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United States

The United States is a common name for the United States of America, a sovereign state administered mostly in central North America.

United States may also refer to:


  • Countries 1
    • Historical 1.1
    • Proposed 1.2
    • Fictional 1.3
  • Other 2
  • See also 3





  • The United States of Southern Africa (USSA), successor state to South Africa in Arthur C. Clarke's science-fiction novel 2061: Odyssey Three
  • United States of Japan in the TV series Code Geass
  • United States of Earth in the TV series Futurama
  • United States of Mexamericanada, or just "Mexamericanada", a satirical reference in 21st century politics
  • The United States of North America (USNA), a fictitious country in the 1985 science fiction computer text adventure A Mind Forever Voyaging, set in the year 2031
  • Various S.F. writings, such as those of James P. Hogan, formed from the union of the U.S.A., Canada, The Bahamas, and other neighbouring countries
  • The United States of the New Continent (USN) from the Front Mission series
  • The United States of Canada, a political combination of liberal blue states and Canada, as opposed to Jesusland


See also

United States

  • Hide

    Introduction :: UNITED STATES

    Panel - Expanded
  • Background:
    Britain's American colonies broke with the mother country in 1776 and were recognized as the new nation of the United States of America following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. During the 19th and 20th centuries, 37 new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. The two most traumatic experiences in the nation's history were the Civil War (1861-65), in which a northern Union of states defeated a secessionist Confederacy of 11 southern slave states, and the Great Depression of the 1930s, an economic downturn during which about a quarter of the labor force lost its jobs. Buoyed by victories in World Wars I and II and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US remains the world's most powerful nation state. Since the end of World War II, the economy has achieved relatively steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology.
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    Geography :: UNITED STATES

    Panel - Expanded
  • Location:
    North America, bordering both the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean, between Canada and Mexico
    Geographic coordinates:
    38 00 N, 97 00 W
    Map references:
    North America
    total: 9,833,517 sq km
    land: 9,147,593 sq km
    water: 685,924 sq km
    note: includes only the 50 states and District of Columbia, no overseas territories (2010)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    Area - comparative:
    about half the size of Russia; about three-tenths the size of Africa; about half the size of South America (or slightly larger than Brazil); slightly larger than China; more than twice the size of the European Union
    Land boundaries:
    total: 12,048 km
    border countries (2): Canada 8,893 km (including 2,477 km with Alaska), Mexico 3,155 km
    note: US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is leased by the US and is part of Cuba; the base boundary is 28.5 km
    19,924 km
    Maritime claims:
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    contiguous zone: 24 nm
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    continental shelf: not specified
    mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the great plains west of the Mississippi River, and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the northwest are ameliorated occasionally in January and February by warm chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains
    vast central plain, mountains in west, hills and low mountains in east; rugged mountains and broad river valleys in Alaska; rugged, volcanic topography in Hawaii
    Elevation extremes:
    lowest point: Death Valley -86 m
    highest point: Denali (Mount McKinley) 6,190 m (highest point in North America)
    note: the peak of Mauna Kea (4,205 m above sea level) on the island of Hawaii rises about 10,200 m above the Pacific Ocean floor; by this measurement, it is the world's tallest mountain - higher than Mount Everest (8,850 m), which is recognized as the tallest mountain above sea level
    Natural resources:
    coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, rare earth elements, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, timber, arable land
    note: the US has the world's largest coal reserves with 491 billion short tons accounting for 27% of the world's total
    Land use:
    agricultural land: 44.5%
    arable land 16.8%; permanent crops 0.3%; permanent pasture 27.4%
    forest: 33.3%
    other: 22.2% (2011 est.)
    Irrigated land:
    266,440 sq km (2007)
    Total renewable water resources:
    3,069 cu km (2011)
    Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
    total: 478.4 cu km/yr (14%/46%/40%)
    per capita: 1,583 cu m/yr (2005)
    Natural hazards:
    tsunamis; volcanoes; earthquake activity around Pacific Basin; hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts; tornadoes in the Midwest and Southeast; mud slides in California; forest fires in the west; flooding; permafrost in northern Alaska, a major impediment to development
    volcanism: volcanic activity in the Hawaiian Islands, Western Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and in the Northern Mariana Islands; both Mauna Loa (elev. 4,170 m) in Hawaii and Mount Rainier (elev. 4,392 m) in Washington have been deemed Decade Volcanoes by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, worthy of study due to their explosive history and close proximity to human populations; Pavlof (elev. 2,519 m) is the most active volcano in Alaska's Aleutian Arc and poses a significant threat to air travel since the area constitutes a major flight path between North America and East Asia; St. Helens (elev. 2,549 m), famous for the devastating 1980 eruption, remains active today; numerous other historically active volcanoes exist, mostly concentrated in the Aleutian arc and Hawaii; they include: in Alaska: Aniakchak, Augustine, Chiginagak, Fourpeaked, Iliamna, Katmai, Kupreanof, Martin, Novarupta, Redoubt, Spurr, Wrangell; in Hawaii: Trident, Ugashik-Peulik, Ukinrek Maars, Veniaminof; in the Northern Mariana Islands: Anatahan; and in the Pacific Northwest: Mount Baker, Mount Hood
    Environment - current issues:
    large emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels; air pollution resulting in acid rain in both the US and Canada; water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; limited natural freshwater resources in much of the western part of the country require careful management; desertification
    Environment - international agreements:
    party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
    signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Biodiversity, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Hazardous Wastes
    Geography - note:
    world's third-largest country by size (after Russia and Canada) and by population (after China and India); Mt. McKinley is highest point in North America and Death Valley the lowest point on the continent
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    People and Society :: UNITED STATES

    Panel - Expanded
  • Nationality:
    noun: American(s)
    adjective: American
    Ethnic groups:
    white 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% (July 2007 estimate)
    note: a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the US Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean persons of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin including those of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican Republic, Spanish, and Central or South American origin living in the US who may be of any race or ethnic group (white, black, Asian, etc.); about 15.1% of the total US population is Hispanic
    English 79.2%, Spanish 12.9%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 3.3%, other 0.9% (2011 est.)
    note: data represents the language spoken at home; the US has no official national language, but English has acquired official status in 31 of the 50 states; Hawaiian is an official language in the state of Hawaii
    Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)
    321,368,864 (July 2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 4
    Age structure:
    0-14 years: 18.99% (male 31,171,623/female 29,845,713)
    15-24 years: 13.64% (male 22,473,687/female 21,358,609)
    25-54 years: 39.76% (male 63,838,086/female 63,947,036)
    55-64 years: 12.73% (male 19,731,664/female 21,172,201)
    65 years and over: 14.88% (male 21,129,978/female 26,700,267) (2015 est.)
    Dependency ratios:
    total dependency ratio: 50.9%
    youth dependency ratio: 28.6%
    elderly dependency ratio: 22.3%
    potential support ratio: 4.5% (2015 est.)
    Median age:
    total: 37.8 years
    male: 36.5 years
    female: 39.2 years (2015 est.)
    Population growth rate:
    0.78% (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 141
    Birth rate:
    12.49 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 158
    Death rate:
    8.15 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 93
    Net migration rate:
    3.86 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 34
    urban population: 81.6% of total population (2015)
    rate of urbanization: 1.02% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
    Major urban areas - population:
    New York-Newark 18.593 million; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana 12.31 million; Chicago 8.745 million; Miami 5.817 million; Dallas-Fort Worth 5.703 million; WASHINGTON, D.C. (capital) 4.955 million (2015)
    Sex ratio:
    at birth: NA
    0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
    15-24 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
    25-54 years: 1 male(s)/female
    55-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female
    65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
    total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
    Maternal mortality rate:
    14 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 136
    Infant mortality rate:
    total: 5.87 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 6.37 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 5.35 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 167
    Life expectancy at birth:
    total population: 79.68 years
    male: 77.32 years
    female: 81.97 years (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 43
    Total fertility rate:
    1.87 children born/woman (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 142
    Contraceptive prevalence rate:
    note: percent of women aged 15-44 (2006/10)
    Health expenditures:
    17.1% of GDP (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Physicians density:
    2.45 physicians/1,000 population (2011)
    Hospital bed density:
    2.9 beds/1,000 population (2011)
    Drinking water source:
    urban: 99.4% of population
    rural: 98.2% of population
    total: 99.2% of population
    urban: 0.6% of population
    rural: 1.8% of population
    total: 0.8% of population (2015 est.)
    Sanitation facility access:
    urban: 100% of population
    rural: 100% of population
    total: 100% of population
    urban: 0% of population
    rural: 0% of population
    total: 0% of population (2015 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
    HIV/AIDS - deaths:
    Obesity - adult prevalence rate:
    35% (2014)
    country comparison to the world: 18
    Children under the age of 5 years underweight:
    0.5% (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 136
    Education expenditures:
    5.2% of GDP (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 63
    School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
    total: 16 years
    male: 16 years
    female: 17 years (2012)
    Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
    total: 13.4%
    male: 14.5%
    female: 12.2% (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 68
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    Government :: UNITED STATES

    Panel - Expanded
  • Country name:
    conventional long form: United States of America
    conventional short form: United States
    abbreviation: US or USA
    etymology: the name America is derived from that of Amerigo VESPUCCI (1454-1512), Italian explorer, navigator, and cartographer
    Government type:
    constitution-based federal republic; strong democratic tradition
    name: Washington, DC
    geographic coordinates: 38 53 N, 77 02 W
    time difference: UTC-5 (during Standard Time)
    daylight saving time: +1hr, begins second Sunday in March; ends first Sunday in November
    note: the 50 United States cover six time zones
    Administrative divisions:
    50 states and 1 district*; Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia*, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
    Dependent areas:
    American Samoa, Baker Island, Guam, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palmyra Atoll, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Wake Island
    note: from 18 July 1947 until 1 October 1994, the US administered the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; it entered into a political relationship with all four political entities: the Northern Mariana Islands is a commonwealth in political union with the US (effective 3 November 1986); the Republic of the Marshall Islands signed a Compact of Free Association with the US (effective 21 October 1986); the Federated States of Micronesia signed a Compact of Free Association with the US (effective 3 November 1986); Palau concluded a Compact of Free Association with the US (effective 1 October 1994)
    4 July 1776 (declared); 3 September 1783 (recognized by Great Britain)
    National holiday:
    Independence Day, 4 July (1776)
    previous 1781 (Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union); latest drafted July - September 1787, submitted to the Congress of the Confederation 20 September 1787, submitted for states' ratification 28 September 1787, ratification completed by nine states 21 June 1788, effective 4 March 1789; amended many times, last in 1992 (2015)
    Legal system:
    common law system based on English common law at the federal level; state legal systems based on common law except Louisiana, which is based on Napoleonic civil code; judicial review of legislative acts
    International law organization participation:
    withdrew acceptance of compulsory ICJ jurisdiction in 2005; withdrew acceptance of ICCt jurisdiction in 2002
    citizenship by birth: yes
    citizenship by descent: yes
    dual citizenship recognized: no, but the US government acknowledges such situtations exist; US citizens are not encouraged to seek dual citizenship since it limits protection by the US
    residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years
    18 years of age; universal
    Executive branch:
    chief of state: President Barack H. OBAMA (since 20 January 2009); Vice President Joseph R. BIDEN (since 20 January 2009); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
    head of government: President Barack H. OBAMA (since 20 January 2009); Vice President Joseph R. BIDEN (since 20 January 2009)
    cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president, approved by the Senate
    elections/appointments: president and vice president indirectly elected on the same ballot by the Electoral College of 'electors' chosen from each state; president and vice president serve a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 6 November 2012 (next to be held on 8 November 2016)
    election results: Barack H. OBAMA reelected president; electoral vote count - Barack H. OBAMA (Democratic Party) 332, Mitt ROMNEY 206 (Republican Party); percent of direct popular vote - Barack H. OBAMA 50.6%, Mitt ROMNEY 47.9%, other 1.5%
    Legislative branch:
    description: bicameral Congress consists of the Senate (100 seats; 2 members directly elected in each of the 50 state constituencies by simple majority vote except in Georgia and Louisiana which require an absolute majority vote with a second round if needed; members serve 6-year terms with one-third of membership renewed every 2 years) and the House of Representatives (435 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote except in Georgia which requires an absolute majority vote with a second round if needed; members serve 2-year terms)
    elections: Senate - last held on 4 November 2014 (next to be held on 8 November 2016); House of Representatives - last held on 4 November 2014 (next to be held on 8 November 2016)
    election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Democratic Party 44, Republican Party 54, independent 2; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Democratic Party 188, Republican Party 247
    note: in addition to the regular members of the House of Representatives there are 6 non-voting delegates elected from the District of Columbia and the US territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands; these are single seat constituencies directly elected by simple majority vote to serve a 2-year term; the delegate can vote when serving on a committee and when the House meets as the Committee of the Whole House, but not when legislation is submitted for a “full floor” House vote; election of delegates last held on 4 November 2014 (next to be held on 1 November 2016)
    Judicial branch:
    highest court(s): US Supreme Court (consists of 9 justices - the chief justice and 8 associate justices)
    judge selection and term of office: president nominates and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoints Supreme Court justices; justices appointed for life
    subordinate courts: Courts of Appeal (includes the US Court of Appeal for the Federal District and 12 regional appeals courts); 94 federal district courts in 50 states and territories
    note: the US court system consists of the federal court system and the state court systems; although each court system is responsible for hearing certain types of cases, neither is completely independent of the other, and the systems often interact
    Political parties and leaders:
    Democratic Party [Debbie Wasserman SCHULTZ]
    Green Party [collective leadership]
    Libertarian Party [Nicholas SARWARK]
    Republican Party [Reince PRIEBUS]
    Political pressure groups and leaders:
    other: environmentalists; business groups; labor unions; churches; ethnic groups; political action committees or PACs; health groups; education groups; civic groups; youth groups; transportation groups; agricultural groups; veterans groups; women's groups; reform lobbies
    International organization participation:
    ADB (nonregional member), AfDB (nonregional member), ANZUS, APEC, Arctic Council, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, BSEC (observer), CBSS (observer), CD, CE (observer), CERN (observer), CICA (observer), CP, EAPC, EAS, EBRD, EITI (implementing country), FAO, FATF, G-5, G-7, G-8, G-10, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD (partners), IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MINUSMA, MINUSTAH, MONUSCO, NAFTA, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS, OECD, OPCW, OSCE, Pacific Alliance (observer), Paris Club, PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), SELEC (observer), SICA (observer), SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNITAR, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNRWA, UNSC (permanent), UNTSO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
    Flag description:
    13 equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing 50 small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars; the 50 stars represent the 50 states, the 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies; the blue stands for loyalty, devotion, truth, justice, and friendship; red symbolizes courage, zeal, and fervency, while white denotes purity and rectitude of conduct; commonly referred to by its nickname of Old Glory
    note: the design and colors have been the basis for a number of other flags, including Chile, Liberia, Malaysia, and Puerto Rico
    National symbol(s):
    bald eagle; national colors: red, white, blue
    National anthem:
    name: "The Star-Spangled Banner"
    lyrics/music: Francis Scott KEY/John Stafford SMITH
    note: adopted 1931; during the War of 1812, after witnessing the successful American defense of Fort McHenry in Baltimore following British naval bombardment, Francis Scott KEY wrote the lyrics to what would become the national anthem; the lyrics were set to the tune of "The Anacreontic Song"; only the first verse is sung
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    Economy :: UNITED STATES

