United States of America
"The Star-Spangled Banner"
The United States including its territories
|Largest city||New York
|Official languages||None at federal level|
1.2% American Indian
0.2% Pacific Islander
17.6% Hispanic or Latino
82.4% non-Hispanic or Latino
|Government||Federal presidential constitutional republic|
|House of Representatives|
|July 4, 1776|
|March 1, 1781|
|September 3, 1783|
|June 21, 1788|
|March 24, 1976|
• Total area
|3,796,742 sq mi (9,833,520 km2) (3rd/4th)|
• Water (%)
• Total land area
|3,531,905 sq mi (9,147,590 km2)|
• 2017 estimate
• 2010 census
|85/sq mi (32.8/km2) (179th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2017 estimate|
|$19.390 trillion (2nd)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2017 estimate|
|$19.390 trillion (1st)|
• Per capita
|Gini (2015)||▼ 39.0
|HDI (2015)|| 0.920
very high · 10th
|Time zone||UTC−4 to −12, +10, +11|
• Summer (DST)
|UTC−4 to −10|
|ISO 3166 code||US|
The United States of America (often called the United States, the U.S., the USA, or America) is a federal constitutional republic made of fifty states and a federal district. The forty-eight contiguous states and Washington, D.C., the capital district, are in central North America, between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. These forty-eight states are bordered by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south.
Two states are not next to the other forty-eight states. The state of Alaska is in the northwest of the continent. Canada is east of Alaska. Russia is west of Alaska across the Bering Strait. The state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific.
The United States is 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km²). There are about 306 million people living in it. This makes the United States the third or fourth largest country by total area, and third largest by land area and by population. The United States is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations. This is because of large-scale immigration from many countries. The U.S. economy is the largest national economy in the world, with an estimated 2016 gross domestic product (GDP) of US$ 18.57 trillion (23% of the world total based on nominal GDP and almost 21% at purchasing power parity).
The nation was founded by thirteen colonies of Great Britain, which was along the Atlantic seaboard. On July 4, 1776, they issued the Declaration of Independence, which stated their independence from Britain and their formation of a cooperative union. The rebellious states defeated Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, the first successful colonial war of independence. The Philadelphia Convention adopted the current United States Constitution on September 17, 1787; its ratification the following year made the states part of a single republic with a strong central government. The Bill of Rights, comprising ten constitutional amendments guaranteeing many fundamental civil rights and freedoms, was ratified in 1791.
In the 19th century, the United States acquired land from France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Russia, and annexed the Republic of Texas and the Republic of Hawaii. Disputes between the agrarian South and industrial North over states' rights and the expansion of the institution of slavery provoked the American Civil War of the 1860s. The North's victory prevented a permanent split of the country and led to the end of legal slavery in the United States. By the 1870s, the national economy was the world's largest. The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a military power. In 1945, the United States emerged from World War II as the first country with nuclear weapons, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and a founding member of NATO. The end of the Cold War left the United States as the sole superpower. The country accounts for approximately 50% of global military spending and is the leading economic, political, and cultural force in the world.
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Indigenous peoples and European settlements
- See also: Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Colonial history of the United States, and Thirteen Colonies
It is commonly thought that the indigenous peoples of the continental United States, including Alaska natives, migrated from Asia between 12,000 and 40,000 years ago. Some, such as the Mississippian culture, developed advanced farming, significant architectural works, and societies with hierarchical order. After the Europeans began to settle in America, millions of Native Americans died due to widespread diseases brought from Europe, such as smallpox.
In 1492, the explorer Christopher Columbus, sponsored by the monarchy of Spain, arrived from Europe to several Caribbean islands, making the first contact with the indigenous peoples. On April 2, 1513, the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León landed in what he called Florida, being the first European arrival recorded in U.S. territory. Others followed the Spanish settlements in the area in the current southwestern United States. The French fur traders settled in New France, around the area of the Great Lakes; finally, France would claim much of the interior of the United States, up to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The first successful English settlements were the Virginia colony at Jamestown in 1607 and the Plymouth Colony founded by travelers in 1620. In 1628, the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Province gave rise to a new wave of immigration: by 1634, about 10,000 Puritans lived in New England. Between the 1610s and the war of independence, nearly 50,000 convicts were sent from the Old Continent to the colonies. From 1614, the Dutch settled down along the lower Hudson River, founding New Amsterdam on the island of Manhattan.
