300 Million People And Counting

Late afternoon in Maricopa, Ariz. is the picture perfect time for the annual homecoming parade in a city that more and more people are calling home.

The city is only three years old, but Mayor Kelly Anderson has lived on a farm in what is now Maricopa all his life. So far, he is the city's first and only mayor. Houses are springing up where he said six months ago, there were none.

Maricopa is a microcosm of the population surge occurring in much of the United States — the fastest growing in the industrialized world.

There are one million new residents every four months. The census bureau predicts we'll reach 300 million people some time the week of October 16th.

"When I was a kid there weren't any houses," Kelly told CBSSunday Morning correspondent Thalia Assuras as he showed her where he grew up. "I rode my bike through that area and we had a fishing pond on the north end of the farm and life was good. It's good now."

Life in Maricopa is rapidly changing. It's population jumped from just 1,500 when Anderson took the helm to 25,000. By the end of the decade Maricopa is expected to explode to more than one hundred thousand.

"It's really fast. At one point the city was permitting 800 permits a month," Anderson said. "And we do the creative math; it's about three people per hour. It's really phenomenal when you think about it."

The growth is so rapid that city hall is housed in temporary trailers. Municipal planners are scrambling to keep ahead of potential transportation and traffic problems as they shape their city. Council member Will Dunn was born here and recently returned with his young family.

"We came here to get away from the growth. It came with us," he said. "We decided at that point, we're gonna work with it."

Dunn has capitalized on the population rise with his pet store. He also sells flowers, saddles and even birds.

"You kinda had to make the choice when this whole explosion happened," he said. "You had to decide whether you're gonna just be mad that people's taking over your area. Or you're gonna say, 'You know what, here's an opportunity.'"

William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, said there are three reasons for U.S. population growth: the birth rate is relatively high, we're healthier and living longer, but mostly, it's immigration. He said there is a net increase of one immigrant — legal or illegal — every 30 seconds.

"I have predicted that the 300-millionth American will be a boy born in Los Angeles County to a Mexican mother," he said. "It's not only a prediction, but I think it's, it's more symbolic of what the population will look like in the next several years. The 300-millionth American represents going back to our melting pot roots in a way, because we're now bringing in much of our growth from immigrants, the children of immigrants, and a diversity to our population which we haven't seen in a long time."

Immigration has been a hot button political issue leading into the midterm elections. Frey said that because the 300-millionth American is likely to either be an immigrant or child of an immigrant, some people will "mixed up with all kinds of other issues associated with the illegal immigration debate, with the rancor that sometimes comes along with this in some states where immigrants are a new phenomenon."
  • Caitlin Johnson

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