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American Population Passes 300 Million; Despite Great Wealth Average American is Unhappy

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By John E. Carey
October 18, 2006

In case you missed it, the population of the United States passed the 300 million person mark at approximately 7:46 a.m. Eastern Times on Tuesday October 17, 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

America is, by many measures, the wealthiest country in the world. Despite that, many Americans are unhappy. Mark Clements Research conducted a survey of Americans for Parade Magazine last April. The findings? 48% of Americans believe they're worse off than their parents were.

The GFK-Roper conducted a study in June that found 66% of Americans said their personal situations in the "Good Old Days"--defined as the era between the 1950s and the 1980s--were better than they are today. In May, a Pew Research Center poll showed that half of U.S. adults believe the current trends point toward their children's future being worse than their own present.

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But the facts show that Americans should be happier. Largely due to soaring real estate values, the typical American household has a net worth of $465,970, up 83% from 1965, 60% from 1985 and 35% from 1995.

But there is a problem with this measure as the money or value in your house or property is not generally "spendable."

Economist Milton Friedman espouses something called "Permanent Income Theory." This theory says that most people measure where they are relative to where they expected to be a few years ago. They don't care that when actually measured, they are "wealthier" than before. They don't feel better off.

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Other population factors like urban crowding and our increasingly congested traffic on the roads influences Americans toward believing that they are not better off.

"If you expect a 3% rise in income and you get 2.5%, you're disappointed," says Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board, a private research group in New York.

Here are some of the facts and figures relative to our growing population:

--According to the Pew Hispanic Center, it has been 39 years since the U.S. population reached 200 million. Since then, about 55 percent of the growth has come from immigrants, their children and their grandchildren.

--If the U.S. had cut off all immigration since 1967, the population would be about 245 million - and a lot less diverse, said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at the center.

--According to Passel, "We've had much more Asian and Latino immigration than white and black. That has led to the racial and ethnic diversity that we have today."

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--At the top of our society, the super rich are getting richer. Wal-Mart Chief Lee Raymond "earned" $19 million last year. That was 410 times what the average American made, as opposed to the $469,000 a year earned by Exxon's Ken Jamieson in 1975, which was a mere 40 times more.

--Tiger Woods "earned" $87 million last year.

-- Bill Gates had a net worth of $53 billion last year or 133,741 times that of the average American.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.

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