(October 2006) Held in Washington, DC, on Oct. 5, 2006, the symposium “300 Million Americans and Counting” featured six presenters who highlighted the challenges and prospects of this milestone in America’s history.

The symposium was sponsored by the Population Resource Center, the Population Reference Bureau, the American Sociological Association, the Association of Population Centers, and the Population Association of America.

This webcast shows the briefing in its entirety, with each presentation as a separate webcast. Most presenters illustrated their remarks with a series of PowerPoint graphics, which are synchronized with the presenter’s remarks. The question and answer sessions are presented as a separate webcast.

The Speakers

Welcome: Faith Mitchell, senior program officer, National Institute of Medicine, National Academy of sciences, and president of the Population Resource Center; and Bill Butz, president and CEO, Population Reference Bureau.

Linda Jacobsen, director of domestic programs, Population Reference Bureau: “Overview: Challenges and Prospects.” Jacobsen offers an overview of changes in the size, composition, and distribution of the U.S. population since 1967 when it reached 200 million. She also takes a look at some of the implications of these changes. Right now, approximately 1 in 5 children in the U.S. resides in an immigrant family, meaning that they are either foreign-born themselves or they have at least one foreign-born parent. “This has resulted in increases in limited-English proficiency among not only students, but also their parents,” says Jacobsen. “These changes have produced strains on the educational system and also for social service delivery.”

View 300 Million: Challenges and Prospects

Marlene Lee, senior policy analyst, Population Reference Bureau: “Education and Workforce: The Critical Links.” In her talk, Lee explores how demand for educated workers has changed and how the demographic composition of the labor force will likely change. She points out education differentials that could have ripple effects years from now. Hispanics and African Americans are underrepresented in the 2005 science and engineering labor force. Hispanics are 14 percent of the overall labor force and only 6 percent of the science and engineering labor force. And low science proficiency at the secondary school level among Hispanic and African American students is cause for concern. “This raises a question about where future scientists and engineers will come from if these trends remain the same,” says Lee. “Growth in the scientific and engineering workforce will slow, unless the representation of Hispanics and African Americans in these fields increases and or older workers delay retirement or continue to work in a more flexible situation.”

View Education and Workforce: The Critical Links

Carlos Restrepo, adjunct professor, Wagner School’s Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems of New York: “Infrastructure: How Firm Is the Foundation?” Restrepo’s discussion touches on the role of infrastructure networks in promoting sustainability. He looks at how the spatial concentration of infrastructure systems can create vulnerable spots. How the road system is spatially set up can affect environmental exposure to air pollution. One study he describes looks at how the proximity of elementary and junior high school (grades K-8) to major highways and truck routes in the South Bronx is correlated to high risk of asthma.

View Infrastructure: How Firm Is the Foundation?

Steven Sinding, former director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation; professor of clinical public health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University: “U.S. and the World: A Demographically Divided World.” Sinding described role of the United States since 1950 in the world response to different rates of population growth. In the 1960s, policymakers thought the world was divided into the low-fertility north and the high-fertility south, which some thought was “growing out of control.” Up until the Reagan era, the United States led the international movement to promote programs that reduced fertility in developing countries. But intense partisanship resulted in a loss of U.S. leadership on the issue. “If rapid population growth is no longer the issue it used to be,” asks Sinding, “why worry about the lack of U.S. leadership on the issue?” One reason he cites: “Rapid population growth in South Africa is a much more pressing issue than HIV/AIDS.”

View U.S. and the World: A Demographically Divided World

Rodolfo O. de la Garza, professor of political science, Columbia University: “Politics and Governance: The Political Landscape in the 21st Century.” De la Garza discusses what he calls the “myth” of a powerful Latino vote. “Why does everybody care about the Latino vote?” he says, noting that Latinos vote less than blacks and whites. Latinos are in states where their votes don’t matter; the states are already decided. And Latinos don’t make a difference in any of the major swing districts, he says. The influx of all these immigrants has shifted only a few seats. It hasn’t shaped American politics in a counter-mainstream way, he says.

View Politics and Governance: The Political Landscape in the 21st Century

Joseph Chamie, research director, Center for Migration Studies and former director of the Population Division at the United Nations Secretariat: “Closing Keynote: Is Growth the Only Option?” Chamie took a broad-brush approach and reviewed past attitudes toward immigration and population growth starting with the Declaration of Independence, which complains about King George III’s obstructing laws for naturalizing the foreign-born. Chamie then examines forces that support population growth. Among them, the business sector. More people translate into bigger markets. However, Chamie’s answer to the question posed by his talk’s title is “absolutely not.” You don’t have to grow in population to have a strong economy, he says, citing Japan.

View Closing Keynote: Is Growth the Only Option?

View Questions and Answers webcast.