The official date of the founding of the United States is July 4, 1776, when the second Continental Congress, representing the 13 British secessionists colonies, signed the Declaration of Independence. However, the structure of the Government had a big change in 1788 when the Articles of Confederation were replaced by the Constitution of the United States. The date on which each state adopted the Constitution tends to be taken as the date on which the state became part of the Union.
Civil War (1861–65)
As the nation gained new territory, it was divided on the subject of slavery. The northern states of the country opposed the slavery of African Americans and many of them had already been abolished. The southern states of the country said they needed slaves. The economy of the north grew industrially, while the south was growing on an agricultural basis. Following this division of economy and politics, the southern states decided to create a new independent nation, propitiating the beginning of the war by the northern states who did not recognize the right of secession. After the Civil War between the Confederate States (south) and the Union (north), slavery was abolished throughout the American territory.
World War I, Great Depression, and World War II
As the First World War erupted in Europe in 1914, the United States declared itself neutral. Afterward, the Americans sympathized with the British and French, even though many citizens, especially those from Ireland and Germany, were against the intervention. In 1917, they joined the Allies, adding to the defeat of the Central Powers. Unwilling to participate in European affairs, the Senate did not approve the Treaty of Versailles (1919), which established the League of Nations, applying a policy of unilateralism, which bordered on isolationism. In 1920, the Women's rights movement gained the approval of a constitutional amendment to grant women the right to vote.
For most of the 1920s, the country enjoyed a period of success, decreasing the inequality in the balance of payments while profiting from industrial farms. This period, known as the Roaring Twenties, ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 that triggered the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal, a series of policies that increased government interference in the economy. From 1920 to 1933 a prohibition banning alcohol was in place. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s left many poor farmer communities and encouraged a new wave of emigration to the West Coast.
The United States, officially neutral during the early stages of World War II, began supplying supplies to the Allies in March 1941, through the Lend-Lease program. On December 7, 1941, the country joined the Allies fight against the Axis Powers, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. World War II boosted the economy by providing investment capital and jobs, making many women enter the labor market. Of the significant fighters, the United States was the only nation to be enriched by war. The discussions at Bretton Woods and Yalta created a new system of international organization that placed the country and the Soviet Union at the heart of world affairs. In 1945, when the end of the Second World War in Europe came, an international gathering held in San Francisco drafted the Charter of the United Nations, which came into force after the war. Having developed the first nuclear weapon, the government decided to use it in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of that same year. Japan gave up on September 2, ending the war.
Cold War and civil rights era
In the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed after the Second World War, controlling the military affairs of Europe through NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The first supported liberal democracy and capitalism, while the second favored communism and an economy planned by the government. Both supported several dictatorships and participated in proxy wars. Between 1950 and 1953, U.S. troops fought Chinese communist forces in the Korean War. From the break with the USSR and the start of the Cold War until 1957, McCarthyism also called the Second Red Dread, developed within the United States. The State unleashed a wave of political mistreatment and a campaign of prejudice against Communists, which some authors point out as of a totalitarian state. Hundreds of people were arrested, including celebrities, and between 10,000 and 12,000 people lost their jobs. The abuse ended when the courts declared it unconstitutional.
In 1961, the Soviet launch of the first human-crewed spacecraft caused President John F. Kennedy to propose to the country to be the first to send "a man to the Moon", a fact completed in 1969. Kennedy also faced a tense nuclear conflict with the Soviet forces in Cuba, while the economy grew and expanded steadily. A growing movement for civil rights, represented and led by African-Americans such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Bevel, used nonviolence to deal with segregation and discrimination. After Kennedy's murder in 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed during the term of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson and his successor, Richard Nixon, led a civil war in Southeast Asia, assistant to the unsuccessful Vietnam War. A generalized counterculture movement grew, driven by opposition to war and black nationalism. A new wave of feminist movements also emerged, led by Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and other women who sought political, social and economic equity.
In 1974, as a result of the Watergate scandal, Nixon became the first president to resign, to avoid being dismissed on charges such as obstruction of justice and abuse of power, and was succeeded by Vice President Gerald Ford. The presidency of Jimmy Carter in the 1970s was marked by stagflation and the hostage crisis in Iran. The election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980 announced a change in U.S. policy, which was reflected in significant changes in taxes and fiscal expenses. His second term brought with it the Iran–Contra affair and the significant diplomatic progress with the Soviet Union. The later Soviet collapse ended the Cold War.
