STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Early this morning, the United States hit a milestone in its own population. It happens at 7:46 on the East Coast.
Unidentified Man #1: (Tape Recorded Announcement) At the tone, Eastern Daylight Time, seven hours, forty-six minutes, exactly.
(Soundbite of beep)
INSKEEP: And if you're not entirely sure what the population was at that precise moment, you are not alone. We recently asked people at the National Mall here in Washington, D.C., for their estimate of the U.S. population.
Unidentified Woman #1 (Washington, D.C.): Twenty billion. I don't know.
Unidentified Man #2 (Washington, D.C.): I'd guess probably, I don't know, 150 million?
Unidentified Woman #2 (Washington, D.C.): I know there are five million people in the District of Columbia. I don't know how many in the United States.
Unidentified Woman #3 (Washington, D.C.): Probably two million.
Unidentified Woman #4 (Washington, D.C.): Three hundred thousand million?
(Soundbite of laughter)
INSKEEP: Well let's check those figures, if we can, with Carl Haub. He is a senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, and he's been helping us track the population of the United States, minute by minute, all morning. And he joined us on the line from Fredericksburg, Virginia, just seconds after 7:46 Eastern.
Can you tell us the population milestone that we reached this morning?
Mr. CARL HAUB (Senior Demographer, Population Reference Bureau): Yes, I can. We just reached 300 million, and we're only the third country in history to have done that.
INSKEEP: Three hundred million people. Now, how can you tell that happened exactly at 7:46 in the morning - Eastern time?
Mr. HAUB: Well, well it's kind of an average. Of course we have the census and we do have complete registration of births and deaths, and we can estimate net immigration from surveys. So on average, you know, for the month of October. That would be the time in which this would've happened.
INSKEEP: And Mr. Haub, can I mention that, well, another minute-fifteen has passed here, so I guess it's over 300 million now. Three hundred million and what - three? Four?
Mr. HAUB: Right this second it was three million - 300 million and five. Oops, there's six.
(Soundbite of laughter)
INSKEEP: Every how many seconds there's another person in the United States?
Mr. HAUB: About every eleven seconds.
INSKEEP: Now, do you have any idea - I suppose it'd be hard to know - but do you have any idea who the 300 millionth person could be?
Mr. HAUB: Well, if you were betting, since the - what we call the majority; the white, non-Hispanic population - is about 70 percent of the population and has the largest number of births, you would have to bet on a white, non-Hispanic person.
But of course, we don't really know who it is.
INSKEEP: White, non-Hispanic. Just based on the averages?
Mr. HAUB: Yes. And the, you know - and another thing too, which is interesting, it's more likely to be a birth because most immigrants arrive by airplane. And even on the West Coast, flights, most flights have not yet started arriving.
INSKEEP: More likely to be a birth, because in other eras, milestones might have been passed by, what, an immigrant arriving? Is that what you're saying?
Mr. HAUB: It could have been, yeah, if it was in the afternoon on the East Coast, for example, when most international flights arrive. It's just something I thought of this morning.
INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Haub, thanks for keeping track of this for us.
INSKEEP: Carl Haub is senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau. He joined us on the line from Fredericksburg, Virginia.
The population of the United States is now officially over 300 million. The last time the U.S. marked a major population milestone, by the way, was back in 1967, when the population hit 200 million. We're heading for 400 million in a few more decades.
(Soundbite of music)
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