    Panel - Expanded
  • Economy - overview:
    The US has the most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $54,800. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers, pharmaceuticals, and medical, aerospace, and military equipment; however, their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II. Based on a comparison of GDP measured at Purchasing Power Parity conversion rates, the US economy in 2014, having stood as the largest in the world for more than a century, slipped into second place behind China, which has more than tripled the US growth rate for each year of the past four decades.
    In the US, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to enter their rivals' home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets.
    Long-term problems for the US include stagnation of wages for lower-income families, inadequate investment in deteriorating infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, energy shortages, and sizable current account and budget deficits.
    The onrush of technology has been a driving factor in the gradual development of a "two-tier" labor market in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. But the globalization of trade, and especially the rise of low-wage producers such as China, has put additional downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on the return to capital. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. Since 1996, dividends and capital gains have grown faster than wages or any other category of after-tax income.
    Imported oil accounts for nearly 55% of US consumption and oil has a major impact on the overall health of the economy. Crude oil prices doubled between 2001 and 2006, the year home prices peaked; higher gasoline prices ate into consumers' budgets and many individuals fell behind in their mortgage payments. Oil prices climbed another 50% between 2006 and 2008, and bank foreclosures more than doubled in the same period. Besides dampening the housing market, soaring oil prices caused a drop in the value of the dollar and a deterioration in the US merchandise trade deficit, which peaked at $840 billion in 2008.
    The sub-prime mortgage crisis, falling home prices, investment bank failures, tight credit, and the global economic downturn pushed the United States into a recession by mid-2008. GDP contracted until the third quarter of 2009, making this the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression. To help stabilize financial markets, the US Congress established a $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in October 2008. The government used some of these funds to purchase equity in US banks and industrial corporations, much of which had been returned to the government by early 2011. In January 2009 the US Congress passed and President Barack OBAMA signed a bill providing an additional $787 billion fiscal stimulus to be used over 10 years - two-thirds on additional spending and one-third on tax cuts - to create jobs and to help the economy recover. In 2010 and 2011, the federal budget deficit reached nearly 9% of GDP. In 2012, the federal government reduced the growth of spending and the deficit shrank to 7.6% of GDP. US revenues from taxes and other sources are lower, as a percentage of GDP, than those of most other countries.
    Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required major shifts in national resources from civilian to military purposes and contributed to the growth of the budget deficit and public debt. Through 2014, the direct costs of the wars totaled more than $1.5 trillion, according to US Government figures.
    In March 2010, President OBAMA signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a health insurance reform that was designed to extend coverage to an additional 32 million American citizens by 2016, through private health insurance for the general population and Medicaid for the impoverished. Total spending on health care - public plus private - rose from 9.0% of GDP in 1980 to 17.9% in 2010.
    In July 2010, the president signed the DODD-FRANK Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a law designed to promote financial stability by protecting consumers from financial abuses, ending taxpayer bailouts of financial firms, dealing with troubled banks that are "too big to fail," and improving accountability and transparency in the financial system - in particular, by requiring certain financial derivatives to be traded in markets that are subject to government regulation and oversight.
    In December 2012, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) announced plans to purchase $85 billion per month of mortgage-backed and Treasury securities in an effort to hold down long-term interest rates, and to keep short term rates near zero until unemployment dropped below 6.5% or inflation rose above 2.5%. In late 2013, the Fed announced that it would begin scaling back long-term bond purchases to $75 billion per month in January 2014 and reduce them further as conditions warranted; the Fed ended the purchases during the summer of 2014. In 2014, the unemployment rate dropped to 6.2%, and continued to fall to 5.5% by mid-2015, the lowest rate of joblessness since before the global recession began; inflation stood at 1.7%, and public debt as a share of GDP continued to decline, following several years of increase.
    GDP (purchasing power parity):
    $17.35 trillion (2014 est.)
    $16.94 trillion (2013 est.)
    $16.69 trillion (2012 est.)
    note: data are in 2014 US dollars
    country comparison to the world: 3
    GDP (official exchange rate):
    $17.35 trillion (2014 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate:
    2.4% (2014 est.)
    1.5% (2013 est.)
    2.2% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 131
    GDP - per capita (PPP):
    $54,400 (2014 est.)
    $53,100 (2013 est.)
    $52,300 (2012 est.)
    note: data are in 2014 US dollars
    country comparison to the world: 19
    Gross national saving:
    18.8% of GDP (2014 est.)
    18.2% of GDP (2013 est.)
    17.7% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 98
    GDP - composition, by end use:
    household consumption: 68.4%
    government consumption: 18.2%
    investment in fixed capital: 16%
    investment in inventories: 0.4%
    exports of goods and services: 13.5%
    imports of goods and services: -16.6%
    (2014 est.)
    GDP - composition, by sector of origin:
    agriculture: 1.6%
    industry: 20.6%
    services: 77.8%
    (2014 est.)
    Agriculture - products:
    wheat, corn, other grains, fruits, vegetables, cotton; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; fish; forest products
    highly diversified, world leading, high-technology innovator, second-largest industrial output in the world; petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, telecommunications, chemicals, electronics, food processing, consumer goods, lumber, mining
    Industrial production growth rate:
    2.8% (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 90
    Labor force:
    155.9 million
    note: includes unemployed (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 4
    Labor force - by occupation:
    farming, forestry, and fishing: 0.7%
    manufacturing, extraction, transportation, and crafts: 20.3%
    managerial, professional, and technical: 37.3%
    sales and office: 24.2%
    other services: 17.6%
    note: figures exclude the unemployed
    Unemployment rate:
    6.2% (2014 est.)
    7.4% (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 68
    Population below poverty line:
    15.1% (2010 est.)
    Household income or consumption by percentage share:
    lowest 10%: 2%
    highest 10%: 30% (2007 est.)
    Distribution of family income - Gini index:
    45 (2007)
    40.8 (1997)
    country comparison to the world: 43
    revenues: $3.02 trillion
    expenditures: $3.504 trillion
    note: for the US, revenues exclude social contributions of approximately $1.0 trillion; expenditures exclude social benefits of approximately $2.3 trillion (2014 est.)
    Taxes and other revenues:
    17.4% of GDP
    note: excludes contributions for social security and other programs; if social contributions were added, taxes and other revenues would amount to approximately 22% of GDP (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 180
    Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
    -2.8% of GDP (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 116
    Public debt:
    74.4% of GDP (2014 est.)
    72.6% of GDP (2013 est.)
    note: data cover only what the United States Treasury denotes as "Debt Held by the Public," which includes all debt instruments issued by the Treasury that are owned by non-US Government entities; the data include Treasury debt held by foreign entities; the data exclude debt issued by individual US states, as well as intra-governmental debt; intra-governmental debt consists of Treasury borrowings from surpluses in the trusts for Federal Social Security, Federal Employees, Hospital Insurance (Medicare and Medicaid), Disability and Unemployment, and several other smaller trusts; if data for intra-government debt were added, "Gross Debt" would increase by about one-third of GDP
    country comparison to the world: 32
    Fiscal year:
    1 October - 30 September
    Inflation rate (consumer prices):
    1.6% (2014 est.)
    1.5% (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 88
    Central bank discount rate:
    0.5% (31 December 2010)
    0.5% (31 December 2009)
    country comparison to the world: 141
    Commercial bank prime lending rate:
    3.25% (31 December 2014 est.)
    3.25% (31 December 2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 169
    Stock of narrow money:
    $2.807 trillion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $2.545 trillion (31 December 2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 4
    Stock of broad money:
    $11.79 trillion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $10.69 trillion (31 December 2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    Stock of domestic credit:
    $18.56 trillion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $17.55 trillion (31 December 2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 2
    Market value of publicly traded shares:
    $18.67 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
    $15.64 trillion (31 December 2011)
    $17.14 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Current account balance:
    -$389.5 billion (2014 est.)
    -$376.8 billion (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 195
    $1.633 trillion (2014 est.)
    $1.592 trillion (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    Exports - commodities:
    agricultural products (soybeans, fruit, corn) 9.2%, industrial supplies (organic chemicals) 26.8%, capital goods (transistors, aircraft, motor vehicle parts, computers, telecommunications equipment) 49.0%, consumer goods (automobiles, medicines) 15.0% (2008 est.)
    Exports - partners:
    Canada 19.2%, Mexico 14.8%, China 7.6%, Japan 4.1% (2014)
    $2.374 trillion (2014 est.)
    $2.295 trillion (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Imports - commodities:
    agricultural products 4.9%, industrial supplies 32.9% (crude oil 8.2%), capital goods 30.4% (computers, telecommunications equipment, motor vehicle parts, office machines, electric power machinery), consumer goods 31.8% (automobiles, clothing, medicines, furniture, toys) (2008 est.)
    Imports - partners:
    China 19.9%, Canada 14.8%, Mexico 12.5%, Japan 5.7%, Germany 5.3% (2014)
    Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
    $130.1 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $144.6 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 19
    Debt - external:
    $17.26 trillion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $16.49 trillion (31 December 2013 est.)
    note: approximately 4/5ths of US external debt is denominated in US dollars; foreign lenders have been willing to hold US dollar denominated debt instruments because they view the dollar as the world's reserve currency
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
    $2.901 trillion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $2.755 trillion (31 December 2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
    $4.921 trillion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $4.693 trillion (31 December 2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Exchange rates:
    British pounds per US dollar: 0.6003 (2014 est), 0.6391 (2013 est.), 0.6324 (2012 est.), 0.624 (2011 est.), 0.6472 (2010
    Canadian dollars per US dollar: (2014 est.), 1.099 (2014 est.), 1.0298 (2013 est.), 0.9992 (2012 est.), 0.9895 (2011 est), 1.0302 (2010 est.)
    Chinese yuan per US dollar: (2013 est.), 6.12 (2014 est.), 6.1958(2013 est.), 6.3123 (2012 est.), 6.4615 (20111 est.), 6.7703 (2010 est.)
    euros per US dollar: (2012 est.), 0.7489 (2014 est.), 0.7634 (2013 est.), 0.7752 (2012 est.), 0.7185 (2011 est.), 0.755 (2010 est.)
    Japanese yen per US dollar: 104.50 (2014 est.), 97.44 (2013 est.), 79.79 (2012 est.), 79.81 (2011 est.), 87.78 (2010)
  • Hide

    Energy :: UNITED STATES

    Panel - Expanded
  • Electricity - production:
    4.048 trillion kWh (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 2
    Electricity - consumption:
    3.832 trillion kWh (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 2
    Electricity - exports:
    11.28 billion kWh (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 19
    Electricity - imports:
    63.61 billion kWh (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 2
    Electricity - installed generating capacity:
    1.063 billion kW (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    Electricity - from fossil fuels:
    73.5% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 101
    Electricity - from nuclear fuels:
    9.6% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 20
    Electricity - from hydroelectric plants:
    7.4% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 122
    Electricity - from other renewable sources:
    7.4% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 51
    Crude oil - production:
    8.653 million bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    Crude oil - exports:
    629,400 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 20
    Crude oil - imports:
    9.08 million bbl/day (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Crude oil - proved reserves:
    36.52 billion bbl (1 January 2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 11
    Refined petroleum products - production:
    19.11 million bbl/day (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Refined petroleum products - consumption:
    19.03 million bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Refined petroleum products - exports:
    2.992 million bbl/day (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Refined petroleum products - imports:
    778,800 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 8
    Natural gas - production:
    728.2 billion cu m (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Natural gas - consumption:
    759.4 billion cu m (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Natural gas - exports:
    42.73 billion cu m (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 9
    Natural gas - imports:
    76.32 billion cu m (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 4
    Natural gas - proved reserves:
    8.734 trillion cu m (1 January 2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 5
    Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:
    5.27 billion Mt (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 2
  • Hide

