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Brea Baby Pushes O.C.'s Population to 3 Million

The boy's arrival is heralded by officials and Mickey Mouse. His twin sister, born 24 minutes later, is No. 3,000,002.

June 13, 2003|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

Micah James Culling arrived in the wee hours Thursday with a bit more fanfare than a typical newborn.

Armed with educated guesswork and some fuzzy math, Orange County officials and population experts declared Micah the county's 3 millionth resident. Micah's twin sister, Mikayla Joy, was born 24 minutes later, pushing the county population to 3,000,002, according to county experts.

Lina Martir, it turned out, was born at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton between the arrival of Micah and his sister.

After three years of trying to get pregnant, said Julia Culling of Brea, she was simply happy to have a healthy baby, never mind twins, a full 15 minutes of fame and then some, and a boatload of gift certificates from county theme parks, hotels, restaurants, the Anaheim Angels and the Mighty Ducks.

County officials marked the occasion at Kaiser Medical Center in Anaheim with a generous dose of officialdom: a news conference and appearances by two county supervisors, County Recorder Tom Daly and Mickey Mouse. A slew of television and radio reporters hovered.

Oblivious to their sudden fame and mathematical distinction, the babies were wheeled into the conference room in incubators and spent most of their 30 minutes slumbering in their mother and father's arms.

Thursday might have been all about Orange County celebrating its growth and its 3 millionth resident -- making it No. 2 behind Los Angeles County -- but Orange County is doomed to fall behind other, quicker-growing counties in due order.

By 2040, state demographic officials predict, Orange County will lag behind the populations of San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

The growth rates might have something to do with a recent report that named Orange County the least affordable region in Southern California, with only 21% of its residents able to afford a median-priced home of $464,120. At 64%, the High Desert remained the most affordable region in the state.

Orange County's millionth resident was born in 1963 and its 2 millionth in 1981, according to county records. Based on a formula devised by William Gayk, director of Cal State Fullerton's Center for Demographic research, it was determined that the county's 3 millionth resident would be the first baby born June 12.

How exact are the calculations?

"How does anyone ever know exactly when it comes to population?" Daly said. "These are the closest, most accurate numbers we can get."

The formula was based on a recent trend in Orange County of 46,000 births per year and 16,000 deaths.

In January, the population was 2,978,800, about 17,000 ahead of San Diego County.

"Migration goes up and down with the economy," Daly said, "but birthrates are more predictable."

Board Chairman Tom Wilson said he'd be surprised if Orange County ever hits the 4 million benchmark.

"It'll be 3 million something for a long time," he said. "We're just running out of space."

But state demographic officials predict that by 2040, Orange County will have 4.2 million residents.

For now, the county will enjoy number 3 million, and Micah James Culling's parents will have a day to remember.

The moment -- 12:33 a.m. -- was made possible by her son's perfect sense of timing.

"We came in Tuesday night, and for 24 hours nothing happened," said Julia Culling, a kindergarten teacher in Whittier. "But by midnight, he was ready to come. I guess he wanted all this."

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