United States

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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) and the Great Depression of the 1930s. 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. The economy is marked by steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology.


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


total: 9,631,420 sq km
land: 9,161,923 sq km
water: 469,497 sq km
note: includes only the 50 states and District of Columbia

Land boundaries:

total: 12,034 km
border countries: Canada 8,893 km (including 2,477 km with Alaska), Mexico 3,141 km
note: US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is leased by the US and is part of Cuba; the base boundary is 29 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: Mount McKinley 6,194 m

Natural resources:

coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, timber

Land use:

arable land: 18.01%
permanent crops: 0.21%
other: 81.78% (2005)

Irrigated land:

223,850 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

tsunamis, volcanoes, and 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

Environment - current issues:

air pollution resulting in acid rain in both the US and Canada; the US is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels; water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; limited natural fresh water resources in much of the western part of the country require careful management; desertification

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


298,444,215 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 20.4% (male 31,095,847/female 29,715,872)
15-64 years: 67.2% (male 100,022,845/female 100,413,484)
65 years and over: 12.5% (male 15,542,288/female 21,653,879) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 36.5 years
male: 35.1 years
female: 37.8 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.91% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

14.14 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

8.26 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

3.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 6.43 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.09 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.74 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 77.85 years
male: 75.02 years
female: 80.82 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

2.09 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.6% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

950,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

14,000 (2003 est.)


noun: American(s)
adjective: American

Ethnic groups:

white 81.7%, black 12.9%, Asian 4.2%, Amerindian and Alaska native 1%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.2% (2003 est.)
note: a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the US Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean a person of Latin American descent (including persons of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin) living in the US who may be of any race or ethnic group (white, black, Asian, etc.)


Protestant 52%, Roman Catholic 24%, Mormon 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 1%, other 10%, none 10% (2002 est.)


English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7% (2000 census)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: United States of America
conventional short form: United States
abbreviation: US or USA

Government type:

Constitution-based federal republic; strong democratic tradition


Washington, DC

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 units: 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 (from Great Britain)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 4 July (1776)


17 September 1787, effective 4 March 1789

Legal system:

federal court system based on English common law; each state has its own unique legal system, of which all but one (Louisiana's) is based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

bicameral Congress consists of the Senate (100 seats, one-third are renewed every two years; 2 members are elected from each state by popular vote to serve six-year terms) and the House of Representatives (435 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 2 November 2004 (next to be held on 7 November 2006); House of Representatives - last held 2 November 2004 (next to be held on 7 November 2006)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Republican Party 55, Democratic Party 44, independent 1; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Republican Party 231, Democratic Party 200, undecided 4

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court (its nine justices are appointed for life on condition of good behavior by the president with confirmation by the Senate); United States Courts of Appeal; United States District Courts; State and County Courts

Economy - overview:

The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $42,000. In this market-oriented economy, 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. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment; their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II. The onrush of technology largely explains 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. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. The response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 showed the remarkable resilience of the economy. The war in March-April 2003 between a US-led coalition and Iraq, and the subsequent occupation of Iraq, required major shifts in national resources to the military. The rise in GDP in 2004 and 2005 was undergirded by substantial gains in labor productivity. Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage in the Gulf Coast region in August 2005, but had a small impact on overall GDP growth for the year. Soaring oil prices in 2005 and 2006 threatened inflation and unemployment, yet the economy continued to grow through mid-2006. Imported oil accounts for about two-thirds of US consumption. Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$12.41 trillion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$12.47 trillion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

3.5% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$42,000 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 1%
industry: 20.7%
services: 78.3% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

149.3 million (includes unemployed) (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

farming, forestry, and fishing 0.7%, manufacturing, extraction, transportation, and crafts 22.9%, managerial, professional, and technical 34.7%, sales and office 25.4%, other services 16.3%
note: figures exclude the unemployed (2005)

Unemployment rate:

5.1% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

12% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 1.8%
highest 10%: 30.5% (1997)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

45 (2004)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

3.2% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

16.8% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $2.119 trillion
expenditures: $2.466 trillion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Public debt:

64.7% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

wheat, corn, other grains, fruits, vegetables, cotton; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; fish; forest products


leading industrial power in the world, highly diversified and technologically advanced; petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, telecommunications, chemicals, electronics, food processing, consumer goods, lumber, mining

Industrial production growth rate:

3.2% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

3.892 trillion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

3.656 trillion kWh (2003)

Electricity - exports:

23.97 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

30.39 billion kWh (2003)

Oil - production:

7.61 million bbl/day (2005 est.)

Oil - consumption:

20.03 million bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - exports:

1.048 million bbl/day (2004)

Oil - imports:

13.15 million bbl/day (2004)

Oil - proved reserves:

22.45 billion bbl (1 January 2002)

Natural gas - production:

539 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

633.6 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - exports:

24.19 billion cu m (2004)

Natural gas - imports:

114.1 billion cu m (2004 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

5.353 trillion cu m (1 January 2002)

Current account balance:

-$829.1 billion (2005 est.)


