United States

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United States
For other uses, see US (disambiguation), USA (disam- gan to soar.[28] The Spanish–American War and World
biguation), and United States (disambiguation).
War I confirmed the country’s status as a global military
power. The United States emerged from World War II as
The United States of America (U.S.A.), commonly re- a global superpower, the first country to develop nuclear
weapons, the only country to use them in warfare, and
ferred to as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a
a permanent member of the United Nations Security
federal republic
consisting of 50 states and a federal
The end of the Cold War and the dissolution
district. The 48 contiguous states and Washington,
Union left the United States as the sole
D.C., are in central North America between Canada and
Mexico. The state of Alaska is located in 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 )[5] and with over 320 million people, the
United States is the world’s 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.[21] The geography and climate of the United States
are also extremely diverse, and the country is home to a
wide variety of wildlife.[22]

The United States is a developed country and has the
world’s largest national economy,[30] benefiting from
an abundance of natural resources and high worker
productivity.[31] While the U.S. economy is considered
post-industrial, the country continues to be one of the
world’s largest manufacturers.[32] Accounting for 37% of
global military spending,[33] it is the world’s foremost
economic and military power, a prominent political and
cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovations.[34]

Paleo-Indians migrated from Eurasia to what is now
the U.S. mainland around 15,000 years ago,[23] with
European colonization beginning in the 16th century.
The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the East Coast. Disputes between Great
Britain and the 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.[24] The country’s constitution was adopted on
September 17, 1787 and ratified by the states in 1788.
The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of
Rights, were ratified in 1791 and designed to guarantee
many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.

1 Etymology
See also: Names for United States citizens
In 1507, the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller
produced a world map on which he named the lands of
the Western Hemisphere “America” after the Italian explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci (Latin: Americus Vespucius).[35] The first documentary evidence of
the phrase “United States of America” is from a letter
dated January 2, 1776, written by Stephen Moylan, Esq.,
George Washington's 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.[36]
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.[37][38] 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.[39][40] 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”.[41]

Driven by the doctrine of manifest destiny, the United
States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North
America throughout the 19th century.[25] This involved
displacing native tribes, acquiring new territories, and
gradually admitting new states, until by 1848 the nation
spanned the continent.[25] During the second half of the
19th century, the American Civil War ended legal slavery
in the country.[26] By the end of that century, the United
States extended into the Pacific Ocean,[27] and the economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution, be1




In 1777 the Articles of Confederation announced, “The
Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of
The short form “United States” is also standard. Other
common forms include the “U.S.”, the “USA”, 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, derives
its origin from Christopher Columbus; it appears in the
name "District of Columbia".[43] 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.[44]
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”.[45]
The difference has been described as more significant
than one of usage, but reflecting the difference between
a collection of states and a unit.[46]

Native Americans meeting with Europeans, 1764

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.[47]

ject to food shortages, disease and attacks from Native
Americans. Native Americans were also often at war
with neighboring tribes and allied with Europeans in their
colonial wars.[55] 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.[56] Natives taught many
2 History
settlers where, when and how to cultivate corn, beans and
squash. European missionaries and others felt it was imMain articles: History of the United States and Timeline portant to “civilize” the Indians and urged them to conof United States history
centrate on farming and ranching rather than depending
on hunting and gathering.[57][58]


Native American and European con2.2 Settlements

Further information: European colonization of the
Further information: Pre-Columbian era and Colonial Americas and Thirteen Colonies
history of the United States
After Columbus' first voyage to the New World in 1492,
other explorers followed with settlement into the Floridas and the American Southwest.[59][60] 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.[61] Many setIn the early days of colonization many settlers were sub- tlers were dissenting Christian groups who came seeking
The first North American settlers migrated from Siberia
by way of the Bering land bridge approximately 15,000
or more years ago.[23][48][49] Some, such as the preColumbian Mississippian culture, developed advanced
agriculture, grand architecture, and state-level societies.
After European explorers and traders made the first contacts, the native population declined for various reasons,
including diseases, such as smallpox and measles,[50][51]
and violence.[52][53][54]


Independence and expansion

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

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.[76]
The colonies’ distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-government, but their success motivated monarchs to periodically seek to reassert royal

2.3 Independence and expansion
Further information: American Revolutionary War,
United States Declaration of Independence and
American Revolution
The American Revolutionary War was the first successSigning of the Mayflower Compact, 1620

Most settlers in every colony were small farmers, but
other industries developed within a few decades as varied as the settlements. 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.[64] 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.[65] 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, leading to a rapid increase in the numbers
of slaves.[66][67][68] Colonial society was largely divided
over the religious and moral implications of slavery and
colonies passed acts for and against the practice.[69][70]
But by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves were
replacing indentured servants for cash crop labor, especially in southern regions.[71]

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

ful colonial war of independence against a European
Americans had developed an ideology of
“republicanism” asserting that 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.[78] 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 Thirteen Colonies were
independent states and had no allegiance to the British
crown in the United States. July fourth is celebrated
annually as Independence Day. In 1777, the Articles
of Confederation established a weak government that
operated until 1789.[79]

With the colonization of Georgia in 1732, the 13 colonies
that would become the United States of America were
established.[72] 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.[73] With extremely
high birth rates, low death rates, and steady settlement, the colonial population grew rapidly. Relatively
small Native American populations were eclipsed.[74]
The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and
1740s known as the Great Awakening fueled interest in
both religion and religious liberty.[75]
Britain recognized the independence of the United States

following their defeat at Yorktown.[80] In the peace treaty
of 1783, American sovereignty was recognized from the
Atlantic coast west to the Mississippi River. Nationalists led the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in writing
the United States Constitution, ratified in state conventions in 1788. The federal government was reorganized
into three branches, on the principle of creating salutary
checks and balances, in 1789. George Washington, who
had led the revolutionary army to victory, was the first
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.[81]



tions. The U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845
during a period of expansionist Manifest destiny.[92] The
1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of
the present-day American Northwest.[93] Victory in the
Mexican–American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican
Cession of California and much of the present-day American Southwest.[94]

The California Gold Rush of 1848–49 spurred western migration and the creation of additional western
states.[95] After the American Civil War, new transcontinental railways made relocation easier for settlers, expanded internal trade and increased conflicts with Native Americans.[96] Over a half-century, the loss of the
Although the federal government criminalized the inter- buffalo was an existential blow to many Plains Indians
national slave trade in 1808, after 1820 cultivation of cultures.[97] In 1869, a new Peace Policy sought to prothe highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the Deep tect Native-Americans from abuses, avoid further warSouth, and along with it the slave population.[82][83][84] fare, and secure their eventual U.S. citizenship.[98]
The Second Great Awakening, beginning about 1800,
converted millions to evangelical Protestantism. In the
North it energized multiple social reform movements, 2.4 Civil War and Reconstruction Era
including abolitionism;[85] in the South, Methodists and
Baptists proselytized among slave populations.[86]
Further information:
American Civil War and
Americans’ eagerness to expand westward prompted a
From the beginning of the United States, inherent
long series of American Indian Wars.[87] The Louisiana
Purchase of French-claimed territory in 1803 almost
doubled the nation’s size.[88] The War of 1812, declared
against Britain over various grievances and fought to a
draw, strengthened U.S. nationalism.[89] A series of U.S.
military incursions into Florida led Spain to cede it and
other Gulf Coast territory in 1819.[90] 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

Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania during the Civil War by Thure
de Thulstrup

divisions over slavery between the North and the South
in American society ultimately led to the American Civil
War.[99] 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
U.S. territorial acquisitions–portions of each territory were states, tensions between slave and free states mounted
with arguments over federalism and disposition of
granted statehood since the 18th century.
the territories, whether and how to expand or restrict
From 1820 to 1850, Jacksonian democracy began a set of slavery.
reforms which included wider male suffrage; it led to the With the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, the first
rise of the Second Party System of Democrats and Whigs president from the largely anti-slavery Republican Party,
as the dominant parties from 1828 to 1854. The Trail of conventions in thirteen states ultimately declared secesTears in the 1830s exemplified the Indian removal policy sion and formed the Confederate States of America,
that moved Indians into the west to their own reserva- while the U.S. federal government maintained that se-


World War I, Great Depression, and World War II

cession was illegal.[100] 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.[101]

Philippines were ceded by Spain in the same year, following the Spanish–American War.[110]
Rapid economic development at the end of the 19th century produced many prominent industrialists, and the
U.S. economy became the world’s largest.[111] Dramatic
changes were accompanied by social unrest and the rise of
populist, socialist, and anarchist movements.[112] This period eventually ended with the advent 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.

Following the Union victory in 1865, three amendments
to the U.S. Constitution brought about the prohibition
of slavery, gave U.S. citizenship to the nearly four million African Americans who had been slaves,[102] and
promised them voting rights. The war and its resolution
led to a substantial increase in federal power[103] aimed
at reintegrating and rebuilding the Southern states while
ensuring the rights of the newly freed slaves.[104] But fol- 2.6 World War I, Great Depression, and
lowing the Reconstruction Era, throughout the South Jim
World War II
Crow laws soon effectively disenfranchised most blacks
and some poor whites. Over the subsequent decades, in Further information: World War I, Great Depression and
both the North and the South blacks and some whites World War II
faced systemic discrimination, including racial segrega- The United States remained neutral at the outbreak of
tion and occasional vigilante violence, sparking national
movements against these abuses.[104]



Further information: Labor history of the United States
In the North, urbanization and an unprecedented influx

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

World War I in 1914, though by 1917, it joined the Allies,
helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers. In
1919, President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference and advocated
strongly for the U.S. to join the League of Nations. HowEllis Island, in New York City, was a major gateway for the influx ever, the Senate refused to approve this, and did not ratof immigration from Europe
ify the Treaty of Versailles that established the League of
of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe sup- Nations.
plied a surplus of labor for the country’s industrialization In 1920, the women’s rights movement won passage
and transformed its culture.[105] National infrastructure of a constitutional amendment granting women’s sufincluding telegraph and transcontinental railroads spurred frage.[114] The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of radio
economic growth and greater settlement and development for mass communication and the invention of early
of the American Old West. The later invention of electric television.[115] The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties
light and the telephone would also impact communication ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the onand urban life.[106] The end of the Indian Wars further set of the Great Depression. After his election as presexpanded acreage under mechanical cultivation, increas- ident in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with
ing surpluses for international markets.[107] Mainland ex- the New Deal, which included the establishment of the
pansion was completed by the purchase of Alaska from Social Security system.[116] The Great Migration of milRussia in 1867.[108] In 1898 the U.S. entered the world lions of African Americans out of the American South
stage with important sugar production and strategic facil- began around WWI and extended through the 1960s;[117]
ities acquired in Hawaii.[109] Puerto Rico, Guam, and the whereas the Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished




many farming communities and spurred a new wave of 1957 launch of the first artificial satellite and its 1961
western migration.[118]
launch of the first manned spaceflight initiated a "Space
in which the United States became the first to land
The United States was at first effectively neutral dura
on the moon in 1969.[125] A proxy war was exing World War II's early stages but began supplying ma[fn 1]
terial to the Allies in March 1941 through the Lend- panded in Southeast Asia with the Vietnam War.
Lease program. On December 7, 1941, the Empire
of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor,
prompting the United States to join the Allies against
the Axis powers.[119] Though the nation lost more than
400,000 soldiers,[120] it emerged relatively undamaged
from the war with even greater economic and military
influence.[121] Allied conferences at Bretton Woods and
Yalta outlined a new system of international organizations that placed the United States and Soviet Union at
the center of world affairs. As an Allied victory was won
in Europe, a 1945 international conference held in San
Francisco produced the United Nations Charter, which
became active after the war.[122] The United States developed the first nuclear weapons and used them on Japan;
the Japanese surrendered on September 2, ending World
War II.[123]

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.[132][133] 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.[134][135][136] 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.[137]

The 1970s and early 1980s saw the onset of stagflation.
After his election in 1980, President Ronald Rea2.7 Cold War and civil rights era
gan responded to economic stagnation with freeMain articles: History of the United States (1945–64), market oriented reforms. Following the collapse of
History of the United States (1964–80) and History of détente, he abandoned “containment” and initiated
the more aggressive "rollback" strategy towards the
the United States (1980–91)
After a surge in female labor
After World War II the United States and the Soviet USSR.
participation over the previous decade, by 1985 the majority of women aged 16 and over were employed.[143]
The late 1980s brought a "thaw" in relations with the
USSR, and its collapse in 1991 finally ended the Cold

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

Union jockeyed for power during what is known as
the Cold War, driven by an ideological divide between
capitalism and communism.[124] 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 The former World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan on
forces in the Korean War of 1950–53. The Soviet Union’s 9/11


One World Trade Center, built in its former place
A composite satellite image of the contiguous United States and
Main article: History of the United States (1991–present) surrounding areas
After the Cold War, the 1990s saw the longest economic
expansion in modern U.S. history, ending in 2001.[148]
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.[149] 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.[150] In response the United States
launched the War on Terror, which includes the ongoing
war in Afghanistan and the 2003–11 Iraq War.[151][152]
Beginning in 1994, the U.S. participates in the world’s
largest trade bloc in the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA), linking 450 million people producing $17 trillion worth of goods and services. The goal
of the agreement among the U.S., Canada and Mexico
was met to eliminate trade and investment barriers among
them by January 1, 2008; trade among the partners has
soared since the agreement went into force.[153]
Barack Obama, the first African American,[154] and
multiracial[155] president, was elected in 2008 amid the
Great Recession,[156] which began in December 2007 and
ended in June 2009.[157]


