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U.S. Population Tops 300 Million and Shows Accelerating Growth

Thirty-nine years after hitting the 200 million mark, the U.S. population reached 300 million Tuesday, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. A demographer discusses the significance of the figure and the accelerating growth trend.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    It took almost 140 years for the U.S. population to hit the 100 million mark in 1915. The next 100 million came more quickly, in 1967, but it's taken only 39 years to reach 300 million. That, the Census Bureau says, happened today.

    But who are we, and why do the numbers matter? For that, we turn to William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who's also a research professor at the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center.

    Welcome.

  • WILLIAM FREY, Brookings Institution:

    Thank you.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So who are these 300 million people?

  • WILLIAM FREY:

    Well, they're a much more diverse 300 million people than we've had for a large part of the last part of the 20th century. I think what's important about hitting this 300 million mark, aside from the fact that it's a big number and it focuses people on the fact that we're the third-most-populous country in the world, is how we're getting there.

    About 40 percent of the growth right now in the United States is from immigration. And a good part of the natural increase — the births minus the deaths — is due to children of immigrants to the United States. And so what I think this means is, as we enter this new century with this 300 millionth baby, we're getting to be a more melting-pot nation again.

    For much of the last half of the 20th century, really since 1930, the Depression, we didn't bring a lot of immigrants into this country. Most of the adults today grew up in a time where they didn't have a lot of day-to-day exposure to people from other countries, and this is new.

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