    Communications :: UNITED STATES

    Panel - Expanded
  • Telephones - fixed lines:
    total subscriptions: 129.4 million
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 41 (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    Telephones - mobile cellular:
    total: 317.4 million
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 100 (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 5
    Telephone system:
    general assessment: a large, technologically advanced, multipurpose communications system
    domestic: a large system of fiber-optic cable, microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, and domestic satellites carries every form of telephone traffic; a rapidly growing cellular system carries mobile telephone traffic throughout the country
    international: country code - 1; multiple ocean cable systems provide international connectivity; satellite earth stations - 61 Intelsat (45 Atlantic Ocean and 16 Pacific Ocean), 5 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region), and 4 Inmarsat (Pacific and Atlantic Ocean regions) (2011)
    Broadcast media:
    4 major terrestrial TV networks with affiliate stations throughout the country, plus cable and satellite networks, independent stations, and a limited public broadcasting sector that is largely supported by private grants; overall, thousands of TV stations broadcasting; multiple national radio networks with many affiliate stations; while most stations are commercial, National Public Radio (NPR) has a network of some 600 member stations; satellite radio available; overall, nearly 15,000 radio stations operating (2008)
    Radio broadcast stations:
    AM 4,789, FM 8,961, shortwave 19 (2006)
    Television broadcast stations:
    2,218 (2006)
    Internet country code:
    Internet users:
    total: 276.6 million
    percent of population: 86.8% (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 3
  • Hide

    Transportation :: UNITED STATES

    Panel - Expanded
  • Airports:
    13,513 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Airports - with paved runways:
    total: 5,054
    over 3,047 m: 189
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 235
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 1,478
    914 to 1,523 m: 2,249
    under 914 m: 903 (2013)
    Airports - with unpaved runways:
    total: 8,459
    over 3,047 m: 1
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 6
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 140
    914 to 1,523 m: 1,552
    under 914 m:
    6,760 (2013)
    5,287 (2013)
    natural gas 1,984,321 km; petroleum products 240,711 km (2013)
    total: 293,564.2 km
    standard gauge: 293,564.2 km 1.435-m gauge (2014)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    total: 6,586,610 km
    paved: 4,304,715 km (includes 76,334 km of expressways)
    unpaved: 2,281,895 km (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    41,009 km (19,312 km used for commerce; Saint Lawrence Seaway of 3,769 km, including the Saint Lawrence River of 3,058 km, is shared with Canada) (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 5
    Merchant marine:
    total: 393
    by type: barge carrier 6, bulk carrier 55, cargo 51, carrier 2, chemical tanker 30, container 84, passenger 18, passenger/cargo 56, petroleum tanker 35, refrigerated cargo 3, roll on/roll off 27, vehicle carrier 26
    foreign-owned: 85 (Australia 1, Bermuda 5, Denmark 31, France 4, Germany 5, Malaysia 2, Norway 17, Singapore 16, UK 4)
    registered in other countries: 794 (Antigua and Barbuda 7, Australia 2, Bahamas 109, Belgium 1, Bermuda 26, Canada 10, Cayman Islands 57, Comoros 2, Cyprus 5, Georgia 1, Greece 8, Honduras 1, Hong Kong 44, Indonesia 2, Ireland 2, Isle of Man 1, Italy 23, Liberia 53, Malta 34, Marshall Islands 200, Netherlands 16, Norway 10, Panama 90, Portugal 4, Saint Kitts and Nevis 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 18, Singapore 36, South Korea 8, Togo 1, UK 14, Vanuatu 2, unknown 6) (2010)
    country comparison to the world: 26
    Ports and terminals:
    cargo ports (tonnage): Baton Rouge, Corpus Christi, Hampton Roads, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Plaquemines, Tampa, Texas City
    container port(s) (TEUs): Hampton Roads (1,918,029), Houston (1,866,450), Long Beach (6,061,091), Los Angeles (7,940,511), New York/New Jersey (5,503,485), Oakland (2,342,504), Savannah (2,944,678), Seattle (2,033,535)(2011)
    cruise departure ports (passengers): Miami (2,032,000), Port Everglades (1,277,000), Port Canaveral (1,189,000), Seattle (430,000), Long Beach (415,000) (2009)
    oil terminals: LOOP terminal, Haymark terminal
    LNG terminal(s) (import): Cove Point (MD), Elba Island (GA), Everett (MA), Freeport (TX), Golden Pass (TX), Hackberry (LA), Lake Charles (LA), Neptune (offshore), Northeast Gateway (offshore), Pascagoula (MS), Sabine Pass (TX)
    LNG terminal(s) (export): Kenai (AK)
  • Hide

    Military and Security :: UNITED STATES

    Panel - Expanded
  • Military branches:
    United States Armed Forces: US Army, US Navy (includes Marine Corps), US Air Force, US Coast Guard; note - Coast Guard administered in peacetime by the Department of Homeland Security, but in wartime reports to the Department of the Navy (2013)
    Military service age and obligation:
    18 years of age (17 years of age with parental consent) for male and female voluntary service; no conscription; maximum enlistment age 42 (Army), 27 (Air Force), 34 (Navy), 28 (Marines); service obligation 8 years, including 2-5 years active duty (Army), 2 years active (Navy), 4 years active (Air Force, Marines); DoD is eliminating prohibitions restricting women from assignments in units smaller than brigades or near combat units (2013)
    Manpower available for military service:
    males age 16-49: 73,270,043
    females age 16-49: 71,941,969 (2010 est.)
    Manpower fit for military service:
    males age 16-49: 60,620,143
    females age 16-49: 59,401,941 (2010 est.)
    Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
    male: 2,161,727
    female: 2,055,685 (2010 est.)
    Military expenditures:
    4.35% of GDP (2012)
    4.75% of GDP (2011)
    4.35% of GDP (2010)
    country comparison to the world: 9
  • Hide

    Transnational Issues :: UNITED STATES

    Panel - Expanded
  • Disputes - international:
    the US has intensified domestic security measures and is collaborating closely with its neighbors, Canada and Mexico, to monitor and control legal and illegal personnel, transport, and commodities across the international borders; abundant rainfall in recent years along much of the Mexico-US border region has ameliorated periodically strained water-sharing arrangements; 1990 Maritime Boundary Agreement in the Bering Sea still awaits Russian Duma ratification; Canada and the United States dispute how to divide the Beaufort Sea and the status of the Northwest Passage but continue to work cooperatively to survey the Arctic continental shelf; The Bahamas and US have not been able to agree on a maritime boundary; US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased from Cuba and only mutual agreement or US abandonment of the area can terminate the lease; Haiti claims US-administered Navassa Island; US has made no territorial claim in Antarctica (but has reserved the right to do so) and does not recognize the claims of any other states; Marshall Islands claims Wake Island; Tokelau included American Samoa's Swains Island among the islands listed in its 2006 draft constitution
    Refugees and internally displaced persons:
    refugees (country of origin): the US admitted 69,987 refugees during FY2014 including: 19,769 (Iraq); 14,598 (Burma); 9,000 (Somalia); 8,434 (Bhutan); 4,540 (Democratic Republic of the Congo); 4,062 (Cuba); 2,846 (Iran)
    Illicit drugs:
    world's largest consumer of cocaine (shipped from Colombia through Mexico and the Caribbean), Colombian heroin, and Mexican heroin and marijuana; major consumer of ecstasy and Mexican methamphetamine; minor consumer of high-quality Southeast Asian heroin; illicit producer of cannabis, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine; money-laundering center
  • United States

    United States of America
    Flag Great Seal
    "In God We Trust" (official)[1][2][3]
    Anthem: "The Star-Spangled Banner"
    Projection of North America with the United States in green
    The contiguous United States plus Alaska and Hawaii in green
    The United States and its territories
    The United States and its territories
    Capital Washington, D.C.
    Largest city New York City
    Official languages None at federal level
    Recognised regional languages
    National language English[b]
    Demonym American
    Government Federal presidential constitutional republic
     -  President Barack Obama
     -  Vice President Joe Biden
     -  Speaker of the House John Boehner
     -  Chief Justice John Roberts
    Legislature Congress
     -  Upper house Senate
     -  Lower house House of Representatives
    Independence from Great Britain
     -  Declared July 4, 1776 
     -  Recognized September 3, 1783 
     -  Constitution June 21, 1788 
     -  Current Statehood August 21, 1959 
     -  Total 9,857,306[4] km2 (3rd)
    3,805,927[4] sq mi
     -  Water (%) 2.23
     -  2014 estimate 319,309,000[5] (3rd)
     -  Density 34.2/km2 (180th)
    88.6/sq mi
    GDP (PPP) 2013 estimate
     -  Total $16.768 trillion[6] (1st)
     -  Per capita $53,001[6] (9th)
    GDP (nominal) 2013 estimate
     -  Total $16.768 trillion[6] (1st)
     -  Per capita $53,001[6] (9th)
    Gini (2012) 36.9[7]
    medium · 39th (2009)
    HDI (2013) Steady 0.914[8]
    very high · 5th
    Currency ($) (USD)
    Time zone (UTC−5 to −10)
     -  Summer (DST)  (UTC−4 to −10[d])
    Drives on the right[e]
    Calling code +1
    ISO 3166 code US
    Internet TLD .us   .gov   .mil   .edu
    a. ^ English is the official language of at least 28 states; some sources give higher figures, based on differing definitions of "official".[9] English and Hawaiian are both official languages in the state of Hawaii. French is a de facto language in the states of Maine and Louisiana, while New Mexico state law grants Spanish a special status.[10][11][12][13] Cherokee is an official language in the Cherokee Nation tribal jurisdiction area and in the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians based in east and northeast Oklahoma.[14][15][16]
    b. ^ English is the de facto language of American government and the sole language spoken at home by 80 percent of Americans aged five and older. 28 states and five territories have made English an official language. Other official languages include Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Carolinian, Spanish and Cherokee.
    c. ^ Whether the United States or China is larger has been disputed. The figure given is from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's The World Factbook. Other sources give smaller figures. All authoritative calculations of the country's size include only the 50 states and the District of Columbia, not the territories.
    d. ^ See Time in the United States for details about laws governing time zones in the United States.
    e. ^ Except U.S. Virgin Islands.

    The United States of America (USA or U.S.A.), commonly referred to as the United States (US or U.S.), America, and sometimes the States, is a federal republic[17][18] consisting of 50 states and a federal district. The 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also has five populated and nine unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At 3.80 million square miles (9.85 million km2)[4] and with around 318 million people, the United States is the world's third- or fourth-largest country by total area and third-largest by population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries.[19] The geography and climate of the United States is also extremely diverse, and it is home to a wide variety of wildlife.

    Paleo-Indians migrated from Eurasia to what is now the U.S. mainland around 15,000 years ago,[20] with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the Atlantic seaboard. Disputes between Great Britain and these colonies led to the American Revolution. On July 4, 1776, as the colonies were fighting Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously issued the Declaration of Independence. The war ended in 1783 with the recognition of independence of the United States from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire.[21][22] The current Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and designed to guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.

    Driven by the doctrine of manifest destiny, the United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century.[23] This involved displacing native tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting new states.[23] During the second half of the 19th century, the American Civil War ended legal slavery in the country.[24] By the end of that century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean,[25] and its economy began to soar.[26] The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a global military power. The United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the first country to develop nuclear weapons, the only country to use them in warfare, and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole superpower.[27]

    The United States is a developed country and has the world's largest national economy.[6] The economy is fueled by an abundance of natural resources and high worker productivity.[28] While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, it continues to be one of the world's largest manufacturers.[29] The country accounts for 37% of global military spending,[30] being the world's foremost economic and military power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovations.[31]


    • Etymology 1
    • History 2
      • Native American and European contact 2.1
      • Settlements 2.2
      • Independence and expansion 2.3
      • Civil War and Reconstruction Era 2.4
      • Industrialization 2.5
      • World War I, Great Depression, and World War II 2.6
      • Cold War and civil rights era 2.7
      • Contemporary history 2.8
    • Geography, climate, and environment 3
    • Demographics 4
      • Population 4.1
      • Language 4.2
      • Religion 4.3
      • Family structure 4.4
    • Government and politics 5
      • Political divisions 5.1
      • Parties and elections 5.2
      • Foreign relations 5.3
      • Government finance 5.4
        • National debt 5.4.1
    • Military 6
    • Crime and law enforcement 7
    • Economy 8
      • Income, poverty and wealth 8.1
    • Infrastructure 9
      • Transportation 9.1
      • Energy 9.2
    • Science and technology 10
    • Education 11
    • Health 12
    • Culture 13
      • Mass media 13.1
      • Cinema 13.2
      • Music 13.3
      • Literature, philosophy, and the arts 13.4
      • Food 13.5
      • Sports 13.6
    • See also 14
    • Notes 15
    • References 16
    • Bibliography 17
      • Website sources 17.1
    • External links 18


    In 1507, the aide-de-camp and Muster-Master General of the Continental Army. Addressed to Lt. Col. Joseph Reed, Moylan expressed his wish to carry the "full and ample powers of the United States of America" to Spain to assist in the revolutionary war effort.[33]

    The first publicly published evidence of the phrase "United States of America" was in an anonymously written essay in The Virginia Gazette newspaper in Williamsburg, Virginia, on April 6, 1776.[34][35] In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson included the phrase "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" in all capitalized letters in the headline of his "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence.[36][37] In the final Fourth of July version of the Declaration, the pertinent section of the title was changed to read, "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America".[38] In 1777 the Articles of Confederation announced, "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America'".[39]