Under President George H. W. Bush, the country took on a global dominant role worldwide, as in the Gulf War (1991). The longest economic expansion in modern American history, from March 1991 to March 2001, spanned the presidency of Bill Clinton and the dot-com bubble. A civil lawsuit and Monica Lewinsky scandal led to his impeachment in 1998, although he managed to finish his period. The 2000 presidential elections, one of the most competitive in American history, they were settled by the Supreme Court: George W. Bush, son of George H. W. Bush, became president, even though he gained fewer votes than his opponent Al Gore.
On September 11, 2001, the terrorists of the Al-Qaeda group attacked the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City (which were destroyed) and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., in a series of attacks that ended the life of nearly three thousand people. In response, the Bush administration launched the "War on Terror." At the end of 2001, U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan, toppled the Taliban government and destroyed Al-Qaeda's training camps. Taliban insurgents continue to fight a guerrilla war. In 2002, Bush began to push for a regime change to take place in Iraq. With NATO's lack of support and without a clear UN order for military intervention, Bush organized the coalition of the willing; The coalition forces quickly invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled the statue of dictator Saddam Hussein. The following year, Bush was re-elected as the most voted president in an election.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, which would end up being the deadliest natural disaster in national history, caused severe destruction along the Gulf Coast: the city of New Orleans was devastated, with 1833 dead.
On November 4, 2008, during a global economic downturn, Barack Obama was elected president, having been the first African American to take office. In May 2011, American Special forces managed to kill Osama bin Laden, hiding in Pakistan. The following year, Barack Obama was re-elected. Under his second term, he led the war against the Islamic State and restored diplomatic relations with Cuba.
On November 8, 2016, the Republican Party leader Donald Trump defeated former First Lady Hillary Clinton for presidency in an unusual election and whose plans have been described by political analysts as populist, protectionist and nationalist, assuming office on January 20, 2017.
The United States is a federal republic. The federal government of the United States is set up by the Constitution. There are three branches. They are the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. State governments and the federal government work in very similar ways. Each state has its own executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The executive branch of a state government is led by a governor, instead of a president.
The executive branch is the part of the government that enforces the law. Members of the U.S. Electoral College elect a president who is the leader of the executive branch, as well as the leader of the armed forces. The president may veto a bill that the Congress has passed, so it does not become a law. The President may also make "executive orders" to ensure that people follow the law.
The president is in charge of many departments that control much of the day-to-day actions of government. For example, Department of Commerce makes rules about trade. The president chooses the heads of these departments, and also nominates federal judges. However, the Senate, part of the legislative branch, must agree with all of the people the president chooses. The president may serve two 4-year terms.
One house is the House of Representatives. The Representatives are each elected by voters from a set area within a state. The number of Representatives a state has is based on how many people live there. Representatives serve two-year terms. The total number of representatives today is 435. The leader of the House of Representatives is the Speaker of the House.
The other house is the Senate. In the Senate, each state is represented equally, by two senators. Because there are 50 states, there are 100 senators. The President's treaties or appointments of officials need the Senate's approval. Senators serve six-year terms. The Vice President of the United States serves as president of the Senate. In practice, the vice president is usually absent from the Senate, and a senator serves as president pro tempore, or temporary president, of the Senate.
Representatives and senators propose laws, called "bills", in their respective houses. A bill may be voted upon by the entire house right away or may first go to a small group, known as a committee, which may recommend a bill for a vote by the whole house. If one house votes to pass a bill, the bill then gets sent to the other house; if both houses vote for it, it is then sent to the president, who may sign the bill into law or veto it. If the president vetoes the bill, it is sent back to Congress. If Congress votes again and passes the bill with at least a two-thirds majority, the bill becomes law and cannot be vetoed by the president.
Under the American system of federalism, Congress may not make laws that directly control the states; instead, Congress may use the promise of federal funds, or special circumstances such as national emergencies, to encourage the states to follow federal law. This system is both complex and unique.
The judicial branch is the part of government that interprets what the law means. The Judicial Branch is made up of the Supreme Court and many lower courts. If the Supreme Court decides that a law is not allowed by the Constitution, the law is said to be "struck down" and is no longer a valid law.
The Supreme Court is made up of nine judges, called justices, who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. One of these justices, called the chief justice, heads the court. A Supreme Court justice serves until he or she dies or resigns (quits in the middle of his or her term). When that happens, the president nominates someone new to replace the justice who left. If the Senate agrees with that choice, the person becomes a justice. If the Senate does not agree with the president's choice, then the president must nominate someone else.
Famous court cases such as Marbury v Madison (which was decided in 1803) have firmly established that the Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of the United States Constitution and has the power to strike down any law that conflicts with it.
