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America's population to hit 300 million this fall

Monday, June 26, 2006

As of midday Sunday, there were 299,061,199 people in the United States.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. population is on target to hit 300 million this fall and it's a good bet the milestone baby -- or immigrant -- will be Hispanic.

No one will know for sure because the date and time will be just an estimate.

But Latinos -- immigrants and those born in this country -- are driving the population growth. They accounted for almost half the increase last year, more than any other ethnic or racial group. White non-Hispanics, who make up about two-thirds of the population, accounted for less than one-fifth of the increase.

Phil Shawe sees the impact at his company, Translations. com. The New York-based business started in 1992, when it mainly helped U.S. companies translate documents for work done overseas. Today, the company's domestic business is booming on projects such as helping a pharmacy print prescription labels in up to five languages or providing over-the-phone translation services for tax preparers.

"It's been a huge growth area for our business," said Shawe, the president and chief executive. "Not only is the Hispanic market growing faster than the average, but it is also growing in purchasing power."

When the population reached 200 million in 1967, there was no accurate tally of U.S. Hispanics. The first effort to count Hispanics came in the 1970 census, and the results were dubious.

In 1967, there were fewer than 10 million people in the United States who were born in other countries; that was not even one in 20. White non-Hispanics made up about 83 percent of the population.

Today, there are 36 million immigrants, about one in eight.

"We were much more of an insular society back then," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "It was much more of a white, middle-class, suburban society."

As of midday Sunday, there were 299,061,199 people in the United States, according to the Census Bureau's population clock. The estimate is based on annual numbers for births, deaths and immigration, averaged throughout the year.

The United States adds a person every 11 seconds, according to the clock. A baby is born every eight seconds, someone dies every 13 seconds, and someone migrates to the United States every 30 seconds.

At that rate, the 300 millionth person in the United States will be born -- or cross the border -- in October, though bureau officials are wary of committing to a particular month because of the subjective nature of the clock.

Hispanics surpassed blacks as the largest minority group in the 2001, and today make up more than 14 percent of the population.

The growth of the Latino population promises to have profound cultural, political and economic effects.

"I think we've already seen these changes," said Clara Rodriguez, a sociology professor at Fordham University.

"I think the music has been influenced by the Caribbean rhythms and the Latino singers," Rodriguez said. "I think economically, clearly immigrants are coming to work."

Don't forget the salsa-ketchup wars, well-publicized since salsa surpassed ketchup in U.S. sales in the 1990s, pitting the two condiments in a seesaw battle for supremacy ever since.

Many people are embracing the changes, but some are not, as evidenced by the national debate on immigration. The growing number of Hispanics is closely tied to immigration because about 40 percent are immigrants.

"I think there is a little bit of a culture shock effect, especially with the language," said Frey, the demographer. "But as people get to know their new neighbors, they find they are not that different from them."

The United States added 2.8 million people last year -- a little more than a million from immigration and about 1.7 million because births outnumbered deaths.

The United States is the third largest country in the world, behind China and India. America's population is increasing by a little less than 1 percent a year, a pace that will keep it in third place for the foreseeable future, said Carl Haub, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau.

The world, with a population of 6.5 billion, is growing a little faster than 1 percent a year.

By the time the U.S. population hits 400 million, in the 2040s, white non-Hispanics will be but a bare majority. Hispanics are projected to make up close to one-quarter of the population, and blacks more than 14 percent. Asians will increase their share of the population to more than 7 percent.

Those percentages, however, are just projections. They are subject to big revisions, depending on immigration policy, cultural changes and natural or manmade disasters.

"In terms of projecting out a year or two, we're not too bad," said Hogan of the Census Bureau. "In 2043, I don't think anybody here would think they are particularly accurate."

One thing is certain: A lot more people who say they are Central American or South American will actually be from those places.

"The over 40 population dominated by the baby boomers, they're the ones in power now," said Frey. "But when we get to 2043, a lot of them will not be with us anymore. Those under 40 will be in power and we will be even more of a global society."


On The Net:

U.S. and world population clocks: http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock....


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