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For other uses, see US (disambiguation) and United States (disambiguation)

The United States of America—also referred to as 'the United States', 'the US', 'the USA', 'America' (more loosely), 'the States' (colloquially), and 'Columbia' (poetically)—is a federal republic of 50 states, located primarily in central North America.

--> The United States has land borders with Canada and Mexico, and territorial water boundaries with Canada, Russia and the Bahamas. It is otherwise bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea, the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. Forty-eight of the states—often referred to as the continental, contiguous or Lower 48 states—are located in a single region between Canada and Mexico. The other two, Alaska and the archipelago of Hawaii, are not contiguous with the others. There is a federal district, the District of Columbia, comprising the capital, Washington, D.C. The United States also owns a number of overseas territories.

The official founding date of the United States is July 4, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress—representing the 13 British colonies—adopted the Declaration of Independence. However, the structure of the nation was profoundly changed in 1788, when the states replaced the Articles of Confederation with the United States Constitution; the date on which each of the original 13 states adopted the Constitution is typically regarded as the date that state "entered the Union" (became part of the United States). Since the mid-20th century, the United States has become the dominant global influence in economic, political, military, scientific, technological and cultural affairs.

Contents

[edit] History

Main articles: History of the United States, Military history of the United States, Timeline of United States history, List of U.S. military history events

American history started with the migration of people from Asia across the Bering Sea approximately 10,000–40,000 years ago following large animals that they preyed upon into the Americas. The American Indians left evidence of their presence in petroglyphs, burial mounds, and other artifacts, it is estimated that at least ten million lived in the territory now occupied by the US before European contact, and the subsequent introduction of foreign diseases such as small pox that greatly diminished the native populations. Some advanced societies were the Anasazi of the southwest, who built Chaco Canyon, and the Woodland Indians, who built Cahokia, located near present-day St Louis, a city with a population of 40,000 at its peak in 1200 CE.

During the 1500s and 1600s, the Spanish settled parts of the present-day Southwest and Florida, founding St. Augustine, Florida in 1565 and Santa Fe (in what is now New Mexico) in 1607. The first successful English settlement was at Jamestown, Virginia, also in 1607. Within the next two decades, several Dutch settlements, including New Amsterdam (the predecessor to New York City), were established in what are now the states of New York and New Jersey. In 1637, Sweden established a colony at Fort Christina (in what is now Delaware), but lost the settlement to the Dutch in 1655.

This was followed by extensive British settlement of the east coast. The British colonists remained relatively undisturbed by their home country until after the French and Indian War, when France ceded Canada and the Great Lakes region to Britain. Britain then imposed taxes on the 13 colonies, widely regarded by the settlers as unfair because they were denied representation in the British Parliament. Tensions between Britain and the settlers increased, and the thirteen colonies eventually rebelled against British rule.

In 1776, the 13 colonies split from Great Britain and formed the United States, the world's first constitutional and democratic federal republic, after their Declaration of Independence of that year, and the Revolutionary War (1775–83). The original political structure was a confederation in 1777, ratified in 1781 as the Articles of Confederation. After long debate, this was supplanted by the Constitution in 1789, forming a more centralized federal government. Prior to all these was the Albany Congress in 1754, in which a union was first seriously proposed.

From early colonial times, there was a shortage of labor, which encouraged unfree labor, particularly indentured servitude and slavery. In the mid-19th century, a major division occurred in the United States over the issue of states' rights and the expansion of slavery. The northern states had become opposed to slavery, while the southern states saw it as necessary for the continued success of southern agriculture and wanted it expanded to the territories. Several federal laws were passed in an attempt to settle the dispute, including the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850. The dispute reached a crisis point in 1861, when seven southern states seceded1 from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America, leading to the Civil War. Soon after the war began, four more southern states seceded. During the war, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, mandating the freedom of all slaves in states in rebellion, though full emancipation did not take place until after the end of the war in 1865, the dissolution of the Confederacy, and the Thirteenth Amendment took effect. The Civil War effectively ended the question of a state's right to secede, and is widely accepted as a major turning point after which the federal government became more powerful than state governments.

