Academic journal article Social Education

Now and Then: The U.S. Reaches 300 Million

Academic journal article Social Education

Now and Then: The U.S. Reaches 300 Million

Article excerpt

When this country was founded, 4 million people lived in the original 13 states--about the same number who now live in Los Angeles. How do we know? We know because a constitutionally mandated census was taken in 1790 and every 10 years thereafter. Over the decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has adapted to the nation's changing data needs and developed new data collection techniques. Today, the Census Bureau compiles extensive information every year about the people and the economy of the United States. That is how we know that in 2006 the United States is going to reach an extraordinary milestone--300 million people.

The last time the United States experienced a major population milestone was four decades ago--when the population reached 200 million in 1967, as shown in Figure 1. Baby Boomers might wax nostalgic about the days of the Andy Griffith Show, the Beatles, and 33-cents-a-gallon gas, but to today's school children, 1967 is ancient history. Nevertheless, they would still be amazed to learn how much the world has changed since their grandparents' day.

Now: There are more children than ever.

Then: Children were more likely to live with two parents.

There are about 73 million people under age 18 living in the United States, according to the Census Bureau's most recent population estimates--3 million more than when Baby Boomers were this age in 1967. (2) One in every four people living in the United States today is a child, but this proportion varies across the country. In Utah, 31 percent of residents are under age 18. In the District of Columbia, 20 percent are this young.

Although 9 in 10 children lived with two parents four decades earlier, Census 2000 found 7 in 10 children lived in a home with both parents. (3) Twenty-one percent lived with a single mother, and 6 percent lived with a single father.

According to Census 2000, 90 percent of children were the sons or daughters of the householder (the person who owns or rents the dwelling). Nationwide, about 6 percent of all children lived in a grandparent's household. The remainder lived in the home of other relatives and nonrelatives.

Children in the Midwest are the most likely to be the sons or daughters of the householder; in the South, they are least likely to be a child of the householder. In Hawaii, 19 percent of children lived with a householder who was not their parent--almost twice the national rate. (4) The proportion living with a householder who was not their parent was about 5 percent in North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Vermont.

Now: Most 3- and 4-year-olds attend school.

Then: Half of adults aged 25 and older did not have a high school diploma.

Although 1 in 7 three- and four-year-olds went to some type of school in 1967, most twenty-first century children will not recall a time when they did not attend school. (5) According to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, the majority (54 percent) of three- and four-year-olds were enrolled in 2004. This survey also reveals more older adults are in school. Among people aged 30 to 34 in 2004, 7 percent were enrolled in some type of school--compared with 4 percent of people that age in 1967.

Among people aged 16 to 19, almost 10 percent are high school dropouts (not high school graduates and not enrolled in school), according to Census 2000. Dropout rates are highest in the West and the South. In Nevada and Arizona, the rates are about 16 percent and 15 percent. In North Dakota, Iowa, Vermont, Minnesota, and Hawaii, the dropout rates are 6 percent or less.

Still, U.S. residents are more educated than ever. In 2004, 85 percent of people aged 25 and older had at least a high-school education, and 28 percent of people this age had a college degree or more education, according to the Current Population Survey's Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC). In contrast, in 1967 only 51 percent of adults aged 25 and older had at least a high-school education, while a mere 10 percent had a college degree or more education. …

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