    The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms include the "U.S.", the "U.S.A.", and "America". Colloquial names include the "U.S. of A." and, internationally, the "States". "Columbia", a name popular in poetry and songs of the late 1700s,[40] derives its origin from Christopher Columbus; it appears in the name "District of Columbia". In non-English languages, the name is frequently the translation of either the "United States" or "United States of America", and colloquially as "America". In addition, an abbreviation (e.g. USA) is sometimes used.[41]

    The phrase "United States" was originally treated as plural, a description of a collection of independent states—e.g., "the United States are"—including in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865. It became common to treat it as singular, a single unit—e.g., "the United States is"—after the end of the Civil War. The singular form is now standard; the plural form is retained in the idiom "these United States".[42] The difference has been described as more significant than one of usage, but reflecting the difference between a collection of states and a unit.[43]

    The standard way to refer to a citizen of the United States is as an "American". "United States", "American" and "U.S." are used to refer to the country adjectivally ("American values", "U.S. forces"). "American" is rarely used in English to refer to subjects not connected with the United States.[44]


    Native Americans meeting with Europeans, 1764

    Native American and European contact

    The first North American settlers migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge approximately 15,000 or more years ago.[20][45][46] Some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, developed advanced agriculture, grand architecture, and state-level societies. After European explorers and traders made the first contacts, the native population declined due to various reasons, including diseases such as smallpox and measles,[47][48] intermarriage,[49] and violence.[50][51][52]

    In the early days of colonization many settlers were subject to shortages of food, disease and attacks from Native Americans. Native Americans were also often at war with neighboring tribes and allied with Europeans in their colonial wars.[53] At the same time however many natives and settlers came to depend on each other. Settlers traded for food and animal pelts, natives for guns, ammunition and other European wares.[54] Natives taught many settlers where, when and how to cultivate corn, beans and squash in the frontier. European missionaries and others felt it was important to "civilize" the Indians and urged them to concentrate on farming and ranching without depending on hunting and gathering.[55][56]


    Signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1620

    After Columbus' first voyage to the New World in 1492 other explorers and settlement followed into the Floridas and the American Southwest.[57][58] There were also some French attempts to colonize the east coast, and later more successful settlements along the Mississippi River. Successful English settlement on the eastern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown and the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony in 1620. Early experiments in communal living failed until the introduction of private farm holdings.[59] Many settlers were dissenting Christian groups who came seeking religious freedom. The continent's first elected legislative assembly, Virginia's House of Burgesses created in 1619, and the Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims before disembarking, established precedents for the pattern of representative self-government and constitutionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.[60][61]

    Most settlers in every colony were small farmers, but other industries developed. Cash crops included tobacco, rice and wheat. Extraction industries grew up in furs, fishing and lumber. Manufacturers produced rum and ships, and by the late colonial period Americans were producing one-seventh of the world's iron supply.[62] Cities eventually dotted the coast to support local economies and serve as trade hubs. English colonists were supplemented by waves of Scotch-Irish and other groups. As coastal land grew more expensive freed indentured servants pushed further west.[63] Slave cultivation of cash crops began with the Spanish in the 1500s, and was adopted by the English, but life expectancy was much higher in North America because of less disease and better food and treatment, so the numbers of slaves grew rapidly.[64][65][66] Colonial society was largely divided over the religious and moral implications of slavery and colonies passed acts for and against the practice.[67][68] But by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves were replacing indentured servants for cash crop labor, especially in southern regions.[69]

    With the colonization of 13 colonies that would become the United States of America were established.[70] All had local governments with elections open to most free men, with a growing devotion to the ancient rights of Englishmen and a sense of self-government stimulating support for republicanism.[71] With extremely high birth rates, low death rates, and steady settlement, the colonial population grew rapidly. Relatively small Native American populations were eclipsed.[72] The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and 1740s known as the Great Awakening fueled interest in both religion and religious liberty.

    In the French and Indian War, British forces seized Canada from the French, but the francophone population remained politically isolated from the southern colonies. Excluding the Native Americans, who were being conquered and displaced, those 13 colonies had a population of over 2.1 million in 1770, about one-third that of Britain. Despite continuing new arrivals, the rate of natural increase was such that by the 1770s only a small minority of Americans had been born overseas.[73] The colonies' distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-government, but their success motivated monarchs to periodically seek to reassert royal authority.

    Independence and expansion

    The Declaration of Independence: the Committee of Five presenting their draft to the Second Continental Congress in 1776

    The American Revolutionary War was the first successful colonial war of independence against a European power. Americans had developed an ideology of "republicanism" that held government rested on the will of the people as expressed in their local legislatures. They demanded their rights as Englishmen, “no taxation without representation”. The British insisted on administering the empire through Parliament, and the conflict escalated into war.[74] Following the passage of the Lee Resolution, on July 2, 1776, which was the actual vote for independence, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, which proclaimed, in a long preamble, that humanity is created equal in their unalienable rights and that those rights were not being protected by Great Britain, and finally declared, in the words of the resolution, that the 13 colonies were independent states and had no allegiance to the British crown in the United States. The latter date, July 4, 1776, is now celebrated annually as America's Independence Day. In 1777, the Articles of Confederation established a weak government that operated until 1789.[75]

    Britain recognized the independence of the United States following their defeat at president elected under the new constitution. The Bill of Rights, forbidding federal restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protections, was adopted in 1791.[77]

    Although the federal government criminalized the international slave trade in 1808, after 1820 cultivation of the highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the Deep South, and along with it the slave population.[78][79][80] The Second Great Awakening, beginning about 1800, converted millions to evangelical Protestantism. In the North it energized multiple social reform movements, including abolitionism;[81] in the South, Methodists and Baptists proselytized among slave populations.[82]

    Americans' eagerness to expand westward prompted a long series of Indian Wars.[83] The Louisiana Purchase of French-claimed territory in 1803 almost doubled the nation's size.[84] The War of 1812, declared against Britain over various grievances and fought to a draw, strengthened U.S. nationalism.[85] A series of U.S. military incursions into Florida led Spain to cede it and other Gulf Coast territory in 1819.[86] Expansion was aided by steam power, when steamboats began traveling along America's large water systems, which were connected by new canals, such as the Erie and the I&M; then, even faster railroads began their stretch across the nation's land.[87]

    U.S. territorial acquisitions–portions of each territory were granted statehood since the 18th century.

    From 1820 to 1850, Jacksonian democracy began a set of reforms which included wider male suffrage, and it led to the rise of the Second Party System of Democrats and Whigs as the dominant parties from 1828 to 1854. The Trail of Tears in the 1830s exemplified the Indian removal policy that moved Indians into the west to their own reservations. The U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845 during a period of expansionist Manifest Destiny.[88] The 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of the present-day American Northwest.[89] Victory in the Mexican-American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cession of California and much of the present-day American Southwest.[90]

    The California Gold Rush of 1848–49 spurred western migration and the creation of additional western states.[91] After the American Civil War, new transcontinental railways made relocation easier for settlers, expanded internal trade and increased conflicts with Native Americans.[92] Over a half-century, the loss of the buffalo was an existential blow to many Plains Indians cultures.[93] In 1869, a new Peace Policy sought to protect Native-Americans from abuses, avoid further warfare, and secure their eventual U.S. citizenship.[94]

    Civil War and Reconstruction Era

    Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania during the Civil War

    From the beginning of the United States, inherent divisions over slavery between the North and the South in American society ultimately led to the American Civil War.[95] Initially, states entering the Union alternated between slave and free states, keeping a sectional balance in the Senate, while free states outstripped slave states in population and in the House of Representatives. But with additional western territory and more free-soil states, tensions between slave and free states mounted with arguments over federalism and disposition of the territories, whether and how to expand or restrict slavery.[96]

    Following the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, the first president from the largely anti-slavery Republican Party, conventions in thirteen states ultimately declared secession and formed the Confederate States of America, while the U.S. federal government maintained secession was illegal.[96] The ensuing war was at first for Union, then after 1863 as casualties mounted and Lincoln delivered his Emancipation Proclamation, a second war aim became abolition of slavery. The war remains the deadliest military conflict in American history, resulting in the deaths of approximately 618,000 soldiers as well as many civilians.[97]

    Following the Union victory in 1865, three amendments to the U.S. Constitution prohibited slavery, made the nearly four million African Americans who had been slaves[98] U.S. citizens, and promised them voting rights. The war and its resolution led to a substantial increase in federal power[99] aimed at reintegrating and rebuilding the Southern states while ensuring the rights of the newly freed slaves.[100] But following the Reconstruction Era, throughout the South Jim Crow laws soon effectively disenfranchised most blacks and some poor whites. Over the subsequent decades, in both the north and south blacks and some whites faced systemic discrimination, including racial segregation and occasional vigilante violence, sparking national movements against these abuses.[100]


    Ellis Island, in New York City, was a major gateway for the massive influx of immigration during the beginning of industrialization.

    In the North, urbanization and an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe supplied a surplus of labor for the country's industrialization and transformed its culture.[101] National infrastructure including telegraph and transcontinental railroads spurred economic growth and greater settlement and development of the American Old West. The later invention of electric lights and telephones would also impact communication and urban life.[102] The end of the Indian Wars further expanded acreage under mechanical cultivation, increasing surpluses for international markets. Mainland expansion was completed by the Alaska Purchase from Russia in 1867. In 1898 the U.S. entered the world stage with important sugar production and strategic facilities acquired in Hawaii. Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were ceded by Spain in the same year, following the Spanish American War.

    Rapid economic development at the end of the 19th century produced many prominent industrialists, and the U.S. economy became the world's largest. Dramatic changes were accompanied by social unrest and the rise of populist, socialist, and anarchist movements.[103] This period eventually ended with the beginning of the Progressive Era, which saw significant reforms in many societal areas, including women's suffrage, alcohol prohibition, regulation of consumer goods, greater antitrust measures to ensure competition and attention to worker conditions.

    World War I, Great Depression, and World War II

    U.S. troops approaching Omaha Beach during World War II

    The United States remained neutral at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, though by 1917, it joined the Allies, helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers. President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and advocated strongly for the U.S. to join the League of Nations. However, the Senate refused to approve this, and did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles that established the League of Nations.[104]

    In 1920, the women's rights movement won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage.[105] The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of radio for mass communication and the invention of early television.[106] The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal, which included the establishment of the Social Security system.[107] The Great Migration of millions of African Americans out of the American South began around WWI and extended through the 1960s;[108] whereas, the Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and spurred a new wave of western migration.[109]

    The United States was at first effectively neutral during international conference held in San Francisco produced the United Nations Charter, which became active after the war.[113] The United States developed the first nuclear weapons and used them on Japan; the Japanese surrendered on September 2, ending World War II.[114]

    Cold War and civil rights era

    US President Ronald Reagan (left) and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, meeting in Geneva in 1985

    After World War II the United States and the Soviet Union jockeyed for power during what is known as the Cold War, driven by an ideological divide between capitalism and communism. They dominated the military affairs of Europe, with the U.S. and its NATO allies on one side and the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies on the other. The U.S. developed a policy of "containment" toward Soviet bloc expansion. While they engaged in proxy wars and developed powerful nuclear arsenals, the two countries avoided direct military conflict. The U.S. often opposed Third World left-wing movements that it viewed as Soviet-sponsored. American troops fought Communist Chinese and North Korean forces in the Korean War of 1950–53. The Soviet Union's 1957 launch of the first artificial satellite and its 1961 launch of the first manned spaceflight initiated a "Space Race" in which the United States became the first to land a man on the moon in 1969.[115] A proxy war was expanded in Southeast Asia with the Vietnam War.[fn 1]

    At home, the U.S. experienced sustained economic expansion and a rapid growth of its population and middle class. Construction of an interstate highway system transformed the nation’s infrastructure over the following decades. Millions moved from farms and inner cities to large suburban housing developments.[122][123] A growing civil rights movement used nonviolence to confront segregation and discrimination, with Martin Luther King Jr. becoming a prominent leader and figurehead. A combination of court decisions and legislation, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sought to end racial discrimination.[124][125][126] Meanwhile, a counterculture movement grew which was fueled by opposition to the Vietnam war, black nationalism, and the sexual revolution. The launch of a "War on Poverty" expanded entitlement and welfare spending.[127]

    The 1970s and early 1980s saw the onset of stagflation. After his election in 1980, President Ronald Reagan responded to economic stagnation with free-market oriented reforms. Following the collapse of détente, he abandoned "containment" and initiated the more aggressive "rollback" strategy towards the USSR.[128][129][130][131][132] After a surge in female labor participation over the previous decade, by 1985 a majority of women age 16 and over were employed.[133] The late 1980s brought a "thaw" in relations with the USSR, and its collapse in 1991 finally ended the Cold War.[134][135][136][137]

    Contemporary history

    One World Trade Center, built in its place

    After the Cold War, the 1990s saw the longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history, ending in 2001.[138] Originating in U.S. defense networks, the Internet spread to international academic networks, and then to the public in the 1990s, greatly impacting the global economy, society, and culture.[139] On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people.[140] In response the United States launched the War on Terror, which includes the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the 2003–11 Iraq War.[141][142] Barack Obama, the first African-American,[143] and multiracial[144] president, was elected in 2008 amid the Great Recession.[145]

    Geography, climate, and environment

    A composite satellite image of the contiguous United States and surrounding areas

    The land area of the contiguous United States is 2,959,064 square miles (7,663,941 km2). Alaska, separated from the contiguous United States by Canada, is the largest state at 663,268 square miles (1,717,856 km2). Hawaii, occupying an archipelago in the central Pacific, southwest of North America, is 10,931 square miles (28,311 km2) in area.[146]

    The United States is the world's third or fourth largest nation by total area (land and water), ranking behind Russia and Canada and just above or below China. The ranking varies depending on how two territories disputed by China and India are counted and how the total size of the United States is measured: calculations range from 3,676,486 square miles (9,522,055 km2)[147] to 3,717,813 square miles (9,629,091 km2)[148] to 3,794,101 square miles (9,826,676 km2).[149] to 3,805,927 square miles (9,857,306 km2).[4] Measured by only land area, the United States is third in size behind Russia and China, just ahead of Canada.[150]

    The coastal plain of the Atlantic seaboard gives way further inland to deciduous forests and the rolling hills of the Piedmont. The Appalachian Mountains divide the eastern seaboard from the Great Lakes and the grasslands of the Midwest. The MississippiMissouri River, the world's fourth longest river system, runs mainly north–south through the heart of the country. The flat, fertile prairie of the Great Plains stretches to the west, interrupted by a highland region in the southeast.