During the 19th century, many new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the continent. Manifest Destiny was a philosophy that encouraged westward expansion in the United States. As the population of the Eastern states grew and as a steady increase of immigrants entered the country, settlers moved steadily westward across North America. In the process, the US displaced most American Indian nations. (See Trail of Tears.) This displacement of American Indians continues to be a matter of contention in the U.S. with many tribes attempting to assert their original claims to various lands. In some areas American Indian populations were reduced by foreign diseases contracted through contact with European settlers, and US settlers acquired those emptied lands. Unlike European countries, the US was never a colonial power (having itself been spawned from a colonial rebellion) but through various military victories, diplomacy, and outside dealings, the US acquired a number of overseas possessions, from Cuba to the Philippines, though it gave up most of these over time. (See United States territorial acquisitions.)

During this period, the nation also became an industrial power. This continued into the 20th century, which has been termed "the American Century" because of the nation's overriding influence on the world. The US became a center for innovation and technological development; major technologies that America either developed or was greatly involved in improving include the telephone, television, computer, the Internet, nuclear weapons, nuclear power, aviation and aeronautics.

In addition to the Civil War, another major traumatic experience for the nation was the Great Depression (1929–41). The nation has also taken part in several major foreign wars, including World War I and World War II (in both of which the US later joined the Allies). During the Cold War, the US was a major player in the Korean War and Vietnam War, and, along with the Soviet Union, was considered one of the world's two "superpowers". With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US emerged as the world's leading economic and military power. Beginning in the 1990s, the United States became very involved in police actions and peacekeeping, including actions in Kosovo, Haiti, Somalia and Liberia, and the first Gulf War driving Iraq out of Kuwait. After attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the United States and other allied nations started what they called the "War on Terrorism" and later the Iraq war.

[edit] Government and politics

Main articles: Politics of the United States, Law of the United States

The United States may be regarded as an example of a constitutional republic or as a liberal democracy, with a government composed of and operating through a set of limited powers imposed by its design and enumerated in that design or Constitution of the United States of America. Specifically, the nation operates as a representative democracy. There are three levels of government: federal, state, and local. Each of these levels host elected officials freely selected by qualified voters eligible and therefore legally qualified to vote after their 17th year regardless of gender or any other civil criterion by secret ballot. Americans (except for some felons) enjoy universal suffrage from the age of 18; however, the representation of Washington, DC in Congress is limited.

[edit] Constitution

Image:United States Bill of Rights.jpg
The American Bill of Rights, enacted in 1791, provides a list of basic guaranteed rights
Main articles: Constitution of the United States, Human rights in the United States

The Constitution of the United States sets out the powers of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government and recognizes a number of rights of its citizens, including freedom of speech, the right to keep and bear arms, freedom of religion, trial by jury, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

[edit] Federal government

The federal government is the national government, comprising the Congress (the legislative branch), the President (the executive branch), and the Supreme Court (the judicial branch). These three branches were designed to apply checks and balances on each other. The Constitution limits the powers of the federal government to defense, foreign affairs, the issuing and management of currency, the management of trade and relations between the states, and the protection of human rights. In addition to these explicitly stated powers, the federal government—with the assistance of the Supreme Court—has gradually extended these powers into such areas as welfare and education, on the basis of the "necessary and proper clause" of the Constitution. This is in contrast to the Canadian experience, in which a centralist constitution has gradually become less so over the past century.

The Congress is a bicameral law- making institution composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which both meet in the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. The House has 435 members, called representatives or congressmen/congresswomen, are elected by the people of a congressional district to represent that district for a term of two years. The number of districts for each state depends on its population, except that each state has at least one representative. According to the 2000 census, the districts had an average population of about 640,000 people. The Senate has 100 members, called senators; on the same day as House elections, the people of each of a third of the states—on a rotational basis—elect two senators, regardless of the population of each state, for a term of six years. The Constitution initially gave the state legislatures the power to elect senators; however, the Seventeenth Amendment transferred this role to the people.

