By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press Writer, October 17, 2006
The moment, recorded at 7:46 a.m. EDT, passed with little fanfare, perhaps dampened by a divisive debate over illegal immigration and the fact that many experts think the population had already hit the 300 million mark months ago.
There were no fireworks or government-sponsored celebrations. Just a written statement from
near the end of the work day, welcoming the milestone as "further proof that the American Dream remains as bright and hopeful as ever."
"It's a couple of weeks before an election when illegal immigration is a high-profile issue, and they don't want to make a big deal out of it," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
It's been 39 years since the
In other words, if the
"We've had much more Asian and Latino immigration than white and black," said Passel, the study's author. "That has led to the racial and ethnic diversity that we have today."
When the population hit 200 million in 1967, more than 80 percent of Americans were white and less than 5 percent were Hispanic. Less than 1 percent were Asian.
Today, Hispanics make up nearly 15 percent of the population and Asians about 5 percent. White non-Hispanics account for about 67 percent, blacks a little more than 13 percent.
By 2043, white non-Hispanics are expected to be a little more than half. That's the year the population is projected to hit 400 million, though the numbers could change significantly depending on immigration and birth rates.
In 1967, President Johnson held a news conference at the
to mark the 200
million milestone. He hailed the country's past and
talked about the challenges ahead. Life magazine dispatched a cadre of
photographers to find a baby born at the exact moment, anointing a boy born in
This year, there's a good chance the 300 millionth American
walked across the border from
, himself an immigrant from
"I would hate to think that we are going to be low key about this," said Gutierrez, whose department oversees the. "I would hope that we make a big deal about it."
"This is one more area where we seem to have an advantage," Gutierrez said. "We should all feel good about reaching this milestone."
The Census Bureau counts the population every 10 years. In between, it uses administrative records and surveys to estimate monthly averages for births, deaths and net immigration. The bureau has a "population clock" that estimates a birth every seven seconds, a death every 13 seconds and a new immigrant every 31 seconds. Add it together and you get one new American every 11 seconds.
It's not easy estimating the exact number of people in a
country the size of the
There are an estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. Experts differ on the specifics, but many estimate that more than 1 million of them don't show up in census figures.
"The census clearly misses people," said Passel, a former Census Bureau employee who used to help estimate the undercount. "Having said that, when they crossed 200 million, they were missing about 5 million people. We think the 2000 census missed a lot less than 5 million people."
On The Net:
Census Bureau population clock: http://www.census.gov/population/www/popclockus.html