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Introduction United States
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.
Geography United States
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: 9,629,091 sq km
land: 9,158,960 sq km
water: 470,131 sq km
note: includes only the 50 states and District of Columbia
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; about two and a half times the size of Western Europe
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 thus remains part of Cuba; the base boundary is 29 km
19,924 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
continental shelf: not specified
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
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: 19.32%
other: 80.46% (1998 est.)
permanent crops: 0.22%
Irrigated land:
214,000 sq km (1998 est.)
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; very limited natural fresh water 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, Nuclear Test Ban, 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
People United States
280,562,489 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 21% (male 30,116,782; female 28,765,183)
15-64 years: 66.4% (male 92,391,120; female 93,986,468)
65 years and over: 12.6% (male 14,748,522; female 20,554,414) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.89% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
14.1 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
8.7 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
3.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
6.69 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.4 years
male: 74.5 years
female: 80.2 years (2002 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.07 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.61% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
850,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
20,000 (1999 est.)
noun: American(s)
adjective: American
Ethnic groups:
white 77.1%, black 12.9%, Asian 4.2%, Amerindian and Alaska native 1.5%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.3%, other 4% (2000)
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 56%, Roman Catholic 28%, Jewish 2%, other 4%, none 10% (1989)
English, Spanish (spoken by a sizable minority)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
male: 97%
female: 97% (1979 est.)
total population: 97%
People - note:
note: data for the US are based on projections that do not take into consideration the results of the 2000 census
Government United States
Country name:
conventional long form: United States of America
conventional short form: United States
abbreviation: US or USA
Government type:
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, but recently entered into a new political relationship with all four political units: the Northern Mariana Islands is a commonwealth in political union with the US (effective 3 November 1986); Palau concluded a Compact of Free Association with the US (effective 1 October 1994); the Federated States of Micronesia signed a Compact of Free Association 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)
4 July 1776 (from Great Britain)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 4 July (1776)
17 September 1787, effective 4 March 1789
Legal system:
based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President George W. BUSH (since 20 January 2001) and Vice President Richard B. CHENEY (since 20 January 2001); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President George W. BUSH (since 20 January 2001) and Vice President Richard B. CHENEY (since 20 January 2001); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president with Senate approval
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by a college of representatives who are elected directly from each state; president and vice president serve four-year terms; election last held 7 November 2000 (next to be held 2 November 2004)
election results: George W. BUSH elected president; percent of popular vote - George W. BUSH (Republican Party) 48%, Albert A. GORE, Jr. (Democratic Party) 48%, Ralph NADER (Green Party) 3%, other 1%
Legislative branch:
bicameral Congress consists of the Senate (100 seats, one-third are renewed every two years; two 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)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Republican Party 51, Democratic Party 46, independent 1, undecided 2; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Republican Party 226, Democratic Party 204, independent 1, undecided 4
elections: Senate - last held 5 November 2002 (next to be held NA November 2004); House of Representatives - last held 5 November 2002 (next to be held NA November 2004)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (its nine justices are appointed for life by the president with confirmation by the Senate); United States Courts of Appeal; United States District Courts; State and County Courts
Political parties and leaders:
Democratic Party [Terence McAULIFFE, national committee chairman]; Green Party [leader NA]; Republican Party [Governor Marc RACICOT, national committee chairman]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Flag description:
thirteen 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; known as Old Glory; the design and colors have been the basis for a number of other flags, including Chile, Liberia, Malaysia, and Puerto Rico
Economy United States
Economy - overview:
The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $36,300. 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 considerably greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, lay off surplus workers, and develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to entry in their rivals' home markets than the barriers to entry of foreign firms in US markets. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment, although 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 years 1994-2000 witnessed solid increases in real output, low inflation rates, and a drop in unemployment to below 5%. The year 2001 witnessed the end of the boom psychology and performance, with output increasing only 0.3% and unemployment and business failures rising substantially. The response to the terrorist attacks of September 11 showed the remarkable resilience of the economy. Moderate recovery is expected in 2002, with the GDP growth rate rising to 2.5% or more. A major short-term problem in first half 2002 was a sharp decline in the stock market, fueled in part by the exposure of dubious accounting practices in some major corporations. Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups.
purchasing power parity - $10.082 trillion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
0.3% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $36,300 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 2%
industry: 18%
services: 80% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
13% (2001 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 31% (1997) (1997)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
41 (1997)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.8% (2001) (2001)
Labor force:
141.8 million (includes unemployed) (2002)
Labor force - by occupation:
managerial and professional 31%, technical, sales and administrative support 29%, services 14%, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and crafts 24%, farming, forestry, and fishing 2% (2002)
note: figures exclude the unemployed (2001)
Unemployment rate:
5% (2002)
revenues: $1.828 trillion
expenditures: $1.703 trillion, including capital expenditures of $NA (1999)
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:
-3.7% (2001 est.)