At the top of the executive branch is the President of the United States. The President and Vice President are elected as 'running mates' for four-year terms by the people, via the Electoral College, for which each state is allocated a number of seats based on its population. The relationship between the President and the Congress reflects that between the English monarchy and parliament at the time of the framing of the United States Constitution. Congress can legislate to constrain the President's executive power, even with respect to his or her command of the armed forces; however, this power is used only very rarely—a notable example was the contraint placed on President Nixon's strategy of bombing Cambodia during the Vietnam War. The President cannot directly propose legislation, and must rely on supporters in Congress to promote his or her legislative agenda. The President's signature is required to turn congressional bills into law; in this respect, the President has the power—only occasionally used—to veto congressional legislation. Congress can override a presidential veto with a two-thirds majority vote in both houses. The ultimate power of Congress over the President is that of impeachment, in which a simple majority of the House and a two-thirds majority of the Senate can, in effect, 'sack' a President. The threat of using this power has had major political ramifications in the cases of Presidents Nixon and Clinton.

The President makes around 2,000 executive appointments, including members of the Cabinet and ambassadors, which must be approved by the Senate; the President can also issue executive orders and pardons, and has other Constitutional duties, among them the requirement to give a State of the Union address to Congress from time to time. Although the President's constitutional role may appear to be constrained, in practice, the office carries enormous prestige that typically eclipses the power of Congress: the Presidency has justifiably been referred to as 'the most powerful office in the world'. The Vice President is first in the line of succession, and is the President of the Senate ex officio, with the ability to cast a tie-breaking vote. The members of the President's Cabinet are responsible for administering the various departments of state, including the Department of Defense, the Justice Department, and the State Department. These departments and department heads have considerable regulatory and political power, and it is they who are responsible for executing federal laws and regulations.

Image:Uscapitolindaylight.jpg
The United States Capitol

The highest court in the land is the Supreme Court, which consists of nine justices. The court deals with federal and constitutional matters, and can declare legislation made at any level of the government as unconstitutional, nullifying the law and creating precedent for future law and decisions. A case may be appealed from a state court to a federal court only if there is a federal question; the supreme court of each state is the final authority on the interpretation of that state's laws and constitution. Below the Supreme Court are the courts of appeals, and below them in turn are the district courts, which are the general trial courts for federal law.

[edit] State and local governments

Image:Map of USA with county outlines.png
United States of America, showing states, divided into counties.

The state governments have the greatest influence over people's daily lives. Each state has its own written constitution and has different laws. There are sometimes great differences in law and procedure between the different states, concerning issues such as property, crime, health, and education. The highest elected official of each state is the Governor. Each state also has an elected legislature (bicameral in every state except Nebraska), whose members represent the different parts of the state. Of note is the New Hampshire legislature, which is the third-largest legislative body in the English-speaking world, and has one representative for every 3,000 people. Each state maintains its own judiciary, with the lowest level typically being county courts, and culminating in each state supreme court, though sometimes named differently. In some states, supreme and lower court justices are elected by the people; in others, they are appointed, as they are in the federal system.

The institutions that are responsible for local government are typically town, city, or county boards, making laws that affect their particular area. These laws concern issues such as traffic, the sale of alcohol, and keeping animals. The highest elected official of a town or city is usually the mayor. In New England, towns operate directly democratically, and in some states, counties have little or no power, existing only as geographic distinctions. In other areas, county governments have more power, such as to collect taxes and maintain law enforcement agencies.

[edit] Political divisions

Main article: Political divisions of the United States

With the Declaration of Independence, the thirteen colonies proclaimed themselves to be nation states modeled after the European states of the time. Although considered as sovereigns initially, under the Articles of Confederation of 1781 they entered into a "Perpetual Union" and created a fully sovereign federal state, delegating certain powers to the national Congress, including the right to engage in diplomatic relations and to levy war, while each retaining their individual sovereignty, freedom and independence. But the national government proved too ineffective, so the administrative structure of the government was vastly reorganized with the United States Constitution of 1789. Under this new union, the continued status of the individual states as sovereign nation states fell into dispute in 1861, as several states attempted to secede from the union; in response, then-President Abraham Lincoln claimed that such secession was illegal, and the result was the American Civil War. Following the Union victory in 1865, the independent status of the individual states has not been broached again by any state, and the status of each state within the union, has been deemed by mainstream officials and academics to be settled as being subordinate to the union as a whole.