    The Rocky Mountains, at the western edge of the Great Plains, extend north to south across the country, reaching altitudes higher than 14,000 feet (4,300 m) in Colorado. Farther west are the rocky Great Basin and deserts such as the Chihuahua and Mojave. The Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges run close to the Pacific coast, both ranges reaching altitudes higher than 14,000 feet (4,300 m). The lowest and highest points in the continental United States are in the state of California, and only about 80 miles (130 km) apart. At 20,320 feet (6,194 m), Alaska's Mount McKinley is the tallest peak in the country and in North America. Active volcanoes are common throughout Alaska's Alexander and Aleutian Islands, and Hawaii consists of volcanic islands. The supervolcano underlying Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies is the continent's largest volcanic feature.[151]

    The United States, with its large size and geographic variety, includes most climate types. To the east of the 100th meridian, the climate ranges from humid continental in the north to humid subtropical in the south. The southern tip of Florida is tropical, as is Hawaii. The Great Plains west of the 100th meridian are semi-arid. Much of the Western mountains are alpine. The climate is arid in the Great Basin, desert in the Southwest, Mediterranean in coastal California, and oceanic in coastal Oregon and Washington and southern Alaska. Most of Alaska is subarctic or polar. Extreme weather is not uncommon—the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico are prone to hurricanes, and most of the world's tornadoes occur within the country, mainly in the Midwest's Tornado Alley.[152]

    The bald eagle has been the national bird of the United States since 1782.

    The U.S. ecology is considered "megadiverse": about 17,000 species of vascular plants occur in the contiguous United States and Alaska, and over 1,800 species of flowering plants are found in Hawaii, few of which occur on the mainland.[153] The United States is home to more than 400 mammal, 750 bird, and 500 reptile and amphibian species.[154] About 91,000 insect species have been described.[155] The bald eagle is both the national bird and national animal of the United States, and is an enduring symbol of the country itself.[156]

    There are 58 national parks and hundreds of other federally managed parks, forests, and wilderness areas.[157] Altogether, the government owns 28.8% of the country's land area.[158] Most of this is protected, though some is leased for oil and gas drilling, mining, logging, or cattle ranching; 2.4% is used for military purposes.[158][159][160]

    Environmental issues have been on the national agenda since 1970. Environmental controversies include debates on oil and nuclear energy, dealing with air and water pollution, the economic costs of protecting wildlife, logging and deforestation,[161][162] and international responses to global warming.[163][164] Many federal and state agencies are involved. The most prominent is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), created by presidential order in 1970.[165] The idea of wilderness has shaped the management of public lands since 1964, with the Wilderness Act.[166] The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is intended to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats, which are monitored by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.



    Largest ancestry groups by county, 2000
    Race/Ethnicity (2013)
    By race:[167]
    White 77.7%
    African American 13.2%
    Asian 5.3%
    American Indian and Alaska Native 1.2%
    Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander 0.2%
    Multiracial (2 or more) 2.4%
    By ethnicity:[167]
    Hispanic/Latino (of any race) 17.1%
    Non-Hispanic/Latino (of any race) 82.9%
    The Statue of Liberty in New York City is a symbol of both the U.S. and the ideals of freedom, democracy, and opportunity.[168]

    The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the country's population now to be 319,510,000,[5] The U.S. population almost quadrupled during the 20th century, from about 76 million in 1900.[169] The third most populous nation in the world, after China and India, the United States is the only major industrialized nation in which large population increases are projected.[170]

    The United States has a very diverse population—31 ancestry groups have more than one million members.[171] German Americans are the largest ethnic group (more than 50 million) - followed by Irish Americans (circa 35 million), Mexican Americans (circa 31 million) and English Americans (circa 27 million).[172]

    White Americans are the largest racial group; Black Americans are the nation's largest racial minority and third largest ancestry group.[171] Asian Americans are the country's second largest racial minority; the three largest Asian American ethnic groups are Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, and Indian Americans.[171]

    The United States has a birth rate of 13 per 1,000, which is 35% below the world average. Nevertheless, its population growth rate is positive at 0.9%, significantly higher than that of many developed nations.[173] In fiscal year 2012, over one million immigrants (most of whom entered through family reunification) were granted legal residence.[174] Mexico has been the leading source of new residents since the 1965 Immigration Act. China, India, and the Philippines have been in the top four sending countries every year.[175][176] As of 2012, approximately 11.4 million residents are illegal immigrants.[177]

    According to a survey conducted by the Williams Institute, nine million Americans, or roughly 3.5% of the adult population identify themselves as homosexual, bisexual, or transgender.[178] A 2012 Gallup poll also concluded that 3.5% of adult Americans identified as LGBT. The highest percentage came from the District of Columbia (10%), while the lowest state was North Dakota at 1.7%.[179] In a 2013 survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 96.6% of Americans identify as straight, while 1.6% identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7% identify as being bisexual.[180]

    In 2010, the U.S. population included an estimated 5.2 million people with some American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry (2.9 million exclusively of such ancestry) and 1.2 million with some native Hawaiian or Pacific island ancestry (0.5 million exclusively).[181] The census counted more than 19 million people of "Some Other Race" who were "unable to identify with any" of its five official race categories in 2010.[181]

    The population growth of Hispanic and Latino Americans (the terms are officially interchangeable) is a major demographic trend. The 50.5 million Americans of Hispanic descent[181] are identified as sharing a distinct "ethnicity" by the Census Bureau; 64% of Hispanic Americans are of Mexican descent.[182] Between 2000 and 2010, the country's Hispanic population increased 43% while the non-Hispanic population rose just 4.9%.[183] Much of this growth is from immigration; in 2007, 12.6% of the U.S. population was foreign-born, with 54% of that figure born in Latin America.[184]

    Fertility is also a factor; in 2010 the average Hispanic (of any race) woman gave birth to 2.35 children in her lifetime, compared to 1.97 for non-Hispanic black women and 1.79 for non-Hispanic white women (both below the replacement rate of 2.1).[185] Minorities (as defined by the Census Bureau as all those beside non-Hispanic, non-multiracial whites) constituted 36.3% of the population in 2010,[186] and over 50% of children under age one,[187] and are projected to constitute the majority by 2042.[188] This contradicts the report by the National Vital Statistics Reports, based on the U.S. census data, which concludes that 54% (2,162,406 out of 3,999,386 in 2010) of births were non-Hispanic white.[185]

    About 82% of Americans live in urban areas (including suburbs);[149] about half of those reside in cities with populations over 50,000.[189] In 2008, 273 incorporated places had populations over 100,000, nine cities had more than one million residents, and four global cities had over two million (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston).[190] There are 52 metropolitan areas with populations greater than one million.[191] Of the 50 fastest-growing metro areas, 47 are in the West or South.[192] The metro areas of Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Phoenix all grew by more than a million people between 2000 and 2008.[191]

    Leading population centers (see complete list)
    Rank Core city (cities) Metro area population Metropolitan Statistical Area Region[193]
    New York City
    New York City

    Los Angeles
    Los Angeles

    1 New York City 19,949,502 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA MSA Mid-Atlantic
    2 Los Angeles 13,131,431 Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana, CA MSA West
    3 Chicago 9,537,289 Chicago–Joliet–Naperville, IL–IN–WI MSA Midwest
    4 Dallas–Fort Worth 6,810,913 Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington, TX MSA South
    5 Houston 6,313,158 Houston–The Woodlands-Sugar Land MSA South
    6 Philadelphia 6,034,678 Philadelphia–Camden–Wilmington, PA–NJ–DE–MD MSA Mid-Atlantic
    7 Washington, D.C. 5,949,859 Washington, DC–VA–MD–WV MSA Mid-Atlantic
    8 Miami 5,828,191 Miami–Fort Lauderdale–Pompano Beach, FL MSA South
    9 Atlanta 5,522,942 Atlanta–Sandy Springs–Marietta, GA MSA South
    10 Boston 4,684,299 Boston–Cambridge–Quincy, MA–NH MSA New England
    11 San Francisco 4,516,276 San Francisco–Oakland–Fremont, CA MSA West
    12 Phoenix 4,398,762 Phoenix–Mesa–Glendale, AZ MSA West
    13 San Bernardino-Riverside 4,380,878 San Bernandino–Riverside–Ontario, CA MSA West
    14 Detroit 4,294,983 Detroit–Warren–Livonia, MI MSA Midwest
    15 Seattle 3,610,105 Seattle–Tacoma–Bellevue, WA MSA West
    16 Minneapolis–St. Paul 3,459,146 Minneapolis–St. Paul–Bloomington, MN–WI MSA Midwest
    17 San Diego 3,211,252 San Diego–Carlsbad–San Marcos, CA MSA West
    18 Tampa–St. Petersburg 2,870,569 Tampa–St. Petersburg–Clearwater, FL MSA South
    19 St. Louis 2,810,056 St. Louis–St. Charles–Farmington, MO–IL MSA Midwest
    20 Baltimore 2,770,738 Baltimore–Towson, MD MSA Mid-Atlantic
    based upon 2013 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau[194]


    Languages spoken at home by more than 1,000,000 persons in the U.S.
    as of 2010
    Language Percent of
    Number of
    English (only) 80% 233,780,338
    Combined total of all languages
    other than English
    20% 57,048,617
    (excluding Puerto Rico and Spanish Creole)
    12% 35,437,985
    (including Cantonese and Mandarin)
    0.9% 2,567,779
    Tagalog 0.5% 1,542,118
    Vietnamese 0.4% 1,292,448
    French 0.4% 1,288,833
    Korean 0.4% 1,108,408
    German 0.4% 1,107,869

    English (American English) is the de facto national language. Although there is no official language at the federal level, some laws—such as U.S. naturalization requirements—standardize English. In 2010, about 230 million, or 80% of the population aged five years and older, spoke only English at home. Spanish, spoken by 12% of the population at home, is the second most common language and the most widely taught second language.[196][197] Some Americans advocate making English the country's official language, as it is in 28 states.[9]

    Both Hawaiian and English are official languages in Hawaii, by state law.[198] While neither has an official language, New Mexico has laws providing for the use of both English and Spanish, as Louisiana does for English and French.[199] Other states, such as California, mandate the publication of Spanish versions of certain government documents including court forms.[200] Many jurisdictions with large numbers of non-English speakers produce government materials, especially voting information, in the most commonly spoken languages in those jurisdictions.

    Several insular territories grant official recognition to their native languages, along with English: Samoan[201] and Chamorro[202] are recognized by American Samoa and Guam, respectively; Carolinian and Chamorro are recognized by the Northern Mariana Islands;[203] Cherokee is officially recognized by the Cherokee Nation within the Cherokee tribal jurisdiction area in eastern Oklahoma;[204] Spanish is an official language of Puerto Rico and is more widely spoken than English there.[205]


    Religious affiliation in the U.S. (2007)[206]
    Affiliation % of U.S. population
    Christian 78.5 78.5
    Evangelical Protestant 26.3 26.3
    Catholic 23.9 23.9
    Mainline Protestant 18.1 18.1
    Black Protestant 6.9 6.9
    Mormon 1.7 1.7
    Other Christian 1.6 1.6
    Judaism 1.7 1.7
    Buddhism 0.7 0.7
    Islam 0.6 0.6
    Hinduism 0.4 0.4
    Other faith 1.2 1.2
    Unaffiliated 16.1 16.1
    Don't know/refused answer 0.8 0.8
    Total 100 100


    • National Atlas of the United States Official maps from the U.S. Department of the Interior
    • Measure of America A variety of mapped information relating to health, education, income, and demographics for the U.S.
    • Historical Documents Collected by the National Center for Public Policy Research
    • U.S. National Mottos: History and Constitutionality Analysis by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
    • USA Collected links to historical data
    • Official U.S. Government Web Portal Gateway to government sites
    • House Official site of the United States House of Representatives
    • Senate Official site of the United States Senate
    • White House Official site of the President of the United States
    • Supreme Court Official site of the Supreme Court of the United States

    External links

    • "Country Profile: United States of America". BBC News (London). April 22, 2008. Retrieved May 18, 2008. 
    • Cohen, Eliot A. (July–August 2004). "History and the Hyperpower". Foreign Affairs. Washington D.C. Retrieved July 14, 2006. 
    • "Slavery and the Slave Trade in Rhode Island". 
    • """History of "In God We Trust. U.S. Department of the Treasury. March 8, 2011. Retrieved February 23, 2013. 
    • "Early History, Native Americans, and Early Settlers in Mercer County". Mercer County Historical Society. 427. Archived from the original on April 15, 2013. , Book
    • Nick Hayes (November 6, 2009). "Looking back 20 years: Who deserves credit for ending the Cold War?". MinnPost. Retrieved March 11, 2013. 
    • "59e. The End of the Cold War". U.S. Independence Hall Association. Retrieved March 10, 2013. 
    • Levy, Peter B. (1996). Encyclopedia of the Reagan-Bush Years. ABC-CLIO. p. 442.  
    • Wallander, Celeste A. (2003). "Western Policy and the Demise of the Soviet Union".  

