Tracking America's Journey

"The United States themselves," wrote Walt Whitman, "are essentially the greatest poem." That epic is rewritten by each generation but also revised every 11 seconds when a new American enters the population. On the eve of what could be a transformational election, we recently recorded the arrival of the 300 millionth American. The proximity of those two events created the perfect moment to launch what TIME expects will be an annual feature called "America by the Numbers," an illustrated look at who we are as a nation--and where we're going. It is TIME 's first cover story told principally through graphics,...

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