Geography, climate, and environment

puted 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 )[159]
to 3,717,813 square miles (9,629,091 km2 )[160] to
3,794,101 square miles (9,826,676 km2 ).[7] to 3,805,927
square miles (9,857,306 km2 ).[5] Measured by only land
area, the United States is third in size behind Russia and
China, just ahead of Canada.[161]
The coastal plain of the Atlantic seaboard gives way further inland to deciduous forests and the rolling hills of
the Piedmont.[162] The Appalachian Mountains divide the
eastern seaboard from the Great Lakes and the grasslands
of the Midwest.[163] The Mississippi–Missouri 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.[163]
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.[164] Farther west are the rocky Great Basin
and deserts such as the Chihuahua and Mojave.[165] 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,[166] and only about 84 miles (135 km)
apart.[167] At 20,320 feet (6,194 m), Alaska’s Mount
McKinley is the tallest peak in the country and in North
America.[168] 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.[169]

Main articles: Geography of the United States, Climate
of the United States and Environment of the United States
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 The United States, with its large size and geographic vaPacific, southwest of North America, is 10,931 square riety, includes most climate types. To the east of the
miles (28,311 km2 ) in area.[158]
100th meridian, the climate ranges from humid continenThe United States is the world’s third or fourth largest na- tal in the north to humid subtropical in the south.[170] The
tion by total area (land and water), ranking behind Rus- southern tip of Florida is tropical, as is Hawaii.[171] The
sia and Canada and just above or below China. The Great Plains west of the 100th meridian are semi-arid.
ranking varies depending on how two territories dis- Much of the Western mountains have an alpine climate.



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 Tornado Alley areas
in the Midwest.[172]

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,[181][182] and international responses to
global warming.[183][184] Many federal and state agencies
are involved. The most prominent is the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), created by presidential order
in 1970.[185] The idea of wilderness has shaped the management of public lands since 1964, with the Wilderness
Act.[186] The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is intended
3.1 Wildlife
to protect threatened and endangered species and their
Main articles: Fauna of the United States and Flora of the habitats, which are monitored by the United States Fish
and Wildlife Service.[187]
United States
The U.S. ecology is megadiverse: about 17,000 species

4 Demographics
Main articles: Demographics of the United States,
Americans, List of U.S. states by population density and
List of United States cities by population

4.1 Population

Largest Ancestry: 2000

Ancestry with largest
population in state
see categories below

(Data based on sample. For information on confidentiality protection, sampling error,
nonsampling error, and definitions, see www.census.gov/prod/cen2000/doc/sf3.pdf)

0 100 Miles

Ancestry with largest
population in county
African American
American Indian
Puerto Rican

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

Chinese (San Francisco County, CA)
Cuban (Miami-Dade County, FL)
Dominican (New York County, NY)
Filipino (Kauai and Maui counties, HI)
French Canadian (Androskoggin County, ME)
Hawaiian (Kalawao County, HI)
Japanese (Hawaii State; Honolulu County, HI)
Polish (Luzerne County, PA)
Portugese (Bristol County, MA and Bristol County, RI)


100 Miles


100 Miles

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 special
tabulation. American Factfinder at
factfinder.census.gov provides census data
and mapping tools.


100 Miles

Largest ancestry groups by county, 2000

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.[173]
The United States is home to 428 mammal species,
784 bird species, 311 reptile species, and 295 amphibian species.[174] About 91,000 insect species have been
described.[175] The bald eagle is both the national bird and
national animal of the United States, and is an enduring
symbol of the country itself.[176]

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the country’s population now to be 320,516,000,[6] The U.S. population almost quadrupled during the 20th century, from about 76
million in 1900.[190] 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.[191]

There are 58 national parks and hundreds of other federally managed parks, forests, and wilderness areas.[177]
Altogether, the government owns about 28% of the country’s land area.[178] Most of this is protected, though
some is leased for oil and gas drilling, mining, logging, or cattle ranching; about .86% is used for military

The United States has a very diverse population;
37 ancestry groups have more than one million
members.[192] German Americans are the largest ethnic group (more than 50 million) - followed by Irish
Americans (circa 37 million), Mexican Americans
(circa 31 million) and English Americans (circa 28



of Hispanic descent[204] are identified as sharing a distinct "ethnicity" by the Census Bureau; 64% of Hispanic Americans are of Mexican descent.[205] Between
2000 and 2010, the country’s Hispanic population increased 43% while the non-Hispanic population rose just
4.9%.[206] 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.[207]

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).[208] Minorities (as defined by
the Census Bureau as all those beside non-Hispanic, nonThe Statue of Liberty in New York City is a symbol of both the multiracial whites) constituted 36.3% of the population
U.S. and the ideals of freedom, democracy, and opportunity.[189]
in 2010,[209] and over 50% of children under age one,[210]
and are projected to constitute the majority by 2042.[211]
This contradicts the report by the National Vital Statistics
White Americans are the largest racial group; Black
Reports, based on the U.S. census data, which concludes
Americans are the nation’s largest racial minority and
that 54% (2,162,406 out of 3,999,386 in 2010) of births
third largest ancestry group.
Asian Americans are the
were non-Hispanic white.[208]
country’s second largest racial minority; the three largest
Asian American ethnic groups are Chinese Americans, About 82% of Americans live in urban areas (including suburbs);[7] about half of those reside in cities with
Filipino Americans, and Indian Americans.[192]
populations over 50,000.[212] In 2008, 273 incorporated
The United States has a birth rate of 13 per 1,000, which
places had populations over 100,000, nine cities had more
is 5 births below the world average.[195] Its population
than one million residents, and four global cities had over
growth rate is positive at 0.7%, higher than that of many
two million (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and
developed nations.[196] In fiscal year 2012, over one milHouston).[213] There are 52 metropolitan areas with poplion immigrants (most of whom entered through family
ulations greater than one million.[214] Of the 50 fastestreunification) were granted legal residence.[197] Mexico
growing metro areas, 47 are in the West or South.[215] The
has been the leading source of new residents since the
metro areas of San Bernardino, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta,
1965 Immigration Act. China, India, and the Philippines
and Phoenix all grew by more than a million people behave been in the top four sending countries every year
tween 2000 and 2008.[214]
since the 1990s.[198] As of 2012, approximately 11.4 million residents are illegal immigrants.[199]
According to a survey conducted by the Williams Institute, nine million Americans, or roughly 3.4% of
the adult population identify themselves as homosexual,
bisexual, or transgender.[200][201] 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%.[202] 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.[203]