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    1. ^ Beginning between 1945, 1954, 1962 (depending on different sources) and ending in the mid-1970s. Several start dates of the war are given by different sources: 1945,[116] 1954,[117] 1959,[118] and 1962;[119] the end date is also debated. Major U.S. involvement stopped in 1973,[120] yet most recognize the end of the Second Indochina War as when the Republic of Vietnam was toppled in 1975.[121]


    See also

    The market for professional sports in the United States is roughly $69 billion, roughly 50% larger than that of all of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa combined.[495] Baseball has been regarded as the national sport since the late 19th century, while American football is now by several measures the most popular spectator sport.[496] Basketball and ice hockey are the country's next two leading professional team sports. These four major sports, when played professionally, each occupy a season at different, but overlapping, times of the year. College football and basketball attract large audiences.[497] Boxing and horse racing were once the most watched individual sports,[498] but they have been eclipsed by golf and auto racing, particularly NASCAR.[499] In the 21st century, televised mixed martial arts has also gained a strong following of regular viewers.[500][501] While soccer is less popular in the United States than in many other nations, the country hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the men's national soccer team has been to the past six World Cups and the women are first in the women's world rankings.

    While most major U.S. sports have evolved out of European practices, basketball, volleyball, skateboarding, and snowboarding are American inventions, some of which have become popular in other countries. Lacrosse and surfing arose from Native American and Native Hawaiian activities that predate Western contact.[493] The Iroquois field their own separate national team, the Iroquois Nationals, in recognition of the confederacy's creation of lacrosse. Eight Olympic Games have taken place in the United States. The United States has won 2,400 medals at the Summer Olympic Games, more than any other country, and 281 in the Winter Olympic Games, the second most behind Norway.[494]

    Swimmer Beijing. Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time.[491][492]


    The American fast food industry, the world's largest, pioneered the drive-through format in the 1930s. Fast food consumption has sparked health concerns. During the 1980s and 1990s, Americans' caloric intake rose 24%;[484] frequent dining at fast food outlets is associated with what public health officials call the American "obesity epidemic".[489] Highly sweetened soft drinks are widely popular, and sugared beverages account for nine percent of American caloric intake.[490]

    American eating habits owe a great deal to that of their British culinary roots with some variations. Even though American lands could grow newer vegetables England could not, most colonist would not eat these new foods until accepted by Europeans.[487] Over time American foods changed to a point that food critic, John L. Hess stated in 1972: "Our founding fathers were as far superior to our present political leaders in the quality of their food as they were in the quality of their prose and intelligence".[488]

    Characteristic dishes such as apple pie, fried chicken, pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs derive from the recipes of various immigrants. French fries, Mexican dishes such as burritos and tacos, and pasta dishes freely adapted from Italian sources are widely consumed.[484] Americans generally prefer coffee to tea. Marketing by U.S. industries is largely responsible for making orange juice and milk ubiquitous breakfast beverages.[485][486]

    Roasted turkey is a traditional menu item of an American Thanksgiving dinner.[483]

    Mainstream American cuisine is similar to that in other Western countries. Wheat is the primary cereal grain. Traditional American cuisine uses indigenous ingredients, such as turkey, venison, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, and maple syrup, which were consumed by Native Americans and early European settlers.[481] These home grown foods are part of a shared national menu on one of America's most cherished holidays; Thanksgiving, when Americans all make the same traditional foods to celebrate the occasion.[482]

    Apple pie is a food synonymous with American culture.


    Though little known at the time, Jerome Robbins were leaders in 20th-century ballet. Americans have long been important in the modern artistic medium of photography, with major photographers including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Ansel Adams.

    One of the first major promoters of American theater was impresario P. T. Barnum, who began operating a lower Manhattan entertainment complex in 1841. The team of Harrigan and Hart produced a series of popular musical comedies in New York starting in the late 1870s. In the 20th century, the modern musical form emerged on Broadway; the songs of musical theater composers such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Stephen Sondheim have become pop standards. Playwright Eugene O'Neill won the Nobel literature prize in 1936; other acclaimed U.S. dramatists include multiple Pulitzer Prize winners Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, and August Wilson.

    In the visual arts, the Marsden Hartley, and others experimented with new, individualistic styles. Major artistic movements such as the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning and the pop art of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein developed largely in the United States. The tide of modernism and then postmodernism has brought fame to American architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson, and Frank Gehry.

    The transcendentalists, led by Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, established the first major American philosophical movement. After the Civil War, Charles Sanders Peirce and then William James and John Dewey were leaders in the development of pragmatism. In the 20th century, the work of W. V. O. Quine and Richard Rorty, and later Noam Chomsky, brought analytic philosophy to the fore of American philosophical academia. John Rawls and Robert Nozick led a revival of political philosophy. Cornel West and Judith Butler have led a continental tradition in American philosophical academia. Globally influential Chicago school economists like Milton Friedman, James M. Buchanan, and Thomas Sowell have transcended discipline to impact various fields in social and political philosophy.[477][478]

    Eleven U.S. citizens have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, most recently Toni Morrison in 1993. William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway are often named among the most influential writers of the 20th century.[476] Popular literary genres such as the Western and hardboiled crime fiction developed in the United States. The Beat Generation writers opened up new literary approaches, as have postmodernist authors such as John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, and Don DeLillo.

    In the 18th and early 19th centuries, American art and literature took most of its cues from Europe. Writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry David Thoreau established a distinctive American literary voice by the middle of the 19th century. Mark Twain and poet Walt Whitman were major figures in the century's second half; Emily Dickinson, virtually unknown during her lifetime, is now recognized as an essential American poet.[474] A work seen as capturing fundamental aspects of the national experience and character—such as Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (1851), Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925)—may be dubbed the "Great American Novel".[475]

    Mark Twain, American author and humorist

    Literature, philosophy, and the arts

    Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry were among the mid-1950s pioneers of rock and roll. In the 1960s, Bob Dylan emerged from the folk revival to become one of America's most celebrated songwriters and James Brown led the development of funk. More recent American creations include hip hop and house music. American pop stars such as Presley, Michael Jackson, and Madonna have become global celebrities.[473]

    The rhythmic and lyrical styles of African-American music have deeply influenced American music at large, distinguishing it from European traditions. Elements from folk idioms such as the blues and what is now known as old-time music were adopted and transformed into popular genres with global audiences. Jazz was developed by innovators such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington early in the 20th century. Country music developed in the 1920s, and rhythm and blues in the 1940s.[473]


    Director D. W. Griffith was central to the development of film grammar and Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941) is frequently cited as the greatest film of all time.[470][471] American screen actors like John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe have become iconic figures, while producer/entrepreneur Walt Disney was a leader in both animated film and movie merchandising. Hollywood is also one of the leaders in motion picture production.[472]

    The world's first commercial motion picture exhibition was given in New York City in 1894, using Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope. The next year saw the first commercial screening of a projected film, also in New York, and the United States was in the forefront of sound film's development in the following decades. Since the early 20th century, the U.S. film industry has largely been based in and around Hollywood, California.


    In Spanish, the second most widely spoken mother tongue behind English, more than 800 publications are published.[468][469]

    Well-known newspapers are The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. Although the cost of publishing has increased over the years, the price of newspapers has generally remained low, forcing newspapers to rely more on advertising revenue and on articles provided by a major wire service, such as the Associated Press or Reuters, for their national and world coverage. With very few exceptions, all the newspapers in the U.S. are privately owned, either by large chains such as Gannett or McClatchy, which own dozens or even hundreds of newspapers; by small chains that own a handful of papers; or in a situation that is increasingly rare, by individuals or families. Major cities often have "alternative weeklies" to complement the mainstream daily paper(s), for example, New York City's Village Voice or Los Angeles' L.A. Weekly, to name two of the best-known. Major cities may also support a local business journal, trade papers relating to local industries, and papers for local ethnic and social groups. Early versions of the American newspaper comic strip and the American comic book began appearing in the 19th century. In 1938, Superman, the quintessential comic book superhero of DC Comics, developed into an American icon.[467]

    Aside from web portals and search engines, the most popular websites are Facebook, YouTube, WorldHeritage, Amazon, eBay, and Twitter.[466]

    In 1998, the number of U.S. commercial radio stations had grown to 4,793 AM stations and 5,662 FM stations. In addition, there are 1,460 public radio stations. Most of these stations are run by universities and public authorities for educational purposes and are financed by public and/or private funds, subscriptions and corporate underwriting. Much public-radio broadcasting is supplied by NPR (formerly National Public Radio). NPR was incorporated in February 1970 under the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967; its television counterpart, PBS, was also created by the same legislation. (NPR and PBS are operated separately from each other.)

    The four major broadcasters in the U.S. are the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Fox. Americans are the heaviest television viewers in the world,[463] and the average viewing time continues to rise, reaching five hours a day in 2006.[464] The four major broadcast television networks are all commercial entities. Americans listen to radio programming, also largely commercial, on average just over two-and-a-half hours a day.[465]

    Mass media

    The American Dream, or the perception that Americans enjoy high social mobility, plays a key role in attracting immigrants.[453] Whether this perception is realistic has been a topic of debate.[454][455][456][457][340][458] While mainstream culture holds that the United States is a classless society,[459] scholars identify significant differences between the country's social classes, affecting socialization, language, and values.[460] Americans' self-images, social viewpoints, and cultural expectations are associated with their occupations to an unusually close degree.[461] While Americans tend greatly to value socioeconomic achievement, being ordinary or average is generally seen as a positive attribute.[462]

    Core American culture was established by Protestant British colonists and shaped by the frontier settlement process, with the traits derived passed down to descendants and transmitted to immigrants through assimilation. Americans have traditionally been characterized by a strong work ethic, competitiveness, and individualism, as well as a unifying belief in an "American creed" emphasizing liberty, equality, private property, democracy, rule of law, and a preference for limited government.[450] Americans are extremely charitable by global standards. According to a 2006 British study, Americans gave 1.67% of GDP to charity, more than any other nation studied, more than twice the second place British figure of 0.73%, and around twelve times the French figure of 0.14%.[451][452]

    The United States is home to many cultures and a wide variety of ethnic groups, traditions, and values.[19][447] Aside from the Native American, Native Hawaiian and Native Alaskan populations, nearly all Americans or their ancestors settled or immigrated within the past five centuries.[448] Mainstream American culture is a Western culture largely derived from the traditions of European immigrants with influences from many other sources, such as traditions brought by slaves from Africa.[19][449] More recent immigration from Asia and especially Latin America has added to a cultural mix that has been described as both a homogenizing melting pot, and a heterogeneous salad bowl in which immigrants and their descendants retain distinctive cultural characteristics.[19]


    The U.S. is a global leader in medical innovation. America solely developed or contributed significantly to 9 of the top 10 most important medical innovations since 1975 as ranked by a 2001 poll of physicians, while the EU and Switzerland together contributed to five. Since 1966, Americans have received more Nobel Prizes in Medicine than the rest of the world. From 1989 to 2002, four times more money was invested in private biotechnology companies in America than in Europe.[439][440] The U.S. health-care system far outspends any other nation, measured in both per capita spending and percentage of GDP.[441] Health-care coverage in the United States is a combination of public and private efforts and is not universal. In 2010, 49.9 million residents or 16.3% of the population did not carry health insurance. The subject of uninsured and underinsured Americans is a major political issue.[442][443] In 2006, Massachusetts became the first state to mandate universal health insurance.[444] Federal legislation passed in early 2010 would ostensibly create a near-universal health insurance system around the country by 2014, though the bill and its ultimate impact are issues of controversy.[445][446]

    In 2010, coronary artery disease, lung cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and traffic accidents caused the most years of life lost in the U.S. Low back pain, depression, musculoskeletal disorders, neck pain, and anxiety caused the most years lost to disability. The most deleterious risk factors were poor diet, tobacco smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, physical inactivity, and alcohol use. Alzheimer's disease, drug abuse, kidney disease and cancer, and falls caused the most additional years of life lost over their age-adjusted 1990 per-capita rates.[431] U.S. teenage pregnancy and abortion rates are substantially higher than in other Western nations.