The United States of America consists of 50 states, 5 territories and 1 district (Washington D.C.). States can make laws about things inside the state, but federal law is about things dealing with more than one state or dealing with other countries. In some areas, if the federal government makes laws that say different things from the state laws, people must follow the federal law because the state law is not a law any more. Each state has a constitution of its own, different from the federal (national) Constitution. Each of these is like the federal Constitution because they say how each state's government is set up, but some also talk about specific laws.
The federal and most state governments are dominated by two political parties: the Republicans and the Democrats. There are many smaller parties; the largest of these are the Libertarian Party and the Green Party. People help in political campaigns that they like. They try to persuade politicians to help them; this is called lobbying. All Americans are allowed to do these things, but some have and spend more money than others, or in other ways do more in politics. Some people think this is a problem, and lobby for rules to be made to change it.
Since 2017, the president is a Republican, and Congress is also Republican-controlled, so the Republicans have more power in the federal government. There are still many powerful Democrats who can try to stop the Republicans from doing things that they believe will be bad for the country. Also, members of a party in power do not always agree on what to do. If enough people decide to vote against Republicans in the next election, they will lose power. In a republic like the United States, no party can do whatever they want. All politicians have to argue, compromise, and make deals with each other to get things done. They have to answer to the people and take responsibility for their mistakes.
The USA's large cultural, economic, and military influence has made the foreign policy of the United States, or relations with other countries, a topic in American politics, and the politics of many other countries.
- forests and grass fields on the east coast
- the Appalachian Mountains in the east
- the Great Plains in the middle of the country
- the Mississippi-Missouri river in the middle of the country
- the Rocky Mountains west of the plains
- deserts and coastal areas west of the Rocky Mountains
- forests in the Pacific Northwest
- Arctic regions of Alaska
- volcanic islands in Hawaii
- a long coastline with many beaches
- the everglades in Florida
The climate varies along with the geography, from tropical (hot and wet in summer, warm and dry in winter) in Florida to tundra (cold all year) in Alaska. Large parts of the country have warm summers and cold winters. Some parts of the United States, like parts of California, have a Mediterranean climate.
- See also: List of U.S. states
The United States conquered and bought new lands over time, and grew from the original 13 colonies in the east to the current 50 states, of which 48 of them are joined together to make up the contiguous United States. These states, called the "lower 48", can all be reached by road without crossing a border into another country. They go from the Atlantic east to the Pacific in the west. There are two other states which are not joined to the lower 48 states. Alaska can be reached by passing through British Columbia and the Yukon, both of which are part of Canada. Hawaii is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and is so far from the rest of the US that it can only be reached by airplane.
Washington, D.C., the national capital, is a federal district that was split from the states of Maryland and Virginia in 1791. Not part of any US state, it used to be in the shape of a square, with the land west of the Potomac River coming from Virginia, and the land east of the river coming from Maryland. In 1846, Virginia took back its part of the land. Some people living in DC want it to become a state, or for Maryland to take back its land, so that they can have the right to vote in Congress.
Territories and possessions
The United States consists of sixteen lands that are not states, many of which are colonial territories. None of them have any land borders with the rest of the US. People live in five of these places, which are de facto American:
The Philippines was a possession of the United States. Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and other Pacific island nations were governed by the United States as a United Nations "Trust Territory". All of these places have become independent: the Philippines in 1946, Palau in 1947, and Micronesia in 1986.
Counties and cities
There are many cities in the United States. One city in each state is the state capital, where the government of the state meets and the governor works. This city is not always the largest in its state. For example, the city with the most people living in it is New York City in New York State, but the state capital is Albany. Some other big cities are Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Seattle, Washington; Miami, Florida; Indianapolis, Indiana; Las Vegas, Nevada; Houston and Dallas, Texas; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Boston, Massachusetts; Denver, Colorado; St. Louis, Missouri and Detroit, Michigan.
The United States has a capitalist economy. The country has rich mineral resources, with many gold, coal and uranium deposits. Farming makes the country among the top producers of, among others, corn (maize), wheat, sugar, and tobacco. Housing contributes about 15% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United StatesAmerica produces cars, airplanes, and electronics. About 3/4 of Americans work in the service industry.