4.2 Language
Main article: Languages of the United States
See also: Language Spoken at Home in the United States
of America and List of endangered languages in the
United States
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.[217][218] Some Americans advocate making English the country’s official language, as it is in 28 states.[14]

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).[204] The census
counted more than 19 million people of “Some Other
Race” who were “unable to identify with any” of its five Both Hawaiian and English are official languages in
official race categories in 2010.[204]
Hawaii, by state law.[219] Alaska recognizes many NaThe population growth of Hispanic and Latino Ameri- tive languages.[220] While neither has an official language,
cans (the terms are officially interchangeable) is a ma- New Mexico has laws providing for the use of both Enjor demographic trend. The 50.5 million Americans glish and Spanish, as Louisiana does for English and



French.[221] Other states, such as California, mandate the
publication of Spanish versions of certain government
documents including court forms.[222] 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[223]
and Chamorro[224] are recognized by American Samoa
and Guam, respectively; Carolinian and Chamorro
are recognized by the Northern Mariana Islands;[225]
Cherokee is officially recognized by the Cherokee Nation within the Cherokee tribal jurisdiction area in eastern
Oklahoma;[226] Spanish is an official language of Puerto
Rico and is more widely spoken than English there.[227]


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.[239]


The Bible Belt is an informal term for a region in the
Southern United States in which socially conservative
Main article: Religion in the United States
Evangelical Protestantism is a significant part of the culSee also: History of religion in the United States, ture and Christian church attendance across the denomiFreedom of religion in the United States, Separation of nations is generally higher than the nation’s average. By
church and state in the United States and List of religious contrast, religion plays the least important role in New
movements that began in the United States
England and in the Western United States.[230]
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
guarantees the free exercise of religion and forbids
Congress from passing laws respecting its establishment.
Christianity is by far the most common religion practiced
in the U.S., but other religions are followed, too. In a
2013 survey, 56% of Americans said that religion played
a “very important role in their lives”, a far higher figure
than that of any other wealthy nation.[229] In a 2009
Gallup poll 42% of Americans said that they attended
church weekly or almost weekly; the figures ranged
from a low of 23% in Vermont to a high of 63% in
Mississippi.[230] As with other Western countries, the
U.S. is becoming less religious. Irreligion is growing
rapidly among Americans under 30.[231] Polls show that
overall American confidence in organized religion is
declining,[232] and that younger Americans in particular
are becoming increasingly irreligious.[233]
According to a 2014 survey, 78.5% of adults identified themselves as Christian,[234] Protestant denominations accounted for 51.3%, while Roman Catholicism, at
23.9%, was the largest individual denomination.[235] The
total reporting non-Christian religions in 2012 was 4.9%,
up from 4% in 2007.[235] Other religions include Judaism
(1.7%), Buddhism (0.7%), Islam (0.6%), Hinduism
(0.4%), and Unitarian Universalism (0.3%).[235] 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.[235][236][237] There are
also Baha'i, Sikh, Jain, Shinto, Confucian, Taoist,
Druid, Native American, Wiccan, humanist and deist
Protestantism is the largest Christian religious grouping

4.4 Family structure
Main article: Family structure in the United States
See also: Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States,
Same-sex marriage in the United States and Cousin
marriage law in the United States by state
In 2007, 58% of Americans age 18 and over were married, 6% were widowed, 10% were divorced, and 25%
had never been married.[240] Women now work mostly
outside the home and receive a majority of bachelor’s degrees.[241]
The U.S. teenage pregnancy rate, 79.8 per 1,000
women, is the highest among OECD nations.[242] Between 2007 and 2010, the highest teenage birth rate was
in Mississippi, and the lowest in New Hampshire.[243]
Abortion is legal throughout the U.S., owing to Roe v.
Wade, a 1973 landmark decision by the Supreme Court
of the United States. 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.[244] In 2011, the average age at first birth was 25.6 and 40.7% of births were
to unmarried women.[245] The total fertility rate (TFR)
was estimated for 2013 at 1.86 births per woman.[246]
Adoption in the United States is common and relatively
easy from a legal point of view (compared to other Western countries).[247] In 2001, with over 127,000 adoptions,
the U.S. accounted for nearly half of the total number
of adoptions worldwide.[248] The legal status of same-sex
couples adopting varies by jurisdiction. Polygamy is ille-


Political divisions

• Judicial: The Supreme Court and lower federal
courts, whose judges are appointed by the President
with Senate approval, interpret laws and overturn
those they find unconstitutional.[258]

gal throughout the U.S.[249]


Government and politics

Main articles: Federal government of the United States,
State governments of the United States, Local government in the United States and Elections in the United
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".[250] 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.[251] For 2013,
the U.S. ranked 19th on the Democracy Index[252] and
17th on the Corruption Perceptions Index.[253]

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.[259]

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.[260] The Supreme
Court, led by the Chief Justice of the United States, has
In the American federalist system, citizens are usually nine members, who serve for life.[261]
subject to three levels of government: federal, state, and
local. The local government's duties are commonly split The state governments are structured in roughly simNebraska uniquely has a unicameral
between county and municipal governments. In almost ilar fashion;
The governor (chief executive) of each
all cases, executive and legislative officials are elected
elected. Some state judges and cabinet
by a plurality vote of citizens by district. There is no
by the governors of the respective
proportional representation at the federal level, and it is
elected by popular vote.
very rare at lower levels.
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;[263] 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)[264] in a decision handed
down by Chief Justice John Marshall.[265]

House of


Supreme Court





Armed Forces


Executive Office


State Courts


Electoral College

State Legislature


Enfranchised people (normally 18 years and older)

Legislative branch
Executive branch

Judicial branch

appoints or controls

veto-power / can repeal


1: Elections are every 2 years. Apportionment is based on each states‘ population
2: Each state is represented with 2 senators. Senators serve 6-year-terms,
but one-third of the seats are up for election every two years
3: Head of state and government, as well as commander-in-chief
4: The state levels can vary from state to state
5: Presidential vetos can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in both house.
The Supreme Court can declare laws as unconstitutional and thereby repeal them

Political system of the United States

The federal government is composed of three branches:

5.1 Political divisions

• Legislative: The bicameral Congress, made up of
the Senate and the House of Representatives, makes
federal law, declares war, approves treaties, has
the power of the purse,[255] and has the power of
impeachment, by which it can remove sitting members of the government.[256]

Main articles: Political divisions of the United States,
U.S. state, Territories of the United States and List of
states and territories of the United States
Further information: Territorial evolution of the United
States and United States territorial acquisitions