    The United States has a life expectancy of 78.4 years at birth, up from 75.2 years in 1990, ranking it 50th among 221 nations, and 27th out of the 34 industrialized OECD countries, down from 20th in 1990.[430][431] Increasing obesity in the United States and health improvements elsewhere have contributed to lowering the country's rank in life expectancy from 1987, when it was 11th in the world.[432] Obesity rates in the United States are among the highest in the world.[433] Approximately one-third of the adult population is obese and an additional third is overweight;[434] the obesity rate, the highest in the industrialized world, has more than doubled in the last quarter-century.[435] Obesity-related type 2 diabetes is considered epidemic by health care professionals.[436] The infant mortality rate of 6.17 per thousand places the United States 169th highest out of 224 countries.[437] The United States has the highest first-day infant death rate out of all the industrialized countries in the world. About 11,300 newborns die within 24 hours of their birth in the U.S. each year, 50 percent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined.[438]


    As for public expenditures on higher education, the U.S. trails some other OECD nations but spends more per student than the OECD average, and more than all nations in combined public and private spending.[421][428] As of 2012, student loan debt exceeded one trillion dollars, more than Americans owe on credit cards.[429]

    The United States has many competitive private and public institutions of higher education. According to prominent international rankings, 13 or 15 American colleges and universities are ranked among the top 20 in the world.[423][424] There are also local community colleges with generally more open admission policies, shorter academic programs, and lower tuition. Of Americans 25 and older, 84.6% graduated from high school, 52.6% attended some college, 27.2% earned a bachelor's degree, and 9.6% earned graduate degrees.[425] The basic literacy rate is approximately 99%.[149][426] The United Nations assigns the United States an Education Index of 0.97, tying it for 12th in the world.[427]

    American public education is operated by state and local governments, regulated by the United States Department of Education through restrictions on federal grants. In most states, children are required to attend school from the age of six or seven (generally, kindergarten or first grade) until they turn 18 (generally bringing them through twelfth grade, the end of high school); some states allow students to leave school at 16 or 17.[419] About 12% of children are enrolled in parochial or nonsectarian private schools. Just over 2% of children are homeschooled.[420] The U.S. spends more on education per student than any nation in the world, spending more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student.[421] Some 80% of U.S. college students attend public universities.[422]

    The University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, is one of the many public universities in the United States.


    The ARPANET was developed in the 1960s to meet Defense Department requirements, and became the first of a series of networks which evolved into the Internet. Today, 64% of research and development funding comes from the private sector.[414] The United States leads the world in scientific research papers and impact factor.[415] As of April 2010, 77% of American households owned at least one computer, and 68% had broadband Internet service.[416] 85% of Americans also own a mobile phone as of 2011.[417] The country is the primary developer and grower of genetically modified food, representing half of the world's biotech crops.[418]

    The rise of Nazism in the 1930s led many European scientists, including Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, and John von Neumann, to immigrate to the United States.[411] During World War II, the Manhattan Project developed nuclear weapons, ushering in the Atomic Age, while the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory pioneered the advancement of jet-assisted takeoff. The Space Race produced rapid advances in rocketry, materials science, and computers.[412] Advancements by American microprocessor companies such as Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), and Intel along with both computer software and hardware companies that include Sun Microsystems, IBM, GNU-Linux, Apple Computer, and Microsoft refined and popularized the personal computer.[413]

    The United States has been a leader in scientific research and technological innovation since the late 19th century. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was awarded the first U.S. patent for the telephone. Thomas Edison's laboratory developed the phonograph, the first long-lasting light bulb, and the first viable movie camera.[409] In the early 20th century, the automobile companies of Ransom E. Olds and Henry Ford popularized the assembly line. The Wright brothers, in 1903, made the first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight.[410]

    Astronaut James Irwin walking on the Moon next to Apollo 15's landing module and lunar rover in 1971. The effort to reach the Moon was triggered by the Space Race.

    Science and technology

    For decades, nuclear power has played a limited role relative to many other developed countries, in part because of public perception in the wake of a 1979 accident. In 2007, several applications for new nuclear plants were filed.[406] The United States has 27% of global coal reserves.[407] It is the world's largest producer of natural gas and crude oil.[408]

    The United States energy market is 29,000 terawatt hours per year. Energy consumption per capita is 7.8 tons of oil equivalent per year, the 10th highest rate in the world. In 2005, 40% of this energy came from petroleum, 23% from coal, and 22% from natural gas. The remainder was supplied by nuclear power and renewable energy sources.[404] The United States is the world's largest consumer of petroleum.[405]

    The Hoover Dam when completed in 1936 was both the world's largest electric-power generating station and the world's largest concrete structure.


    The civil airline industry is entirely privately owned and has been largely deregulated since 1978, while most major airports are publicly owned. The three largest airlines in the world by passengers carried are U.S.-based; American Airlines is number one after its 2013 acquisition of US Airways.[402] Of the world's 30 busiest passenger airports, 12 are in the United States, including the busiest, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.[403]

    Mass transit accounts for 9% of total U.S. work trips.[396][397] While transport of goods by rail is extensive, relatively few people use rail to travel,[398] though ridership on Amtrak, the national intercity passenger rail system, grew by almost 37% between 2000 and 2010.[399] Also, light rail development has increased in recent years.[400] Bicycle usage for work commutes is minimal.[401]

    Personal transportation is dominated by automobiles, which operate on a network of 13 million roads, including one of the world's longest highway systems.[391] The world's second largest automobile market,[392] the United States has the highest rate of per-capita vehicle ownership in the world, with 765 vehicles per 1,000 Americans.[393] About 40% of personal vehicles are vans, SUVs, or light trucks.[394] The average American adult (accounting for all drivers and non-drivers) spends 55 minutes driving every day, traveling 29 miles (47 km).[395]

    The Interstate Highway System, which extends 46,876 miles (75,440 km)[390]



    There were about 643,000 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons in the U.S. in January 2009, with almost two-thirds staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. In 2011 16.7 million children lived in food-insecure households, about 35% more than 2007 levels, though only 1.1% of U.S. children, or 845,000, saw reduced food intake or disrupted eating patterns at some point during the year, and most cases were not chronic.[389]

    Wealth, like income and taxes, is highly concentrated; the richest 10% of the adult population possess 72% of the country's household wealth, while the bottom half claim only 2%.[384] This is the second-highest share among developed nations.[385] Between June 2007 and November 2008 the global recession led to falling asset prices around the world. Assets owned by Americans lost about a quarter of their value.[386] Since peaking in the second quarter of 2007, household wealth is down $14 trillion.[387] At the end of 2008, household debt amounted to $13.8 trillion.[388]

    There has been a widening gap between productivity and median incomes since the 1970s.[377] While inflation-adjusted ("real") household income had been increasing almost every year from 1947 to 1999, it has since been flat and even decreased recently.[378] The rise in the share of total annual income received by the top 1 percent, which has more than doubled from 9 percent in 1976 to 20 percent in 2011, has had a significant impact on income inequality,[379] leaving the United States with one of the widest income distributions among OECD nations.[380][381][382] The post-recession income gains have been very uneven, with the top 1 percent capturing 95 percent of the income gains from 2009 to 2012.[383]

    Americans have the highest average household and employee income among OECD nations, and in 2007 had the second highest median household income.[371][372] According to the Census Bureau real median household income was $50,502 in 2011, down from $51,144 in 2010.[373] The Global Food Security Index ranked the U.S. number one for food affordability and overall food security in March 2013.[374] Americans on average have over twice as much living space per dwelling and per person as European Union residents, and more than every EU nation.[375] For 2013 the United Nations Development Programme ranked the United States 5th among 187 countries in its Human Development Index and 28th in its inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI).[376]

    Productivity and real median family income growth 1947–2009

    Income, poverty and wealth

    The 2008-2012 global recession had a significant impact on the United States, with output still below potential according to the Congressional Budget Office.[365] It brought high unemployment (which has been decreasing but remains above pre-recession levels), along with low consumer confidence, the continuing decline in home values and increase in foreclosures and personal bankruptcies, an escalating federal debt crisis, inflation, and rising petroleum and food prices. There remains a record proportion of long-term unemployed, continued decreasing household income, and tax and federal budget increases.[366][367][368] A 2011 poll found that more than half of all Americans think the U.S. is still in recession or even depression, despite official data that shows a historically modest recovery.[369] In 2013 the Census Bureau defined poverty rate decreased to roughly 14.5% of the population.[370]

    Consumer spending comprises 71% of the U.S. economy in 2013.[359] In August 2010, the American labor force consisted of 154.1 million people. With 21.2 million people, government is the leading field of employment. The largest private employment sector is health care and social assistance, with 16.4 million people. About 12% of workers are unionized, compared to 30% in Western Europe.[360] The World Bank ranks the United States first in the ease of hiring and firing workers.[361] The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation[362] and is one of just a few countries in the world without paid family leave as a legal right, with the others being Papua New Guinea, Suriname and Liberia.[363] In 2009, the United States had the third highest labor productivity per person in the world, behind Luxembourg and Norway. It was fourth in productivity per hour, behind those two countries and the Netherlands.[364]

    Chemical products are the leading manufacturing field.[352] The United States is the third largest producer of oil in the world, as well as its largest importer.[353] It is the world's number one producer of electrical and nuclear energy, as well as liquid natural gas, sulfur, phosphates, and salt. While agriculture accounts for just under 1% of GDP,[350] the United States is the world's top producer of corn[354] and soybeans.[355] The National Agricultural Statistics Service maintains agricultural statistics for products that include peanuts, oats, rye, wheat, rice, cotton, corn, barley, hay, sunflowers, and oilseeds. In addition, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides livestock statistics regarding beef, poultry, pork, and dairy products. The National Mining Association provides data pertaining to coal and minerals that include beryllium, copper, lead, magnesium, zinc, titanium and others.[356][357] In the franchising business model, McDonald's and Subway are the two most recognized brands in the world. Coca-Cola is the most recognized soft drink company in the world.[358]

    In 2009, the private sector was estimated to constitute 86.4% of the economy, with federal government activity accounting for 4.3% and state and local government activity (including federal transfers) the remaining 9.3%.[349] While its economy has reached a postindustrial level of development and its service sector constitutes 67.8% of GDP, the United States remains an industrial power.[350] The leading business field by gross business receipts is wholesale and retail trade; by net income it is manufacturing.[351]

    The United States is the largest importer of goods and second largest exporter, though exports per capita are relatively low. In 2010, the total U.S. trade deficit was $635 billion.[342] Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, and Germany are its top trading partners.[343] In 2010, oil was the largest import commodity, while transportation equipment was the country's largest export.[342] China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. public debt.[344] The largest holder of the U.S. debt are American entities, including federal government accounts and the Federal Reserve, who hold the majority of the debt.[345][346][347][348]

    The United States has a capitalist mixed economy which is fueled by abundant natural resources and high productivity.[337] According to the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. GDP of $16.8 trillion constitutes 24% of the gross world product at market exchange rates and over 19% of the gross world product at purchasing power parity (PPP).[6] Its national GDP was about 5% larger at PPP in 2014 than the European Union's, whose population is around 62% higher.[338] However, the US's nominal GDP is estimated to be $17.528 trillion as of 2014, which is about 5% smaller than that of the European Union.[339] From 1983 to 2008, U.S. real compounded annual GDP growth was 3.3%, compared to a 2.3% weighted average for the rest of the G7.[340] The country ranks ninth in the world in nominal GDP per capita and sixth in GDP per capita at PPP.[6] The U.S. dollar is the world's primary reserve currency.[341]

    United States export treemap (2011): The U.S. is the world's second-largest exporter.
    Economic Indicators
    Nominal GDP $17.555 trillion (Q3 2014) [329]
    Real GDP growth 3.9% (Q3 2014, annualized)
    2.2% (2013) [330]
    CPI inflation 2.1% (May 2014) [331]
    Employment-to-population ratio 58.9% (May 2014) [332]
    Unemployment 5.8% (October 2014) [333]
    Labor force participation rate 62.8% (October 2014) [334]
    Total public debt $17.5 trillion (Q2 2014) [335]
    Household net worth $81.8 trillion (Q1 2014) [336]


    The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate and total prison population in the world.[319][320][321][322] At the start of 2008, more than 2.3 million people were incarcerated, more than one in every 100 adults.[323] The prison population has quadrupled since 1980.[324] African-American males are jailed at about six times the rate of white males and three times the rate of Hispanic males.[325] The country's high rate of incarceration is largely due to changes in sentencing guidelines and drug policies.[326] In 2008, Louisiana had the highest incarceration rate, and Maine the lowest.[327] In 2012, Louisiana had the highest rate of murder and non-negligent manslaughter in the U.S., and New Hampshire the lowest.[328]

    U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down arbitrary imposition of the death penalty. In 1976, that Court ruled that, under appropriate circumstances, capital punishment may constitutionally be imposed. Since the decision there have been more than 1,300 executions, a majority of these taking place in three states: Texas, Virginia, and Oklahoma.[317] Meanwhile, several states have either abolished or struck down death penalty laws. In 2010, the country had the fifth highest number of executions in the world, following China, Iran, North Korea, and Yemen.[318]

    In 2012 there were 4.7 murders per 100,000 persons in the United States, a 54% decline from the modern peak of 10.2 in 1980.[310][311][312] Among developed nations, the United States has above-average levels of violent crime and particularly high levels of [314] Gun ownership rights continue to be the subject of contentious political debate. The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports estimates that there were 3,246 violent and property crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012, for a total of over 9 million total crimes.[315]

    Law enforcement in the United States is primarily the responsibility of local police and sheriff's departments, with state police providing broader services. Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Marshals Service have specialized duties.[307] At the federal level and in almost every state, jurisprudence operates on a common law system. State courts conduct most criminal trials; federal courts handle certain designated crimes as well as certain appeals from the state criminal courts. Plea bargaining in the United States is very common; the vast majority of criminal cases in the country are settled by plea bargain rather than jury trial.[308][309]

    Law enforcement in the U.S. is maintained primarily by local police departments. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is the largest in the country.[306]

    Crime and law enforcement

    The proposed base Department of Defense budget for 2012, $553 billion, was a 4.2% increase over 2011; an additional $118 billion was proposed for the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.[301] The last American troops serving in Iraq departed in December 2011;[302] 4,484 service members were killed during the Iraq War.[303] Approximately 90,000 U.S. troops were serving in Afghanistan in April 2012;[304] by November 8, 2013 2,285 had been killed during the War in Afghanistan.[305]