In subsequent years, the number of states within the U.S. grew steadily due to western expansion, the purchase of lands by the national government from other nation states, and the subdivision of existing states, resulting in the current total of 50. The states are generally divided into smaller administrative regions, including counties, cities and townships.

The United States–Canadian border is the longest undefended political boundary in the world. The US is divided into three distinct sections: the continental United States, also known as "The Lower 48"; Alaska, which is physically connected only to Canada; and the archipelago of Hawaii in the central Pacific Ocean. The United States also holds several other territories, districts and possessions, notably the federal district of the District of Columbia, which is the nation's capital, and several overseas insular areas, the most significant of which are Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands. The Palmyra Atoll is the United States' only incorporated territory; it is unorganized and uninhabited. The United States Navy has held a base at a portion of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 1898. The United States government possesses a lease to this land, which only mutual agreement or United States abandonment of the area can terminate. The present Cuban government of Fidel Castro disputes this arrangement, claiming Cuba was not truly sovereign at the time of the signing. The United States argues this point moot because Cuba apparently ratified the lease post-revolution, and with full sovereignty, when it cashed one rent check in accordance with the disputed treaty.

Political divisions of the United States
States Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming
Federal district District of Columbia
Insular areas American Samoa | Baker Island | Guam | Howland Island | Jarvis Island | Johnston Atoll | Kingman Reef | Midway Atoll | Navassa Island | Northern Mariana Islands | Palmyra Atoll | Puerto Rico | Virgin Islands | Wake Island

[edit] Foreign relations and military

Main articles: Foreign relations of the United States, Military of the United States

The immense military, economic, and cultural dominance of the United States has made foreign relations an especially important topic in its politics, with considerable concern about the image of the United States throughout the world. Reactions towards the United States by other nationalities are often strong, ranging from uninhibited admiration and mimicking of all things American to anti-Americanism. US foreign policy has swung about several times over the course of its history between the poles of strict isolationism and imperialism and everywhere in between.

Three of the nation's four military branches are administered by the Department of Defense: the Army, the Navy (including the Marine Corps), and the Air Force. The Coast Guard falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security in peacetime, but is placed under the Department of Defense in time of war.

The combined United States armed forces consist of 1.4 million active duty personnel, along with several hundred thousand each in the Reserves and the National Guard. Military conscription ended in 1973. The United States Armed forces are considered to be the most powerful (conventional) military on Earth and their force projection capabilities are unrivaled by any other single nation.

[edit] Largest cities

Image:Panorama clip3.jpg
New York City, New York
Image:DowntownLosAngeles.jpg
Los Angeles, California

The United States has dozens of major cities, including several important global cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The US has 11 of the 55 global cities of all types. The figures expressed below are for populations within city limits. A different ranking is evident when considering U.S. metro area populations, although the top three would be unchanged. The cities with at least one million inhabitants, based on the United States Census Bureau's 2004 estimates, are as follows. (Note that some cities not listed, such as San Francisco, California, New Orleans, Louisiana, Detroit, Michigan, Seattle, Washington, Las Vegas, Nevada, Miami, Florida, Nashville, Tennessee, Boston, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. are still considered important on the basis of other factors and issues, including culture, economics, heritage and politics.)

# City Population Region
1. New York City, New York 8,104,079 Northeast
2. Los Angeles, California 3,845,541 Pacific-West
3. Chicago, Illinois 2,862,244 Midwest
4. Houston, Texas 2,012,626 South-Central
5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1,470,151 Northeast
6. Phoenix, Arizona 1,418,041 Southwest
7. San Diego, California 1,263,756 Pacific-West
8. San Antonio, Texas 1,236,249 South-Central
9. Dallas, Texas 1,210,393 South-Central



Template:Main2

[edit] Economy

Main article: Economy of the United States

The economy of the United States is organized primarily on a capitalist model, with some government regulation in many industries. There are also some social welfare programs like Social Security and unemployment benefits, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families ("welfare"), the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicare, and Medicaid. Such departures from a pure free-market economy have generally increased since the late 1800s, but are less pronounced in the United States than in other industrialized countries.

