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KNOXVILLE –- Demographers have predicted the U.S. population will hit 300 million this month, and a University of Tennessee expert says there’s a good chance the 300 millionth American will be Latino — and a growing chance that person may be born or naturalized here in Tennessee.

Anita Drever
Anita Drever
“Population projections are risky business,” said Anita Drever, UT assistant professor of geography.

“U.S. fertility and mortality rates are fairly constant over the past two decades. Demographers are therefore able to look at the age distribution of the U.S. population and accurately project the ratio of births to deaths for years to come.”

The wild card is immigration.

“Immigration is affected by policy, by economic trends and other factors,” Drever said. “If, for example, immigration reforms are pushed through Congress and sanctions against the employers of undocumented immigrants are enforced, the U.S. population will not increase as rapidly. If there’s a major crop failure in Mexico, immigration rates could end up being higher than expected.”

Either by birth or immigration, “there’s a good chance the 300 millionth American will be Latino,” Drever said.

“Presently, Latinos account for nearly half the yearly population increase in the United States. This growth is fueled partly by immigration into the United States and partly by Latino fertility rates, which are above the U.S. average. If the 300 millionth baby is a Latino, it will most likely be born in California. However, the chance that the baby would be born in Tennessee or another Southern state is increasing.”

Drever will be the featured speaker at the Nov. 4 College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Showcase prior to the Vols football game against Louisiana State University. Her talk will be entitled “La Nueva South: Trends in Latino Migration to Tennessee.”

Drever’s research focuses on immigrant housing and immigrant neighborhoods in Europe and the American South. She is a research affiliate of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, and she has published in some of the top journals in her field.

Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,
Anita Drever (865) 974-6170,