• Executive: The President is the commander-inchief of the military, can veto legislative bills before
they become law (subject to Congressional override), and appoints the members of the Cabinet (subject to Senate approval) and other officers, who administer and enforce federal laws and policies.[257]

The United States is a federal union of 50 states. The
original 13 states were the successors of the 13 colonies
that rebelled against British rule. Early in the country’s history, three new states were organized on territory separated from the claims of the existing states:
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.[266]
The states do not have the right to unilaterally secede from
the union.[267]
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.[268] 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.[269] 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.[270]
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.[271]


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.[273]
Within American political culture, the Republican Party
is considered center-right or conservative and the Democratic Party is considered center-left or liberal.[274] 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 winner of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections,
Democrat Barack Obama, is the 44th U.S. president.
In the 114th United States Congress, both the House of
Representatives and the Senate are controlled by the Republican Party. The Senate currently consists of 54 Republicans, and 44 Democrats with two independents who
caucus with the Democrats; the House consists of 246
Republicans and 188 Democrats, with one vacancy.[275]
In state governorships, there are 31 Republicans, 18
Democrats and one independent.[276] Among the DC
mayor and the 5 territorial governors, there are 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats (one is also in the PPD), and 2

Parties and elections

Since the founding of the United States until the 2000s,
the country’s governance has been primarily dominated
Main articles: Politics of the United States and Political by White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs). However,
ideologies in the United States
the situation has changed recently and of the top 17 poThe United States has operated under a two-party system sitions (four national candidates of the two major party
in the 2012 presidential election, four leaders in 112th
United States Congress, and nine Supreme Court Justices) there is only one WASP.[278][279][280]

5.3 Foreign relations
Main articles: Foreign relations of the United States and
Foreign policy of the United States
See also: Covert United States foreign regime change
The United States has an established structure of foreign relations. It is a permanent member of the United
Nations Security Council, and New York City is home
to the United Nations Headquarters. It is a member
of the G7,[281] G20, and Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development. Almost all countries
For elective offices at most have embassies in Washington, D.C., and many have

(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

for most of its history.[272]


Government finance


5.4 Government finance
See also: Taxation in the United States and United States
federal budget
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.[293] 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%).[294]

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

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).[282]
The United States has a "special relationship" with the
United Kingdom[283] and strong ties with Canada,[284]
Australia,[285] New Zealand,[286] the Philippines,[287]
Japan,[288] South Korea,[289] Israel,[290] and several
European Union countries, including France, Italy,
Germany, and Spain. It works closely with fellow
NATO members on military and security issues and
with its neighbors through the Organization of American States and 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.[291]

U.S. taxation is generally progressive, especially the federal income taxes, and is among the most progressive in
the developed world,[295] but the incidence of corporate
income tax has been a matter of considerable ongoing
controversy for decades.[296][297] 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.[298] 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.[299][300] The historic reasoning for the regressive nature of the payroll tax is that entitlement programs
have not been viewed as welfare transfers.[301][302] 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.[298] 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.[303][304]
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

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 manda[294]
The U.S. exercises full international defense authority tory ($461B or 13%) and interest ($223B or 6%).
and responsibility for three sovereign nations through
Compact of Free Association with Micronesia, the
Marshall Islands and Palau, all of which are Pacific island 5.4.1 National debt
nations which were part of the U.S.-administered Trust
Territory of the Pacific Islands beginning after World Main article: National debt of the United States
War II, and gained independence in subsequent years.[292]



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

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.[306] In January
2015, U.S. federal government debt held by the public
was approximately $13 trillion, or about 72% of U.S.
GDP. Intra-governmental holdings stood at $5 trillion,
giving a combined total debt of $18.080 trillion.[307][308]
By 2012, total federal debt had surpassed 100% of U.S.
GDP.[309] The U.S. has a credit rating of AA+ from
Standard & Poor’s, AAA from Fitch, and Aaa from
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.[311]
However, these concerns are not universally shared.[312]



Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona (February 4,

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.[313]
Military service is voluntary, though conscription may occur in wartime through the Selective Service System.[314]
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,[315] and
maintains deployments greater than 100 active duty personnel in 25 foreign countries.[316]

Main article: United States Armed Forces
The military budget of the United States in 2011 was
The President holds the title of commander-in-chief 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.[317] U.S. defense spending as a percentage of GDP ranked 23rd globally in 2012 according to
the CIA.[318] 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
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 milThe carrier strike groups of the Kitty Hawk, Ronald Reagan, and itary campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.[320] The last
Abraham Lincoln with aircraft from the Marine Corps, Navy, American troops serving in Iraq departed in December
and Air Force.
2011;[321] 4,484 service members were killed during the
Iraq War.[322] Approximately 90,000 U.S. troops were
of the nation’s armed forces and appoints its leaders, serving in Afghanistan in April 2012;[323] by Novemthe Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. ber 8, 2013 2,285 had been killed during the War in
The United States Department of Defense administers Afghanistan.[324]



Law enforcement and crime

Main articles: Law enforcement in the United States and
Crime in the United States
See also: Law of the United States, Capital punishment
in the United States, Second Amendment to the United
States Constitution and Human rights in the United States
§ Justice system
Law enforcement in the United States is primarily the re-

ing 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.[336] 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.[337]

The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate and total prison population in the
world.[338][339][340][341] At the start of 2008, more than
2.3 million people were incarcerated, more than one in
every 100 adults.[342] The prison population has quadrupled since 1980.[343] African-American males are jailed
at about six times the rate of white males and three times
the rate of Hispanic males.[344] The country’s high rate
of incarceration is largely due to changes in sentencing
guidelines and drug policies.[345] In 2008, Louisiana had
the highest incarceration rate, and Maine the lowest.[346]
In 2012, Louisiana had the highest rate of murder and
Law enforcement in the U.S. is maintained primarily by local police departments. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) non-negligent manslaughter in the U.S., and New Hampshire the lowest.[347]
is the largest in the country.[325]
sponsibility of local police and sheriff's departments, with
state police providing broader services. Federal agencies 8 Economy
such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and
the U.S. Marshals Service have specialized duties, includ- Main article: Economy of the United States
ing protecting civil rights, national security and enforcing
The United States has a capitalist mixed economy
U.S. federal courts' rulings and federal laws.[326] At the
federal level and in almost every state, a legal system operates on a common law. 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.[327][328]
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.[329][330][331] Among developed nations, the United States has above-average levels of violent crime and particularly high levels of gun
violence and homicide.[332] A cross-sectional analysis of
the World Health Organization Mortality Database from
2003 showed that United States “homicide rates were 6.9
times higher than rates in the other high-income countries, driven by firearm homicide rates that were 19.5
times higher.”[333] 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.[334]
Capital punishment is sanctioned in the United States
for certain federal and military crimes, and used in 32
states.[335] No executions took place from 1967 to 1977,
owing in part to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling strik-