Image:US $1 obverse.jpg
The United States dollar is the official currency.

The country has rich mineral resources, with extensive gold, oil, coal, and uranium deposits. Successful farm industries rank the country among the top producers of, among others, corn, wheat, sugar, and tobacco; the United States is a net exporter of food, and its rich wheat fields have been referred to as the "breadbasket of the world." The U.S. manufacturing sector produces, among other things, cars, airplanes, and electronics. The largest industry is now service, which employs roughly three-quarters of U.S. residents.

Economic activity varies greatly from one part of the country to another, with many industries being largely dependent on a certain city or region; New York City is the center of the American financial, publishing, broadcasting, and advertising industries; Silicon Valley is the country’s primary location for high technology companies, while Los Angeles is the most important center for film production. The Midwest is known for its reliance on manufacturing and heavy industry, with Detroit serving as the center of the American automotive industry; the Great Plains are known as “the breadbasket of America” for their tremendous agricultural output, while Texas is largely associated with the oil industry; the Southeastern U.S. is a major hub for medical research, as well as many of the nation's textiles manufacturers.

Several countries continue to link their currency to the dollar or even use it as a currency (such as Ecuador), although this practice has subsided since the collapse of the Bretton Woods system.

The largest trading partner of the United States is Canada (20%), followed by Mexico (12%), China (Mainland 10%, Hong Kong 1%) and Japan (8%). More than 50% of total trade is with these four countries. In 2003, the United States was ranked as the third most visited tourist destination in the world; its 40.4 million visitors ranked behind France's 75 million and Spain's 52.5 million.

Most Americans take fewer vacations than anyone else in the developed world (even the Japanese), averaging only 13 to 16 days off a year (source: Daily News, Aug 26, 2005).

See also: List of United States companies

[edit] Geography and climate

Template:Dual image Main article: Geography of the United States

As the world's third-largest country after Russia and Canada, with a total area of 3,537,441 square miles (9,161,930 sq km), the United States contains a considerable variety of landscape: temperate forestland and rolling hills on the east coast, mangrove in Florida, the great plains in the center of the country, the Mississippi-Missouri river system, the Great Lakes (shared with Canada), the Rocky Mountains west of the plains, deserts and temperate coastal zones west of the Rocky Mountains and temperate rain forests in the Pacific northwest. Alaska's tundra and the volcanic, tropical islands of Hawaii add to the geographic diversity.

The climate varies along with the landscape, from tropical in Hawaii and southern Florida to tundra in Alaska and atop some of the highest mountains. Most of the North and East experience a temperate continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. Most of the American South experiences a subtropical humid climate with mild winters and long, hot, humid summers. Rainfall decreases markedly from the humid forests of the Eastern Great Plains to the semi-arid shortgrass prairies on the high plains abutting the Rocky Mountains. Arid deserts, including the Mojave, extend through the lowlands and valleys of the southwest, from westernmost Texas to California and northward throughout much of Nevada. Some parts of California have a Mediterranean climate. Rainforests line the windward mountains of the Pacific Northwest from Oregon to Alaska.

[edit] Transportation

Main article: Transportation in the United States

Because the United States is a relatively young nation, most of the development of U.S. cities has taken place after the invention of the automobile. To link its vast territories, the United States built a network of high capacity, high speed highways, of which the most important aspect is the Interstate Highway system, commissioned in the 1950s by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and modeled after the German Autobahn. The United States also has a transcontinental rail system which is used for moving freight across the lower forty-eight states. Passenger rail service is provided by Amtrak, which serves 46 of the lower forty-eight states.

Many cities in the United States have extensive mass transit systems. New York City, NY operates one of the world's largest and most heavily used subway systems. The regional rail and bus networks which extend into Long Island, New Jersey, Upstate New York, and Connecticut are among the most heavily used in the world.

Air travel is often preferred for destinations over 300 miles (500 km) away, and some airports, such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, are among the busiest in the world. There are several major seaports in the United States, the three busiest are the Port of Los Angeles (California), Port of Long Beach (California) and Port of New York/New Jersey. Others include Houston, Texas, Savannah, Georgia, Miami, Florida, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, California, Boston, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Seattle, Washington, plus, outside the contiguous 48 states, Anchorage, Alaska and Honolulu, Hawaii.

