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300 million but who's counting?
An editorial / By Dale McFeatters


October 17, 2006

If you are really at loose ends this week, you might want to put down 7:46 a.m. EDT Tuesday on your calendar as an occasion for observance.

That's when, according to Census Bureau data, the U.S. population will pass the 300 million mark.

The Census professes to be tracking this precisely with a clock at and offers, should you want to do your own calculations, such helpful facts as: the United States has a birth every 7 seconds, a death every 13 seconds and the arrival of a new immigrant every 31 seconds, for a net gain of one new person every 11 seconds.

gif US Population

US Population
Artist Gary McCoy, Cagle Cartoons
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

However, the exact moment we reach 300 million is more a matter of art and science and because of such other factors as the difficulty of accounting for illegal immigrations, many demographers believe we actually reached that point a year or more ago.

For all but unreconstructed Malthusians, the 300 million mark should be cause for celebration. The United States is a dynamic, prosperous, thriving society and growth is necessary to keep it that way. We are the world's third most populous country and considerably better off materially than the two larger, China and India.

In 1967, when the nation passed 200 million, it was cause for national celebration with jubilation at the Census bureau and a speech and proclamation by President Lyndon Johnson.

But this time the government, if not exactly lying low, is considerably more circumspect and that's because of the cloud cast by illegal immigration and the divisive debate over how to deal with it.

This nation has dealt with huge tides of immigrants before - 15 percent of the population in 1915 was foreign-born - and will do so again; the process of arriving at a solution may not be easy or pleasant but we will get there.

If you commute to work in the big city or are looking for a home in the suburbs, it's easy to believe this country is crowded but it's not as any air traveler who's crossed the country on a clear day knows. The Wall Street Journal came up with an interesting way of looking at: We could move every American family of four onto two acre plots in Texas and leave the rest of the country deserted.

While immigration has something to do with our growth, falling childhood death rates and longer life spans have more to do with our increasing numbers and that is cause for celebration.

We should reach the 400 million mark around 2045 and, if it's any comfort to the Malthusians, it should begin stabilizing soon after that.



Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,

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