United States export treemap (2011): The U.S. is the world’s
second-largest exporter.

which is fueled by abundant natural resources and high
productivity.[356] 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).[30] Its national GDP was about 5%
larger at PPP in 2014 than the European Union's, whose
population is around 62% higher.[357] 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.[358] 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.[359] The
country ranks ninth in the world in nominal GDP per
capita and sixth in GDP per capita at PPP.[30] The U.S.
dollar is the world’s primary reserve currency.[360]
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.[361] Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, and
Germany are its top trading partners.[362] In 2010, oil
was the largest import commodity, while transportation
equipment was the country’s largest export.[361] China is
the largest foreign holder of U.S. public debt.[363] 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.[364][365][366][367]
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%.[368] 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.[369] The leading business field by gross business
receipts is wholesale and retail trade; by net income it
is manufacturing.[370] 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.[371]

social assistance, with 16.4 million people. About 12%
of workers are unionized, compared to 30% in Western
Europe.[380] The World Bank ranks the United States first
in the ease of hiring and firing workers.[381] The United
States is ranked among the top three in the Global Competitiveness Report as well. The United States is the
only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation[382] 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.[383] However, 74% of full-time American workers get paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, although only 24% of part-time workers get the
same benefits.[384] While federal law currently does not
require sick leave, it’s a common benefit for government
workers and full-time employees at corporations.[384] In
2009, the United States had the third highest workforce
productivity per person in the world, behind Luxembourg
and Norway. It was fourth in productivity per hour, behind those two countries and the Netherlands.[385]
The 2008-2012 global recession had a significant impact on the United States, with output still below potential according to the Congressional Budget Office.[386] 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.[387][388][389] 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.[390] In 2013 the Census Bureau
defined poverty rate decreased to roughly 14.5% of the

Chemical products are the leading manufacturing
field.[372] The United States is the largest producer of oil
in the world, as well as its second largest importer.[373]
It is the world’s number one producer of electrical and
nuclear energy, as well as liquid natural gas, sulfur,
phosphates, and salt. The National Mining Association
provides data pertaining to coal and minerals that include
beryllium, copper, lead, magnesium, zinc, titanium and 8.1

Income, poverty and wealth

Agriculture accounts for just under 1% of GDP,[369] the
United States is the world’s top producer of corn[376]
and soybeans.[377] 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 country is the primary developer and grower of genetically modified food, representing half of the world’s biotech crops.[378]
Consumer spending comprises 71% of the U.S. economy
Productivity and real median family income growth 1947–2009
in 2013.[379] In August 2010, the American labor force
consisted of 154.1 million people. With 21.2 million
Further information: Income in the United States,
people, government is the leading field of employment.
Poverty in the United States, Affluence in the United
The largest private employment sector is health care and
States and United States counties by per capita income

sitional 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.[409] According to a 2014 report by the Census Bureau, one in five young adults lives in poverty today,
up from one in seven in 1980.[410]

9 Education
A tract housing development in San Jose, California

Americans have the highest average household and
employee income among OECD nations, and in 2007 had
the second highest median household income.[392][393]
According to the Census Bureau real median household
income was $50,502 in 2011, down from $51,144 in
2010.[394] The Global Food Security Index ranked the
U.S. number one for food affordability and overall food
security in March 2013.[395] 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.[396] 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).[397]
There has been a widening gap between productivity and
median incomes since the 1970s.[398] While inflationadjusted (“real”) household income had been increasing almost every year from 1947 to 1999, it has since
been flat and even decreased recently.[399] 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,[400] leaving the United
States with one of the widest income distributions among
OECD nations.[401][402][403] The post-recession income
gains have been very uneven, with the top 1 percent
capturing 95 percent of the income gains from 2009 to

Main article: Education in the United States
See also: Educational attainment in the United States and
Higher education in the United States
American public education is operated by state and local

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

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.[411] About 12% of
children are enrolled in parochial or nonsectarian private
schools. Just over 2% of children are homeschooled.[412]
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
Wealth, like income and taxes, is highly concentrated; the school student.[413] Some 80% of U.S. college students
richest 10% of the adult population possess 72% of the attend public universities.[414]
country’s household wealth, while the bottom half claim The United States has many competitive private and pubonly 2%.[405] Between June 2007 and November 2008 lic institutions of higher education. According to promithe global recession led to falling asset prices around the nent international rankings, 13 or 15 American colleges
world. Assets owned by Americans lost about a quar- and universities are ranked among the top 20 in the
ter of their value.[406] Since peaking in the second quar- world.[415][416] There are also local community colleges
ter of 2007, household wealth is down $14 trillion.[407] with generally more open admission policies, shorter acaAt the end of 2008, household debt amounted to $13.8 demic programs, and lower tuition. Of Americans 25
and older, 84.6% graduated from high school, 52.6% atThere were about 643,000 sheltered and unsheltered tended some college, 27.2% earned a bachelor’s degree,
homeless persons in the U.S. in January 2009, with al- and 9.6% earned graduate degrees.[417] The basic literacy
most two-thirds staying in an emergency shelter or tran- rate is approximately 99%.[7][418] The United Nations as-




signs the United States an Education Index of 0.97, tying associated with their occupations to an unusually close
it for 12th in the world.[419]
degree.[436] While Americans tend greatly to value soor average is
As for public expenditures on higher education, the U.S. cioeconomic achievement, being ordinary
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.[413][420]
10.1 Food
As of 2012, student loan debt exceeded one trillion dol[421]
lars, more than Americans owe on credit cards.
Main article: Cuisine of the United States
Mainstream American cuisine is similar to that in other



Main article: Culture of the United States
See also: Alaska Natives § Cultures, Native American
cultures in the United States, Culture of the Native
Hawaiians, Social class in the United States, Public holidays in the United States and Tourism in the United States
The United States is home to many cultures and a wide
variety of ethnic groups, traditions, and values.[21][422]
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.[423] 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.[21][424]
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.[21]

Apple pie is a food commonly associated with American cuisine.