[edit] Society

[edit] Demographics

Main article: Demographics of the United States

[edit] Ethnicity and race

Image:Census-2000-Data-Top-US-Ancestries-by-County.jpg
Top ancestry in each U.S. county in 2000.

Americans, in part due to categories outlined by the U.S. government, generally are described as belonging to one of five racial groups: White, also called Caucasian (those having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa); Black, also called African American (those having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa); American Indian/Alaskan Native, also called American Indian (those having origins in any of the original peoples of North, Central and South America, and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment); Asian, also called Asian American and frequently specified as Chinese American, Filipino American, Indian American, Japanese American, Korean American (those having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent); and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander (those having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands).

The government and Census Bureau considers race to be separate from ethnicity (that is Hispanic origin).

Although "Asian American" includes those whose ancestry originates from the countries of the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), the category is more popularly identified with East Asia. The term African-American is associated with centuries-long residents, and does not make distinctions between them and, say, recent Afro-Caribbean immigrants from Jamaica or refugees from Somalia. Furthermore, the categories disregard the multi-ethnic heritage of many Americans.

The majority of the 295 million people currently living in the United States descend from European immigrants who have arrived since the establishment of the first colonies (most, however, arrived after Reconstruction). This majority decreases each year, and whites are expected to become a plurality within several decades. In the 2000 Census, Americans were able to state their ancestry. The most frequently stated European ancestries were German (15.2%), Irish (10.8%), English (8.7%), Italian (5.6%) and Scandinavian (3.7%). Many immigrants also hail from Slavic countries such as Poland (both Catholic Poles and Ashkenazi Jews), and in recent years an influx of Russians (mainly Ashkenazi Jews). Other significant immigrant populations came from eastern and southern Europe and French Canada. Most Americans of French descent, in fact, including the Cajuns of Louisiana, are descended from French Canadians, as France has never been a major immigrant-sending country. These numbers, however, are less precise than they appear. Even though a high proportion of the population has two or more ancestries, only slighly more than one ancestry was stated per person, suggesting that many were omitted, either because they were not known or not considered important by the individuals. Also many citizens listed themselves as "American" on the census (7.2%). Some ancestries are likely to have been understated more than others, with English ancestry perhaps particularly prone to be overlooked as it is least distinct from "American". A county by county map of plurality ethnic groups reveals that the areas with the largest "American" ancestry populations were mostly settled by English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh, suggesting that the percentages listed for those groups should consequently be larger. (See British-Americans.)

Likewise, while there were few immigrants directly from Spain, Hispanics from Mexico and South and Central America are considered the largest minority group in the country, comprising 13.4% of the population in 2002. This has brought increasing use of the Spanish language in the United States. Mexicans alone made up 7.3% of the population in the 2000 census, and this proportion is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades. The Hispanic category is based more on language than race and is defined by the Census as anybody from or with forebears from Spain or Spanish-speaking Latin America so Hispanics may be of any race. About 45% identify by their ethnic background only ("Mexican", "Salvadoran"); they are mostly mestizo, though some may be unmixed Amerindians. About 40% identify as white of European (Spanish) ancestry; however, on average, they tend to have a slightly greater admixture of Amerindian or African blood than non-Hispanic whites. They are a diverse group consisting of most Cuban Americans, many Puerto Ricans, and a large proportion of the New Mexican Hispanos, Tejanos, and recent South American immigrants, as well as children of mixed marriages between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. Another 5% identify as black or mulatto; they typically are descended from Spanish-speaking Caribbean immigrants such as Dominicans. The remainder includes mostly self-identified Indians (Maya, Mixtec, etc.) and people of mixed background. With the exception of a tiny minority of families with specific Spanish or Mexican ancestry, Filipinos are not classified as Hispanic.