$927.5 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

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% (2003)

Exports - partners:

Canada 23%, Mexico 13.6%, Japan 6.7%, UK 4.4%, China 4.3% (2004)


$1.727 trillion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

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) (2003)

Imports - partners:

Canada 17%, China 13.8%, Mexico 10.3%, Japan 8.7%, Germany 5.2% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$86.94 billion (2004 est.)

Debt - external:

$8.837 trillion (30 June 2005 est.)

Economic aid - donor:

ODA, $6.9 billion (1997)

Currency (code):

US dollar (USD)

Fiscal year:

1 October - 30 September

Telephones - main lines in use:

268 million (2003)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

194,479,364 (2005)

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; 24 ocean cable systems in use; 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) (2000)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 4,789, FM 8,961, shortwave 19 (2006)

Television broadcast stations:

2,218 (2006)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

195,138,696 (2004)

Internet users:

203,824,428 (2005)


14,893 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 5,120
over 3,047 m: 191
2,438 to 3,047 m: 223
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1,402
914 to 1,523 m: 2,355
under 914 m: 949 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 9,773
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 156
914 to 1,523 m: 1,736
under 914 m: 7,873 (2005)


153 (2005)


petroleum products 244,620 km; natural gas 548,665 km (2003)


total: 227,736 km
standard gauge: 227,736 km 1.435-m gauge (2003)


total: 6,407,637 km
paved: 4,164,964 km (including 74,950 km of expressways)
unpaved: 2,242,673 km (2004)


41,009 km (19,312 km used for commerce)
note: Saint Lawrence Seaway of 3,769 km, including the Saint Lawrence River of 3,058 km, shared with Canada (2004)

Merchant marine:

total: 470 ships (1000 GRT or over) 10,698,467 GRT/13,466,359 DWT
by type: barge carrier 7, bulk carrier 65, cargo 93, chemical tanker 20, container 82, passenger 19, passenger/cargo 56, petroleum tanker 76, refrigerated cargo 3, roll on/roll off 28, specialized tanker 1, vehicle carrier 20
foreign-owned: 48 (Australia 2, Canada 6, Denmark 20, Greece 3, Malaysia 3, Netherlands 4, Norway 2, Sweden 4, Taiwan 1, UK 2, US 1)
registered in other countries: 659 (Antigua and Barbuda 7, Australia 3, The Bahamas 121, Belize 2, Bermuda 26, Bolivia 1, Cambodia 6, Canada 2, Cayman Islands 42, China 1, Comoros 2, Cyprus 6, Finland 1, Gibraltar 2, Honduras 2, Hong Kong 19, Ireland 1, Isle of Man 3, Italy 15, North Korea 4, Liberia 77, Luxembourg 3, Malta 4, Marshall Islands 131, Federated States of Micronesia 2, Netherlands 11, Netherlands Antilles 1, Norway 13, Panama 97, Peru 1, Philippines 4, Puerto Rico 2, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 21, Singapore 6, Spain 6, Sweden 1, Tonga 1, Trinidad and Tobago 1, UK 6, US 1, Vanuatu 1, Venezuela 1, Wallis and Futuna 1, unknown 1) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Corpus Christi, Duluth, Hampton Roads, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Tampa, Texas City
note: 13 ports north of New Orleans (South Louisiana Ports) on the Mississippi River handle 290,000,000 tons of cargo annually

Military branches:

Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard; note - Coast Guard administered in peacetime by the Department of Homeland Security, but in wartime reports to the Department of the Navy

Disputes - international:

prolonged drought, population growth, and outmoded practices and infrastructure in the border region strain water-sharing arrangements with Mexico; the US has stepped up efforts to stem nationals from Mexico, Central America, and other parts of the world from crossing illegally into the US from Mexico; illegal immigrants from the Caribbean, notably Haiti and the Dominican Republic, attempt to enter the US through Florida by sea; 1990 Maritime Boundary Agreement in the Bering Sea still awaits Russian Duma ratification; managed maritime boundary disputes with Canada at Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and around the disputed Machias Seal Island and North Rock; US and Canada seek greater cooperation in monitoring people and commodities crossing the border; 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 state; Marshall Islands claims Wake Island

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

refugees (country of origin): the US admitted 52,868 refugees during FY03/04 including: 13,331 (Somalia), 6,000 (Laos), 3,482 (Ukraine), 2,959 (Cuba), 1,787 (Iran); note - 32,229 refugees had been admitted as of 30 June 2005

Illicit drugs:

world's largest consumer of cocaine, shipped from Colombia through Mexico and the Caribbean; consumer of heroin, marijuana, and increasingly methamphetamine from Mexico; consumer of high-quality Southeast Asian heroin; illicit producer of cannabis, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine; money-laundering center