The top 15 trading partners in terms of total trade are:
The United States of America has people of many different race and ethnic backgrounds. 80% of the people in the United States descend from European immigrants. Many people are descended from Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland, Africa, and Italy. 13% of the people in the United States are African-American. Most of them descend from the African slaves that were brought to America. Asian-Americans make up only 5% of the population in America but make up a bigger portion in the west coast. For example, in California, Asian-Americans make up 13% of the population of that state. Hispanic-Americans or people of Latin origins make up 15% of the nation. The original peoples, called Native American, American Indians, or Amerindians and Inuit (Eskimos) are a very small group.
11% of the people in the United States are foreign born. 18% speak a language other than English at home. For people 25 and older, 80% are high school graduates while 25% have a bachelor's degree or higher.
The 2000 Census counted self-reported ancestry. It identified 43 million German-Americans, 30.5 million Irish-Americans, 24.9 million African-Americans, 24.5 million English-Americans, and 18.4 million Mexican-Americans.
The social structure of the United States has a big range. This means that some Americans are much, much richer than others. The average (median) income for an American was $37,000 a year in 2002. However, the richest 1% of Americans have as much money as the poorest 90%. 51% of all households have access to a computer and 41% had access to the Internet in 2000, a figure which had grown to 75% in 2004. Also, 67.9% of American families owned their homes in 2002. There are 200 million cars in the United States, two for every three Americans. The debt has grown to over $21,000,000,000,000.
There are many different religions in the U.S. Statistically, the largest religion is Christianity, including groups such as Catholicism, Protestantism and Mormonism. Other religions include Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, Wicca, Druidry, Baha'i, Raelism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism and Jainism. Religions which were founded within the United States include Eckankar, Satanism and Scientology. Native American religions have various animistic beliefs.
The United States is one of the most religious countries in the Western World, and most Americans believe in God. The number of Christians in the U.S. has gone down. 86.2% called themselves Christian in 1990 and 78.4% said this in 2007. The others include Judaism (2.3%), Islam (0.8%), Buddhism (0.7%), Hinduism (0.4%), and Unitarian Universalism (0.3%). Those who have no religion are at 16.1%. There is a large difference between those who say that they belong to a religion and those who are members of a religious body of that religion.
|Spanish, incl. Creole||34.5 million|
|French, incl. Creole||2.0 million|
The United States does not have an official language, the United States Congress has considered officially designating English as such for many years, since it is the most used language, and the language in which the United States Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution are written. 38 states out of 50 have English as the official language. Spanish has increased in usage in certain sectors of society, due to a flow of immigrants—especially from Mexico and Cuba. French is also a main language in parts of Louisiana because France once owned the area as a colony.
American popular culture goes out to many places in the world. It has a large influence on most of the world, especially the Western world. American music is heard all over the world, and American movies and television shows can be seen in most countries.
|January 1||New Year's Day||Celebrates the beginning of the year|
|3rd Monday in January||Martin Luther King, Jr. Day||Honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an African-American civil rights leader|
|3rd Monday in February||President's Day||Honors all of the American presidents, but specifically George Washington (b. February 22) and Abraham Lincoln (b. February 12)|
|Last Monday in May||Memorial Day||Honors military servicemen, who gave their lives, also marks the traditional start of summer|
|July 4||Independence Day||Celebrates the Declaration of Independence; otherwise known as "The Fourth of July"|
|1st Monday in September||Labor Day||Celebrates the achievements of workers, and marks the traditional end of summer|
|2nd Monday in October||Columbus Day||Honors Christopher Columbus, the man who discovered the Americas for Europe (not celebrated in some states, like Montana)|
|November 11||Veterans Day||Honors all military servicemen (past and present)|
|4th Thursday in November||Thanksgiving||The autumn harvest, and marks the traditional beginning of the "holiday season"|
|December 25||Christmas||Celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ (non-Christians celebrate it as a winter holiday)|
The American flag is made up of 50 stars on a blue background, and has 13 stripes, seven red and six white. It is one of many symbols of the United States like the Bald Eagle. The 50 stars represent the 50 states. The red stands for courage. The blue stands for justice. The white represents peace and cleanliness. The 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies.
Images for kids
The signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1620
The Declaration of Independence: the Committee of Five presenting their draft to the Second Continental Congress in 1776
U.S. troops approaching Omaha Beach in 1944
The bald eagle has been the national bird of the United States since 1782.
Congressional leadership meeting with then-President Obama in 2011.
A tract housing development in San Jose, California.
Apple pie is a food commonly associated with American cuisine.
The Grammy Award is awarded to leading music artists.
The corporate headquarters of the American Broadcasting Company in New York City
Health spending per capita, in US$ PPP-adjusted, compared amongst various first world nations.
United States Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.