About 12.9% (2000 census) of the American people is African Americans of non-Hispanic origin, most of whom are descendants of the enslaved Africans brought to the U.S. between the 1620s and 1807 and emancipated during the American Civil War. Starting in the 1970s, the black population has been bolstered by immigration from the Caribbean, especially Jamaica and Haiti; more recently, starting in the 1990s, there has been an influx of African immigrants to the United States due to the instability in political and economic opportunities in various nations in Africa.

A third significant minority is the Asian American population (4.2%), most of whom are concentrated on the West Coast and Hawaii. It is by no means a monolithic group; the largest groups are immigrants or descendants of emigrants from the Philippines, China, India, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan. While the Asian-American population is generally a fairly recent addition to the nation's ethnic mix, large waves of Chinese, Filipino and Japanese immigration happened in the mid to late 1800s.

The aboriginal population of American Indians, such as American Indians and Inuit, make up about 1.5% of the population.

According to the 2000 census, the United States has 31 ethnic groups with at least one million people each.

See also: Immigration to the United States

[edit] Religion

Main articles: Religion in the United States, Demographics of the United States

The United States is noteworthy among developed nations for its relatively high level of religiosity. According to a 2004 Gallup poll, about 44% of Americans attend a religious service at least once a week. However, this rate is not uniform across the country; attendance is more common in the Bible Belt—composed largely of Southern and Midwestern states—than in the Northeast and West Coast.

Table: Self-reported religious identification of the adults—1990 and 2001 [1]

NB: All figures are after adjustment for refusals to reply, which jumped from 2.3% in 1990 to 5.4% in 2001

Religion 1990 2001 Change
in %
point
Total Christian 88.3% 79.8% –8.5%
Catholic 26.8% 25.9% –1.0%
Other Christian 61.4% 54.0% –7.5%
Baptist 19.8% 17.2% –2.6%
Methodist 8.3% 7.2% –1.1%
Christian (no denomination supplied) 4.7% 7.2% +2.5%
Lutheran 5.3% 4.9% –0.4%
Presbyterian 2.9% 2.8% –0.1%
Protestant (no denomination supplied) 10.0% 2.4% –7.7%
Pentecostal/Charismatic 1.9% 2.2% +0.4%
Episcopalian/Anglican 1.8% 1.8% --
Mormon/Latter Day Saints 1.5% 1.4% --
Churches of Christ 1.0% 1.3% +0.3%
Congregational/United Church of Christ 0.3% 0.7% +0.4%
Jehovah's Witnesses 0.8% 0.7% –0.1%
Assemblies of God 0.4% 0.6% +0.2%
Evangelical 0.1% 0.5% +0.4%
Church of God 0.3% 0.5% +0.2%
Seventh Day Adventist 0.4% 0.4% --
Eastern Orthodox 0.3% 0.3% --
Other Christian (less than 0.3% each) 1.6% 1.9% +0.3%
Total other religions 3.5% 5.2% +1.7%
Jewish 1.8% 1.4% –0.4%
Non-denominational 0.1% 1.3% +1.2%
Muslim 0.3% 0.6% +0.3%
Buddhist 0.2% 0.5% +0.3%
Hindu 0.1%0.4%+0.3%
Unitarian Universalist 0.3%0.3% --
Others (less than 0.07% each) 0.6%0.7% +0.1%
No Religion, Atheist or Agnostic 8.4% 15.0% +6.6%

[edit] Education

Main article: Education in the United States

In the United States, education is a state, not federal, responsibility, and the laws and standards vary considerably. In most states, all students must attend mandatory schooling starting with kindergarten and following through twelfth grade (although in some states, students are permitted to drop out upon the age of 16 with the permission of their parents/guardians). Parents may educate their own children at home (with varying degrees of state oversight), send their children to a public school, which is free, or to a private school, where parents must pay tuition. Public schools are highly decentralized with funding and curriculum decisions taking place mostly at the local level through school boards.

After high school, students have a choice of attending either a public/state university, a private university, entering the workforce, or enlisting in the military. Public universities receive funding from the federal and state government but students still pay tuition, which can vary depending on the university, state, and whether the student is a resident of the state or not. Tuition at private universities tends to be much higher than at public universities.