Western countries. Wheat is the primary cereal grain
with about three-quarters of grain products made of
wheat flour[438] and many dishes use indigenous ingredients, such as turkey, venison, potatoes, sweet potatoes,
corn, squash, and maple syrup which were consumed by
Native Americans and early European settlers.[439] These
home grown foods are part of a shared national menu on
one of America’s most popular holidays; Thanksgiving,
when some Americans make traditional foods to celeCore American culture was established by Protestant brate the occasion.[440]
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.[425] 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%.[426][427]
The American Dream, or the perception that Americans enjoy high social mobility, plays a key role in attracting immigrants.[428] Whether this perception is realistic has been a topic of debate.[429][430][431][432][359][433]
While mainstream culture holds that the United States is
a classless society,[434] scholars identify significant differences between the country’s social classes, affecting
socialization, language, and values.[435] Americans’ selfimages, social viewpoints, and cultural expectations are

Roasted turkey is a traditional menu item of an American
Thanksgiving dinner.[441]

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.[442] Americans gen-


Literature, philosophy, and the arts


erally prefer coffee to tea.[443] Marketing by U.S. industries is largely responsible for making orange juice and
milk ubiquitous breakfast beverages.[444][445]
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.[446] 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”.[447]
The American fast food industry, the world’s largest,[448]
pioneered the drive-through format in the 1940s.[449] Fast
food consumption has sparked health concerns. During the 1980s and 1990s, Americans’ caloric intake rose
24%;[442] frequent dining at fast food outlets is associated with what public health officials call the American
"obesity epidemic".[450] Highly sweetened soft drinks are
widely popular, and sugared beverages account for nine
percent of American caloric intake.[451]


Literature, philosophy, and the arts

Main articles: American literature, American philosophy, Visual art of the United States and American
classical music
Mark Twain, American author and humorist
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.[452] 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".[453]
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.[454] 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.[455]
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.[456][457]
In the visual arts, the Hudson River School was a mid19th-century movement in the tradition of European
naturalism. The realist paintings of Thomas Eakins are
now widely celebrated. The 1913 Armory Show in
New York City, an exhibition of European modernist
art, shocked the public and transformed the U.S. art
scene.[458] Georgia O'Keeffe, 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




Times Square in New York City, the hub of the Broadway theater

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

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry were among the mid1950s 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,[463] as have contemporary musical artists such as Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Katy
Perry, Rihanna, and Beyoncé.

Though little known at the time, Charles Ives's work
of the 1910s established him as the first major U.S.
composer in the classical tradition, while experimentalists such as Henry Cowell and John Cage created
a distinctive American approach to classical composition. Aaron Copland and George Gershwin developed a new synthesis of popular and classical music.
Choreographers Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham
helped create modern dance, while George Balanchine 10.4 Cinema
and Jerome Robbins were leaders in 20th-century ballet.
Americans have long been important in the modern artis- Main article: Cinema of the United States
tic medium of photography, with major photographers Hollywood, a northern district of Los Angeles, Califorincluding Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Ansel



Main article: Music of the United States
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
The Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, California
in the 1920s, and rhythm and blues in the 1940s.[463]

nia, is one of the leaders in motion picture production.[464]
The world’s first commercial motion picture exhibition
was given in New York City in 1894, using Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope.[465] 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, although in the 21st century an increasing number of films are not made there,
and film companies have been subject to the forces of

Singin' in the Rain (1952), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
and Sunset Boulevard (1950).[473] The Academy Awards,
popularly known as the Oscars, have been held annually
by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
since 1929,[474] and the Golden Globe Awards have been
held annually since January 1944.[475]

11 Sports
Main article: Sports in the United States
While most major U.S. sports have evolved out of Euro-

Marilyn Monroe, an icon of Hollywood

Director D. W. Griffith, American’s top filmmaker during the silent film period, was central to the development of film grammar, and producer/entrepreneur Walt
Disney was a leader in both animated film and movie
merchandising.[467] Directors such as John Ford redefined
the image of the American Old West and history, and,
like others such as John Huston, broadened the possibilities of cinema with location shooting, with great influence on subsequent directors. The industry enjoyed
its golden years, in what is commonly referred to as the
"Golden Age of Hollywood", from the early sound period until the early 1960s, with screen actors such as
John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe becoming iconic figures. In the 1970s, film directors such as Martin Scorsese,
Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Altman were a vital
component in what became known as "New Hollywood"
or the “Hollywood Renaissance”,[468] grittier films influenced by French and Italian realist pictures of the postwar period.[469] Since, directors such as Steven Spielberg,
George Lucas and James Cameron have gained renown
for their blockbuster films, often characterized by high
production costs, and in return, high earnings at the box
office, with Cameron’s Avatar (2009) earning more than
$2 billion.[470] Notable films topping the American Film
Institute's AFI 100 list include Orson Welles's Citizen
Kane (1941), which is frequently cited as the greatest
film of all time,[471][472] Casablanca (1942), The Godfather (1972), Gone with the Wind (1939), Lawrence of
Arabia (1962), The Wizard of Oz (1939), The Graduate
(1967), On the Waterfront (1954), Schindler’s List (1993),

Swimmer Michael Phelps and then-President George W. Bush
August 10, 2008 at the National Aquatic Center in Beijing. Phelps
is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time.[476][477]

pean 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.[478] 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.[479]
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.[480]
Baseball has been regarded as the national sport since the
late 19th century, with Major League Baseball (MLB) being the top league, while American football is now by several measures the most popular spectator sport,[481] with
the National Football League (NFL) having the highest
average attendance of any sports league in the world and
a Super Bowl watched by millions globally. Basketball
and ice hockey are the country’s next two leading professional team sports, with the top leagues being the
National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National
Hockey League (NHL). 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.[482] Boxing and horse
racing were once the most watched individual sports,[483]
but they have been eclipsed by golf and auto racing,
particularly NASCAR.[484] In the 21st century, televised
mixed martial arts has also gained a strong following of
regular viewers.[485][486] 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.






Mass transit accounts for 9% of total U.S. work
trips.[494][495] While transport of goods by rail is extensive, relatively few people use rail to travel,[496] though
ridership on Amtrak, the national intercity passenger
rail system, grew by almost 37% between 2000 and
2010.[497] Also, light rail development has increased in
recent years.[498] Bicycle usage for work commutes is
The civil airline industry is entirely privately owned and
has been largely deregulated since 1978, while most major airports are publicly owned.[500] The three largest airlines in the world by passengers carried are U.S.-based;
American Airlines is number one after its 2013 acquisition by US Airways.[501] Of the world’s 30 busiest passenger airports, 12 are in the United States, including
the busiest, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.[502]

12.2 Energy

Main article: Transportation in the United States
Personal transportation is dominated by automobiles,

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

See also: Energy policy of the United States
The United States energy market is about 29,000 terawatt
hours per year.[503] Energy consumption per capita is 7.8
tons of oil equivalent per year, the 10th highest rate in the
The Interstate Highway System, which extends 46,876 miles
world. In 2005, 40% of this energy came from petroleum,
(75,440 km)
23% from coal, and 22% from natural gas. The remainsupplied by nuclear power and renewable energy
which operate on a network of 4 million miles of pub- der was [504]
The United States is the world’s largest con[488]
including one of the world’s longest highlic roads,
way systems.
The world’s second largest automobile
market,[490] the United States has the highest rate of per- For decades, nuclear power has played a limited role
capita vehicle ownership in the world, with 765 vehi- relative to many other developed countries, in part becles per 1,000 Americans.[491] About 40% of personal cause of public perception in the wake of a 1979 accivehicles are vans, SUVs, or light trucks.[492] The aver- dent. In 2007, several applications for new nuclear plants
age American adult (accounting for all drivers and non- were filed.[506] The United States has 27% of global coal
drivers) spends 55 minutes driving every day, traveling reserves.[507] It is the world’s largest producer of natural
gas and crude oil.[508]
29 miles (47 km).[493]



