US population to hit 300 million

2006-10-17 07:25

Washington - A baby boy of Latino heritage, born in Los Angeles on Tuesday, might well be the 300 millionth American.

The 200 millionth, a Chinese-American lawyer in Atlanta, says he'll be very relieved.

The US population will top 300 million at about 07:46 EDT on Tuesday, according to the US Census Bureau, nearly 39 years after the 200 million mark was reached on November 20, 1967.

"The demographers will tell you I clearly didn't fit the statistics of what ... the 200 millionth should have been," said Robert Woo, who drew a media spotlight as No. 200 million when he was born.

Now a Harvard-educated attorney, Woo said he would be relieved to pass the torch to No. 300 million, but added that no one person could personify the US population.

"It's such a diverse country that it would be impossible to find a typical or average state, town or neighbourhood that would represent the country - trying to identify an individual would be just impossible," Woo said in a telephone interview.

Educated guess

It is possible to make an educated guess at who the 300 millionth American will be, said demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution.

"I predict it's going to be a Latino baby boy, born in Los Angeles to a Mexican immigrant mother," Frey said by telephone.

This prediction makes sense, Frey said, because about half of US population growth is due to Hispanics, the biggest gains in the Hispanic population are in Los Angeles, more boys are born than girls and the US population is growing more due to natural increase than through immigration.

"In theory, it could be anybody who crosses a border, who comes off a plane as a new immigrant or is born anywhere in the United States but if you have to put the odds on high probability, I would say my guess is pretty good," Frey said.

Alarm from environmentalists

The 300 million mark has prompted alarm from some environmentalists, who question whether the country's natural resources can support additional population.

The United States is the only major industrial nation whose population is substantially increasing. Only China and India have more people.

Frey said it was important to prepare for future growth.

"I think that it's much easier to project ahead the population of the United States and get scared about it than it is to project ahead what kinds of scientific and technological innovations will allow us to support that population growth," he said.

Rapid growth

US population only reached 100 million in 1915, when Woodrow Wilson was president and the cost of a new home was $3 200 - $64 158 in 2006 dollars, according to the Census.

Life expectancy at birth was 54.5 years, compared with 77.8 years now. Fewer than one in four women - 23% - worked outside the home, compared with 59% in 2006. The most popular baby names were John and Mary; they are now Jacob and Emily.

US population is expected to top 400 million in 2043.