    The military budget of the United States in 2011 was more than $700 billion, 41% of global military spending and equal to the next 14 largest national military expenditures combined. At 4.7% of GDP, the rate was the second-highest among the top 15 military spenders, after Saudi Arabia.[298] U.S. defense spending as a percentage of GDP ranked 23rd globally in 2012 according to the CIA.[299] Defense's share of U.S. spending has generally declined in recent decades, from Cold War peaks of 14.2% of GDP in 1953 and 69.5% of federal outlays in 1954 to 4.7% of GDP and 18.8% of federal outlays in 2011.[300]

    Military service is voluntary, though conscription may occur in wartime through the Selective Service System.[294] American forces can be rapidly deployed by the Air Force's large fleet of transport aircraft, the Navy's 10 active aircraft carriers, and Marine Expeditionary Units at sea with the Navy's Atlantic and Pacific fleets. The military operates 865 bases and facilities abroad,[295] and maintains deployments greater than 100 active duty personnel in 25 foreign countries.[296] The extent of this global military presence has prompted some scholars to describe the United States as maintaining an "empire of bases".[297]

    The president holds the title of commander-in-chief of the nation's armed forces and appoints its leaders, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The United States Department of Defense administers the armed forces, including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. The Coast Guard is run by the Department of Homeland Security in peacetime and by the Department of the Navy during times of war. In 2008, the armed forces had 1.4 million personnel on active duty. The Reserves and National Guard brought the total number of troops to 2.3 million. The Department of Defense also employed about 700,000 civilians, not including contractors.[293]

    Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Ariz. (Feb.4, 2004)


    Historically, the U.S. public debt as a share of GDP increased during wars and recessions, and subsequently declined. For example, debt held by the public as a share of GDP peaked just after World War II (113% of GDP in 1945), but then fell over the following 30 years. In recent decades, large budget deficits and the resulting increases in debt have led to concern about the long-term sustainability of the federal government's fiscal policies.[291] However, these concerns are not universally shared.[292]

    The total national debt in the United States was $18.527 trillion (106% of the GDP), according to an estimate for 2014 by the International Monetary Fund.[286] In May 2014, U.S. federal government debt held by the public was approximately $12.495 trillion, or about 75% of U.S. GDP. Intra-governmental holdings stood at $5 trillion, giving a combined total debt of $17.494 trillion.[287][288] By 2012, total federal debt had surpassed 100% of U.S. GDP.[289] The U.S. has a credit rating of AA+ from Standard & Poor's, AAA from Fitch, and Aaa from Moody's.[290]

    US federal debt held by the public as a percentage of GDP, from 1790 to 2013

    National debt

    During FY 2012, the federal government spent $3.54 trillion on a budget or cash basis, down $60 billion or 1.7% vs. FY 2011 spending of $3.60 trillion. Major categories of FY 2012 spending included: Medicare & Medicaid ($802B or 23% of spending), Social Security ($768B or 22%), Defense Department ($670B or 19%), non-defense discretionary ($615B or 17%), other mandatory ($461B or 13%) and interest ($223B or 6%).[269]

    U.S. taxation is generally progressive, especially the federal income taxes, and is among the most progressive in the developed world,[270][271][272][273][274] but the incidence of corporate income tax has been a matter of considerable ongoing controversy for decades.[275][276][277][278] In 2009 the top 10% of earners, with 36% of the nation's income, paid 78.2% of the federal personal income tax burden, while the bottom 40% had a negative liability.[273] However, payroll taxes for Social Security are a flat regressive tax, with no tax charged on income above $113,700 and no tax at all paid on unearned income from things such as stocks and capital gains.[279][280] The historic reasoning for the regressive nature of the payroll tax is that entitlement programs have not been viewed as welfare transfers.[281][282] The top 10% paid 51.8% of total federal taxes in 2009, and the top 1%, with 13.4% of pre-tax national income, paid 22.3% of federal taxes.[273] In 2013 the Tax Policy Center projected total federal effective tax rates of 35.5% for the top 1%, 27.2% for the top quintile, 13.8% for the middle quintile, and −2.7% for the bottom quintile.[283][284] State and local taxes vary widely, but are generally less progressive than federal taxes as they rely heavily on broadly borne regressive sales and property taxes that yield less volatile revenue streams, though their consideration does not eliminate the progressive nature of overall taxation.[271][285]

    Taxes are levied in the United States at the federal, state and local government level. These include taxes on income, payroll, property, sales, imports, estates and gifts, as well as various fees. In 2010 taxes collected by federal, state and municipal governments amounted to 24.8% of GDP.[268] During FY2012, the federal government collected approximately $2.45 trillion in tax revenue, up $147 billion or 6% versus FY2011 revenues of $2.30 trillion. Primary receipt categories included individual income taxes ($1,132B or 47%), Social Security/Social Insurance taxes ($845B or 35%), and corporate taxes ($242B or 10%).[269]

    Government finance

    The U.S. exercises full international defense authority and responsibility for three sovereign nations through Compact of Free Association with Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, all of which are Pacific island nations which were part of the U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands beginning after World War II, and gained independence in subsequent years.[267]

    The United States has a "free trade agreements such as the trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. In 2008, the United States spent a net $25.4 billion on official development assistance, the most in the world. As a share of America's large gross national income (GNI), however, the U.S. contribution of 0.18% ranked last among 22 donor states. By contrast, private overseas giving by Americans is relatively generous.[266]

    The United States has an established structure of foreign relations. It is a permanent member of the embassies in Washington, D.C., and many have consulates around the country. Likewise, nearly all nations host American diplomatic missions. However, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Bhutan, and the Republic of China (Taiwan) do not have formal diplomatic relations with the United States (although the U.S. still supplies Taiwan with military equipment).[257]

    Foreign relations

    The United Nations Headquarters has been situated in Midtown Manhattan since 1952.

    Since the founding of the United States until the 2000s, the country's governance has been primarily dominated by White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs). However, the situation has changed recently and of the top 17 positions (four national candidates of the two major party in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, four leaders in 112th United States Congress, and nine Supreme Court Justices) there is only one WASP.[253][254][255]

    In the 113th United States Congress, the House of Representatives is controlled by the Republican Party, while the Democratic Party has control of the Senate. The Senate currently consists of 53 Democrats, two independents who caucus with the Democrats, and 45 Republicans; the House consists of 233 Republicans and 199 Democrats, with three vacancies.[251] There are 29 Republican and 21 Democratic state governors.[252]

    The winner of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, Democrat Barack Obama, is the 44th U.S. president.

    Within American political culture, the Republican Party is considered center-right or conservative and the Democratic Party is considered center-left or liberal.[250] The states of the Northeast and West Coast and some of the Great Lakes states, known as "blue states", are relatively liberal. The "red states" of the South and parts of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains are relatively conservative.

    The United States has operated under a two-party system for most of its history.[249] For elective offices at most levels, state-administered primary elections choose the major party nominees for subsequent general elections. Since the general election of 1856, the major parties have been the Democratic Party, founded in 1824, and the Republican Party, founded in 1854. Since the Civil War, only one third-party presidential candidate—former president Theodore Roosevelt, running as a Progressive in 1912—has won as much as 20% of the popular vote. The third-largest political party is the Libertarian Party. The President and Vice-president are elected through the Electoral College system.

    (from left to right) House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker John Boehner, President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the White House in 2011

    Parties and elections

    The United States also observes tribal sovereignty of the Native Nations. Though reservations are within state borders, the reservation is a sovereign entity. While the United States recognizes this sovereignty, other countries may not.[248]

    The states compose the vast bulk of the U.S. land mass. The District of Columbia is a federal district which contains the capital of the United States, Washington D.C. The United States also possesses five major overseas territories: Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands in the Caribbean; and American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific.[245] Those born in the major territories are birthright U.S. citizens except Samoans. Samoans born in American Samoa are born U.S. nationals, and may become naturalized citizens.[246] American citizens residing in the territories have fundamental constitutional protections and elective self-government, with a territorial Member of Congress, but they do not vote for president as states. Territories have personal and business tax regimes different from that of states.[247]

    The United States is a federal union of 50 states. The original 13 states were the successors of the Kentucky from Virginia; Tennessee from North Carolina; and Maine from Massachusetts. Most of the other states have been carved from territories obtained through war or purchase by the U.S. government. One set of exceptions includes Vermont, Texas, and Hawaii: each was a well-established independent republic before joining the union. During the American Civil War, West Virginia broke away from Virginia. The most recent state—Hawaii—achieved statehood on August 21, 1959.[243] The states do not have the right to unilaterally secede from the union.[244]

    Political divisions

    The original text of the Constitution establishes the structure and responsibilities of the federal government and its relationship with the individual states. Article One protects the right to the "great writ" of habeas corpus. The Constitution has been amended 27 times;[240] the first ten amendments, which make up the Bill of Rights, and the Fourteenth Amendment form the central basis of Americans' individual rights. All laws and governmental procedures are subject to judicial review and any law ruled by the courts to be in violation of the Constitution is voided. The principle of judicial review, not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, was established by the Supreme Court in Marbury v. Madison (1803)[241] in a decision handed down by Chief Justice John Marshall.[242]

    The state governments are structured in roughly similar fashion; Nebraska uniquely has a unicameral legislature.[239] The governor (chief executive) of each state is directly elected. Some state judges and cabinet officers are appointed by the governors of the respective states, while others are elected by popular vote.

    The Senate has 100 members with each state having two senators, elected at-large to six-year terms; one third of Senate seats are up for election every other year. The president serves a four-year term and may be elected to the office no more than twice. The president is not elected by direct vote, but by an indirect electoral college system in which the determining votes are apportioned to the states and the District of Columbia.[237] The Supreme Court, led by the Chief Justice of the United States, has nine members, who serve for life.[238]

    The House of Representatives has 435 voting members, each representing a congressional district for a two-year term. House seats are apportioned among the states by population every tenth year. At the 2010 census, seven states had the minimum of one representative, while California, the most populous state, had 53.[236]

    The federal government is composed of three branches:

    Political system of the United States

    In the American federalist system, citizens are usually subject to three levels of government: federal, state, and local. The local government's duties are commonly split between county and municipal governments. In almost all cases, executive and legislative officials are elected by a plurality vote of citizens by district. There is no proportional representation at the federal level, and it is very rare at lower levels.[231]

    The United States is the world's oldest surviving federation. It is a constitutional republic and representative democracy, "in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law".[227] The government is regulated by a system of checks and balances defined by the U.S. Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document.[228] For 2013, the U.S. ranked 19th on the Democracy Index[229] and 19th on the Corruption Perceptions Index.[230]

    U.S. Capitol,
    where Congress meets:
    the Senate, left; the House, right
    The White House, home of the U.S. President

    Government and politics

    The U.S. teenage pregnancy rate, 79.8 per 1,000 women, is the highest among OECD nations.[219] Between 2007 and 2010, the highest teenage birth rate was in Mississippi, and the lowest in New Hampshire.[220] Abortion is legal throughout the U.S., owing to Roe v. Wade, a 1973 landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court. While the abortion rate is falling, the abortion ratio of 241 per 1,000 live births and abortion rate of 15 per 1,000 women aged 15–44 remain higher than those of most Western nations.[221] In 2011, the average age at first birth was 25.6 and 40.7% of births were to unmarried women.[222] The total fertility rate (TFR) was estimated for 2013 at 1.86 births per woman.[223] Adoption in the United States is common and relatively easy from a legal point of view (compared to other Western countries).[224] In 2001, with over 127,000 adoptions, the U.S. accounted for nearly half of the total number of adoptions worldwide.[225] The legal status of same-sex couples adopting varies by jurisdiction. Polygamy is illegal throughout the U.S.[226]

    In 2007, 58% of Americans age 18 and over were married, 6% were widowed, 10% were divorced, and 25% had never been married.[217] Women now work mostly outside the home and receive a majority of bachelor's degrees.[218]

    Family structure

    The Bible Belt is an informal term for a region in the Southern United States in which socially conservative Evangelical Protestantism is a significant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average. By contrast, religion plays the least important role in New England and in the Western United States.[208]

    Protestantism is the largest Christian religious grouping in the United States. Baptists collectively form the largest branch of Protestantism, and the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest individual Protestant denomination. About 26 percent of Americans identify as Evangelical Protestants, while 18 percent are Mainline and 7 percent belong to a traditionally Black church. Roman Catholicism in the United States has its origin in the Spanish and French colonization of the Americas, and later grew due to Irish, Italian, Polish, German and Hispanic immigration. Rhode Island is the only state where a majority of the population is Catholic. Lutheranism in the U.S. has its origin in immigration from Northern Europe. North and South Dakota are the only states in which a plurality of the population is Lutheran. Utah is the only state where Mormonism is the religion of the majority of the population. The Mormon Corridor also extends to parts of Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming.

    According to a 2014 survey, 78.5% of adults identified themselves as Christian,[212] Protestant denominations accounted for 51.3%, while Roman Catholicism, at 23.9%, was the largest individual denomination.[213] The total reporting non-Christian religions in 2012 was 4.9%, up from 4% in 2007.[213] Other religions include Judaism (1.7%), Buddhism (0.7%), Islam (0.6%), Hinduism (0.4%), and Unitarian Universalism (0.3%).[213] The survey also reported that 16.1% of Americans described themselves as agnostic, atheist or simply having no religion, up from 8.2% in 1990.[213][214][215] There are also Baha'i, Sikh, Jain, Shinto, Confucian, Taoist, Druid, Native American, Wiccan, humanist and deist communities.[216]

    [211] and that younger Americans in particular are becoming increasingly irreligious.[210]

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