Science and technology

Main article: Science and technology in the United States
See also: Technological and industrial history of the
United States
The United States has been a leader in scientific research

evolved into the Internet.[517]
These advancements then lead to greater personalization
of technology for individual use.[518] As of April 2010,
77% of American households owned at least one
computer, and 68% had broadband Internet service.[519]
85% of Americans also own a mobile phone as of
In the 21st century, 64% of research and development
funding comes from the private sector.[521] The United
States leads the world in scientific research papers and
impact factor.[522]

14 Health
See also: Health care in the United States, Health care
reform in the United States and Health insurance in the
United States
The United States has a life expectancy of 79.8 years at
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.

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 research
laboratory, one of the first of its kind, developed the
phonograph, the first long-lasting light bulb, and the first
viable movie camera.[509] The latter lead to emergence
of the worldwide entertainment industry. 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.[510]
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.[511]
During World War II, the Manhattan Project developed
nuclear weapons, ushering in the Atomic Age, while
the Space Race produced rapid advances in rocketry,
materials science, and aeronautics.[512][513]
The invention of the transistor in the 1950s, a key active component in practically all modern electronics, lead
to many technological developments and a significant expansion of the U.S. technology industry.[514][515][516] This
in turn lead to the establishment of many new technology companies and regions around the county such as
Silicon Valley in California. Advancements by American microprocessor companies such as Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), and Intel along with both computer software and hardware companies that include
Adobe Systems, Apple Computer, IBM, GNU-Linux,
Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems created and popularized the personal computer. The ARPANET was developed in the 1960s to meet Defense Department requirements, and became the first of a series of networks which

Health spending per capita, in US$ PPP-adjusted, compared
amongst various first world nations.

birth, up from 75.2 years in 1990.[523][524][525] 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.[526] Obesity rates in the United States are among
the highest in the world.[527] Approximately one-third of
the adult population is obese and an additional third is
overweight;[528] the obesity rate, the highest in the industrialized world, has more than doubled in the last quartercentury.[529] Obesity-related type 2 diabetes is considered epidemic by health care professionals.[530] The infant mortality rate of 6.17 per thousand places the United
States 169th highest out of 224 countries.[531]
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 disabil-

ity. 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 ageadjusted 1990 per-capita rates.[525] U.S. teenage pregnancy and abortion rates are substantially higher than
in other Western nations, especially among blacks and
Hispanics.[532] U.S. underage drinking among teenagers
is among the lowest in industrialized nations.[533]
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.[534] Since
1966, more Americans have received the Nobel Prize in
Medicine than the rest of the world combined. From
1989 to 2002, four times more money was invested
in private biotechnology companies in America than in
Europe.[535] The U.S. health-care system far outspends
any other nation, measured in both per capita spending
and percentage of GDP.[536] Health-care coverage in the
United States is a combination of public and private efforts and is not universal. In 2014, 13.4% of the population did not carry health insurance.[537] The subject of
uninsured and underinsured Americans is a major political issue.[538][539] In 2006, Massachusetts became the first
state to mandate universal health insurance.[540] 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.[541][542]



Broadcasting Company (NBC), Columbia Broadcasting
System (CBS), the American Broadcasting Company
(ABC) and Fox. Americans are the heaviest television
viewers in the world,[543] and the average viewing time
continues to rise, reaching five hours a day in 2006.[544]
The four major broadcast television networks are all commercial entities. Americans listen to radio programming,
also largely commercial, on average just over two-and-ahalf hours a day.[545]
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
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.) As of September 30, 2014 there
are 15,433 licensed full-power radio stations in the US
according to the FCC.[546]

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 in15 Media
dividuals or families. Major cities often have “alternative
weeklies” to complement the mainstream daily paper(s),
Main articles: Media of the United States and Television for example, New York City’s The Village Voice or Los
in the United States
Angeles’ LA Weekly, to name two of the best-known. MaThe four major broadcasters in the U.S. are the National jor 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.[547] Aside from web
portals and search engines, the most popular websites
are Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Amazon, eBay, and
In Spanish, the second most widely spoken mother
tongue behind English, more than 800 publications are

16 See also
Corporate headquarters of the American Broadcasting Company
in New York City

• Index of United States-related articles

• Outline of the United States

• List of metropolitan areas of the United States

[14] Feder, Jody (January 25, 2007). “English as the Official
Language of the United States: Legal Background and
Analysis of Legislation in the 110th Congress”. Ilw.com
(Congressional Research Service). Retrieved June 19,

• List of United States cities by population

[15] New Mexico Code 1-16-7 (1981).

• List of states and territories of the United States

• National symbols of the United States



[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,[126]
1954,[127] 1959,[128] and 1962;[129] the end date is also debated. Major U.S. involvement stopped in 1973,[130] yet
most recognize the end of the Second Indochina War as
when the Republic of Vietnam was toppled in 1975.[131]



[1] 36 U.S.C. § 302 National motto
[2] Simonson, 2010
[3] Dept. of Treasury, 2011
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[16] New Mexico Code 14-11-13 (2011).
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Miguel E. Gallardo; Brian W. McNeill (February 11,
2011). Intersections of Multiple Identities: A Casebook of
Evidence-Based Practices with Diverse Populations. Taylor & Francis. p. XXVII. ISBN 978-1-135-59467-1. As
demonstrated by the constantly changing demographics of
our multiracial society, and most prominently by Barack
Obama, the first multiracial President of the United States,
it is no longer enough to simply understand diverse groups
of individuals as identifying only with a single ethnic or
cultural background
Jose Ashford; Craig LeCroy (June 26, 2009). Human
Behavior in the Social Environment: A Multidimensional
Perspective. Cengage Learning. p. 174. ISBN 0-49560169-1. This is in part related to the growing presence
of prominent multiracial Americans in media, including
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External links

• United States entry at The World Factbook
• United States, from the BBC News
• Key Development Forecasts for the United States
from International Futures
• Official U.S. Government Web Portal Gateway to
government sites
• House Official site of the United States House of
• Senate Official site of the United States Senate
• White House Official site of the President of the
United States

• Wikimedia Atlas of the United States
• Measure of America A variety of mapped information relating to health, education, income, and demographics for the U.S.



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Original artist: U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz
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