Friday, January 13, 2006

How many people can we fit in a phone booth?

Did you hear that America is soon to have 300 million residents? If you hurry, your next child could be number 300-Million.
If the experts are right, some time this month, perhaps somewhere in the suburban South or West, a couple, most likely white Anglo-Saxon Protestants or Hispanic, will conceive a baby who, when born in October, will become the 300 millionth American.

Approaching a Milestone As of yesterday, the Census Bureau officially pegged the resident population of the United States at closing in on 297,900,000. The bureau estimates that with a baby being born every 8 seconds, someone dying every 12 seconds and the nation gaining an immigrant every 31 seconds on average, the population is growing by one person every 14 seconds.

At that rate, the total is expected to top 300 million late this year. But with those projections adjusted monthly and the number of births typically peaking during the summer, the benchmark is likely to be reached about nine months from now.

"You end up with a number in October," said Katrina Wengert, a demographer and a keeper of the Census Bureau's official Population Clock, getting about as specific as possible this far in advance in a field subject to chronic fudging and revising. The clock is, itself, a contrivance, of course, but no more so than other pretexts for a wintertime sexual encounter. Rest assured that hospital publicists, canny obstetricians, entrepreneurial chambers of commerce, baby food manufacturers, public officials and countless others pursuing some political social or personal agenda, abetted by the media, are already guesstimating the growth rate to anoint any number of unsuspecting newborns as the mythical American who pushed the nation's population to 300 million.
Who is going to be the lucky soul?

Sidebar: My use of the word "soul" there reminds me of a short story I read years ago. I don't remember the name of the story, nor do I remember the author. What I do remember is the gist of the story: As many people were on the planet, alive, as had every lived on the planet from the beginning of time. And, most importantly, we'd run out of souls; babies were being born with no souls; they were blank. Can anyone tell me where I could find the story?

We know who was lucky number 200-Million was. Well, we know what Life magazine told us:
In 1967, when the population reached 200 million, Life magazine dispatched 23 photographers to locate the baby and devoted a five-page spread to its search. Instead of deciding on a statistically valid symbol of the average American newborn, the magazine chose the one born at precisely the appointed time.

Life immortalized Robert Ken Woo Jr. of Atlanta, whose parents, a computer programmer and a chemical engineer, had immigrated seven years earlier from China.
Wondering how Mr. 200-Million's life turned out? Check out his profile on ZoomInfo or his work bio (and picture).

Yes, he seems to have led a pretty good life thus far. Let's hope the same for number 300-million.

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