line every 11 seconds.
Tick, tick, tick
If you're the kind of person fascinated by numbers, has too much time on his/her hands, and would like to be put into a hypnotic state staring at a computer screen, go to www.census.gov and check out the population clocks in the upper righthand corner. You can see the estimated populations of the nation and world being updated, over and over and over again.
As The Morning File was being written Friday night, the U.S. population stood at 299,973,780. Even though it was increasing every 11 seconds, it kept falling farther and farther behind the world count, which was 6,550,243,523, with the numbers jumping every few seconds by about 10 or 15 un-Americans. Damn world. Those foreigners may feel good about out-gaining us, but we'll show them -- we'll keep consuming world resources at five times what our population merits.
Things were more festive on Nov. 20, 1967, when President Lyndon Johnson stood in front of a big crowd of Commerce Department employees watching a "census clock" turn to 200,000,000. Dick Clark was not in sight, but it must have still had that Times Square-New Year's Eve feel to it, unless LBJ started showing his gall bladder scar again. There was even a baby born in Atlanta at 11:03 a.m. who was hailed by Life magazine as the 200 millionth American.
America being the diverse potluck of citizenry that it is, there was certainly a chance that the baby, Robert Ken Woo Jr., could have turned out to be a crackhead, an athlete on steroids, a corporate embezzler or worse. But no, he's a lawyer (insert anti-lawyer punchline here, if you like). He's also a Harvard University graduate who works in Atlanta, living with his wife and three children, having done his part to push America upward another 100 million people during his 39 years on the planet.
Mr. Woo has been interviewed a lot in the past week about his distinction, though he acknowledged to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that there was nothing remotely scientific about how Life picked him. Still, he wouldn't mind if the media tries to identify No. 300 million tomorrow. "I just think it would be neat," he said.
If anyone tried to determine who the 100 millionth American was in 1915, we couldn't find it. Billie Holiday and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were among the newborns to choose from. It's certainly possible the Rosenbergs became communist sympathizers because they were snubbed.
Population increases are a fact of life for most Americans living outside of southwestern Pennsylvania, but they've actually become rather passe, as industrialized nations go. Many European nations, plus Canada, Russia and Japan, have more deaths than births and aren't growing.
The difference for the United States from most of those is its number of immigrants, about 12 percent of the population, or more than double what the level was when the nation reached 200 million. With birth rates among immigrants generally higher than the native population, they're to help boost us to 400 million residents around 2043.
"Half of the population growth in the United States in any month or week is Hispanic," demographer William Frey told The Philadelphia Inquirer. Population expansion is also being fueled by the longer life spans people enjoy today. Still, it's not like the two most populous nations in the world, China (1.3 billion people) and India (1.2 billion), should be concerned about the USA passing them in the rankings. If they're the Democrats and Republicans of world population, we're just like Ralph Nader or any badly trailing third party.
Room for 3.5 billion more?
"The United Nations estimates the world population will peak at 10 billion in 2200. In world terms, the population is growing at about 1.2 percent annually (compared with 0.1 percent in ancient times and a rate of 1.75 percent as recently as the 1990s) in population. Although a 1.2 percent growth rate may appear small, it annually adds some 77 million persons to the world's population, with nearly all of this growth taking place in less developed nations."
Correction/Clarification: (Published Oct. 17, 2006) The late actor Lorne Greene was born in Canada. An item in this installment of The Morning File as originally published on Oct. 16, 2006 suggested he was from the United States.
First Published October 16, 2006 12:00 am