Electricity - production:
3,799.944 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 71%
hydro: 7%
other: 2% (2000)
nuclear: 20%
Electricity - consumption:
3.613 trillion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
14.829 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
48.879 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, other grains, corn, fruits, vegetables, cotton; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; forest products; fish
$723 billion f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Exports - commodities:
capital goods, automobiles, industrial supplies and raw materials, consumer goods, agricultural products
Exports - partners:
Canada 22.4%, Mexico 13.9%, Japan 7.9%, UK 5.6%, Germany 4.1%, France, Netherlands (2001)
$1.148 trillion f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Imports - commodities:
crude oil and refined petroleum products, machinery, automobiles, consumer goods, industrial raw materials, food and beverages
Imports - partners:
Canada 19%, Mexico 11.5%, Japan 11.1%, China 8.9%, Germany 5.2%, UK, Taiwan (2001)
Debt - external:
$862 billion (1995 est.)
Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $6.9 billion (1997) (1997)
US dollar (USD)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
British pounds per US dollar - 0.6981 (January 2002), 0.6944 (2001), 0.6596 (2000), 0.6180 (1999), 0.6037 (1998), 0.6106 (1997); Canadian dollars per US dollar - 1.6003 (January 2002), 1.5488 (2001), 1.4851 (2000), 1.4857 (1999), 1.4835 (1998), 1.3846 (1997); French francs per US dollar - 5.65 (January 1999), 5.8995 (1998), 5.8367 (1997); Italian lire per US dollar - 1,668.7 (January 1999), 1,763.2 (1998), 1,703.1 (1997); Japanese yen per US dollar - 132.66 (January 2002), 121.53 (2001), 107.77 (2000), 113.91 (1999), 130.91 (1998), 120.99 (1997); German deutsche marks per US dollar - 1.69 (January 1999), 1.9692 (1998), 1.7341 (1997); euros per US dollar - 1.1324 (January 2002), 1.1175 (2001), 1.08540 (2000), 0.93863 (1999)
note: financial institutions in France, Italy, and Germany and eight other European countries started using the euro on 1 January 1999 with the euro replacing the local currency in consenting countries for all transactions in 2002
Fiscal year:
1 October - 30 September
Communications United States
Telephones - main lines in use:
194 million (1997)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
69.209 million (1998)
Telephone system:
general assessment: a very 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: 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 4,762, FM 5,542, shortwave 18 (1998)
575 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
more than 1,500 (including nearly 1,000 stations affiliated with the five major networks - NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and PBS; in addition, there are about 9,000 cable TV systems) (1997)
219 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
7,000 (2002 est.)
Internet users:
165.75 million (2002)
Transportation United States
total: 212,433 km mainline routes
standard gauge: 212,433 km 1.435-m gauge
note: represents the aggregate length of roadway of all line-haul railroads including an estimate for Class II and III railroads (1998)
total: 6,370,031 km
paved: 5,733,028 km (including 74,091 km of expressways)
unpaved: 637,003 km (1997)
41,009 km
note: navigable inland channels, exclusive of the Great Lakes
petroleum products 276,000 km; natural gas 331,000 km (1991)
Ports and harbors:
Anchorage, Baltimore, Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Duluth, Hampton Roads, Honolulu, Houston, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Port Canaveral, Portland (Oregon), Prudhoe Bay, San Francisco, Savannah, Seattle, Tampa, Toledo
Merchant marine:
total: 248 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 8,259,914 GRT/10,568,706 DWT
ships by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 13, chemical tanker 15, collier 1, combination bulk 4, combination tanker 11, container 85, freighter 15, heavy lift carrier 3, petroleum tanker 70, roll on/roll off 28, vehicle carrier 2
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Australia 1, Canada 4, Denmark 15, France 1, Germany 1, Netherlands 3, Norway 7, Puerto Rico 4, Singapore 11, Sweden 1, United Kingdom 3; also, the US owns 549 additional ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 29,616,347 DWT that operate under the registries of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Cambodia, Canada, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Finland, Gibraltar, Hong Kong (China), Indonesia, Isle of Man, Italy, Liberia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, Norway, Norway (NIS), Panama, Peru, Philippines, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Tonga, UK, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna (2002 est.)
14,695 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 5,131 5,127
over 3,047 m: 185 183
2,438 to 3,047 m: 222 222
914 to 1,523 m: 2,390 2,413
under 914 m: 969 967 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1,365 1,342
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 9,670 9,568
under 914 m: 7,802 7,716 (2002)
over 3,047 m: 1 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7 7
914 to 1,523 m: 1,702 1,679
1,524 to 2,437 m: 158 165
149 (2002)
Military United States
Military branches:
Department of the Army, Department of the Navy (includes Marine Corps), Department of the Air Force
note: the Coast Guard is normally subordinate to the Department of Transportation, but in wartime reports to the Department of the Navy
Military manpower - military age:
18 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 73,597,731 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 2,093,263 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$276.7 billion (FY99 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
3.2% (FY99 est.)
Military - note:
note: 2002 estimates for military manpower are based on projections that do not take into consideration the results of the 2000 census
Transnational Issues United States
Disputes - international:
maritime boundary disputes with Canada (Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Machias Seal Island); 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 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
Illicit drugs:
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

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003