American colleges and universities range from highly competitive schools, such as Stanford University and Harvard University, to hundreds of local community colleges with open admission policies. For a complete list, see Colleges and Universities in the United States.

[edit] Language

Main article: Languages in the United States

The United States does not have an official language at federal level; nevertheless, English is the first and/or only language of the overwhelming majority of the population and serves as the de facto official language: English is the language used for legislation, regulations, executive orders, treaties, federal court rulings, and all other official pronouncements.

Twenty-seven individual states have adopted English as their official language, and three of those—Hawaii, Louisiana, and New Mexico—have also adopted a second official language (Hawaiian, French and Spanish, respectively). Spanish follows English as the second-most spoken language in the United States, primarily due to the influence of recent Latin American immigrants and the fact that almost a fifth of its continental territory was originally part of Mexico, and it is a primary spoken language in some areas of the Southwest.

The primary signed language is American Sign Language (ASL).

As of 2004, the United States was the home of approximately 336 languages (spoken or signed), of which 176 are indigenous to U.S. territory.


[edit] Culture

Main article: Culture of the United States

Image:Elvisstamp.jpg
Elvis Presley, an American singer and star who had a large impact on music and youth culture in the world.

U.S. popular culture has a significant influence on the rest of the world, especially the Western world. U.S. music is heard all over the world, and it is the sire of such forms as blues and jazz and had a primary hand in the shaping of modern rock and roll and popular music culture. Many great Western classical musicians and ensembles find their home in the U.S. New York City is a hub for international operatic and instrumental music as well as the world-famed Broadway plays and musicals, Seattle is a world leader in the grunge and heavy metal music industries, and Nashville is the capital of country music. New York, Seattle, and San Francisco are worldwide leaders in graphic design and New York and Los Angeles compete with major European cities in the fashion industry.

U.S. movies (primarily embodied in Hollywood) and television shows can be seen almost anywhere except the most authoritarian communist places. This is in stark contrast to the early days of the republic, when the country was viewed by Europeans as an agricultural backwater with little to offer the culturally "advanced" world centers of Asia and Europe.

Image:Motherhood and apple pie.jpg
Apple pie shown alongside United States cultural icons.

Nearing the mid-point of its third century of nationhood, the U.S. plays host to the gamut of human intellectual and artistic endeavor in nearly every major city, offering classical and popular music; historical, scientific and art research centers and museums; dance performances, musicals and plays; outdoor art projects and internationally significant architecture. This development is a result of both contributions by private philanthropists and government funding.

American holidays are variously national and local. Many holidays recognize events or people of importance to the nation's history; as such, they represent significant cultural observance.

See also: Arts and entertainment in the United States, Media of the United States, and Holidays of the United States

[edit] Sports

The major team sports in America are home grown. American football, basketball, and baseball, which is often referred to as the Great American Pastime, are the top three. The majority of the world's highest paid athletes play team sports in America [2]. The U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994.

The United States hosts some of the premier events in other sports such as golf (including three of the four major championships), and tennis (the U.S. Open). The most popular form of auto racing is NASCAR, and Formula One, while dominant in the rest of the world, has made limited inroads into the U.S. market.

Eight Olympic Games have been hosted in the U.S., more than any other nation. The United States generally fares very well in the Olympics, especially the Summer Olympics: in 2004, the U.S. topped the medals table with 103 medals (35 gold, 39 silver and 29 bronze). For details see: United States at the Olympics

[edit] Related topics

Main article: List of United States-related topics

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[edit] International rankings

[edit] Notes

Template:Anb America may refer to the nation of the United States or to the AmericasNorth, Central and South America. The latter usage is more common in Latin American countries where the Spanish and Portuguese word América refers to both continents. The United States (or Estados Unidos in Spanish and Portuguese) is a less ambiguous term and less likely to cause offense. The term American meaning a citizen or national of the United States has no straightforward unambiguous synonym. Many alternative words for American have been proposed, but none have enjoyed widespread acceptance.

[edit] External links

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[edit] United States government


[edit] Other

[edit] Further Reading

  • Johnson, Paul M. A History of the American People, Perennial, 1999. ISBN 0060930349</br>
  • Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States, Perennial, 2003. ISBN 0060528370

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