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How America changed at 7:46 a.m. Tuesday

With 300 million people, it's richer and more diverse than in 1967, but worries grow over environment and jobs.

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America's population hit the 300 million mark Tuesday – at 7:46 a.m. Eastern time, according to Census Bureau estimates.

Nobody knows exactly who became America's 300 millionth citizen. But demographers are summing up the milestone as a turning point that signals several trends to watch as the US – in contrast with Europe and Japan – deals with a steadily growing population.

Politically and demographically, experts say, the shifts will begin to have an impact on regions of the country not yet used to the new diversity provided by the influx of Hispanics and Asians, which has already transformed California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, and New York.

In coming years, Midwesterners, those in the Great Plains, rural areas, and small towns everywhere will begin to deal with the challenges of new ethnic and racial residents, says William Frey, a population expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. And the country as a whole will begin to be more dominated by a young/old divide than the current liberal/conservative model that dominates political discourse.

"This means we are going to transform the current, red/blue political dichotomy to one where the nation is separated by age ... young vs. old," says Mr. Frey. "The issues of younger generations dealing with children and opportunities for minorities will clash with those of the aging baby boomers whose voters are concerned with issues of aging and Social Security and Medicare," he adds. "Both parties will have to adjust to this new dichotomy."

The new milestone hasn't generated much hoopla. That's in sharp contrast to 1967, when President Johnson hailed the 200 millionth American, and Life magazine dispatched a cadre of photographers to find a baby born at the exact moment.


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