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US population expected to top 300 million in fall

WASHINGTON -- The US population is on target to hit 300 million this fall, with Hispanic newborns and immigrants accounting for a large part of the increase.

Hispanics accounted for almost half the nation's population growth 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 US 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 US Hispanics. The first effort to count Hispanics came in the 1970 Census, and the results were dubious.

The Census Bureau counted about 9.6 million Latinos, a little less than 5 percent of the population. The bureau acknowledged that the figure was inflated in the Midwest and South because some people who checked the box saying they were ``Central or South American" thought that designation meant they were from the central or southern United States.

Most people in the United States did not have any neighbors from Central America or South America in the 1960s. The baby boom had just ended in 1964, and the country was growing through birthrates, not immigration, said Howard Hogan, the Census Bureau's associate director for demographic programs.

In 1967, there were fewer than 10 million people in the United States who were born in other countries; that was not even 1 in 20. White non-Hispanics made up about 83 percent of the population.

Today, there are 36 million immigrants, about 1 in 8.

``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 yesterday, 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 US 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 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.

The US 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 US 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.

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