United States

UNITED STATES

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United States Wikipedia



For other uses, see US (disambiguation), USA (disambiguation), and United States (disambiguation).
United States of America
FlagGreat Seal
Motto: 
"In God we trust" (official)
"E pluribus unum" (Latin) (traditional)


"Out of many, one"
"Annuit cœptis" (Latin) (traditional)


"S/he approves of the undertakings"
"Novus ordo seclorum" (Latin) (traditional)


"New order of the ages"
Anthem: "The Star-Spangled Banner"


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Projection of North America with the United States in green
CapitalWashington, D.C.


38°53′N 77°01′W / 38.883°N 77.017°W / 38.883; -77.017
Largest cityNew York City


40°43′N 74°00′W / 40.717°N 74.000°W / 40.717; -74.000
Official languagesNone at federal level[a]
Recognised regional languages
National languageEnglish[b]
DemonymAmerican
GovernmentFederal presidential constitutional republic
 - PresidentBarack Obama (D)
 - Vice PresidentJoe Biden (D)
 - Speaker of the HouseJohn Boehner (R)
 - Chief JusticeJohn Roberts
LegislatureCongress
 - Upper houseSenate
 - Lower houseHouse of Representatives
Independence from Great Britain
 - DeclaredJuly 4, 1776 
 - RecognizedSeptember 3, 1783 
 - ConstitutionJune 21, 1788 
 - Current StatehoodAugust 21, 1959 
Area
 - Total9,826,675 km2[c] (3rd/4th)


3,794,101 sq mi
 - Water (%)6.76
Population
 - 2014 estimate318,320,000 (3rd)
 - Density34.2/km2 (180th)


88.6/sq mi
GDP (PPP)2014 estimate
 - Total$17.528 trillion (1st)
 - Per capita$54,980 (7th)
GDP (nominal)2014 estimate
 - Total$17.528 trillion (1st)
 - Per capita$54,980 (9th)
Gini (2012)36.9


medium · 39th (2009)
HDI (2013)Increase 0.937


very high · 3rd
CurrencyUnited States dollar ($) (USD)
Time zone(UTC−5 to −10)
 - Summer (DST) (UTC−4 to −10[d])
Drives on theright[e]
Calling code+1
ISO 3166 codeUS
Internet TLD.us   .gov   .mil   .edu
a.^ English is the official language of at least 28 states; some sources give higher figures, based on differing definitions of "official". English and Hawaiian are both official languages in the state of Hawaii. French is a de facto language in the states of Maine and Louisiana, while New Mexico state law grants Spanish a special status. Cherokee is an official language in the Cherokee Nation tribal jurisdiction area and in the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians based in east and northeast Oklahoma.
b.^ English is the de facto language of American government and the sole language spoken at home by 80 percent of Americans aged five and older. 28 states and five territories have made English an official language. Other official languages include Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Carolinian, and Spanish.
c.^ Whether the United States or China is larger has been disputed. The figure given is from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's The World Factbook. Other sources give smaller figures. All authoritative calculations of the country's size include only the 50 states and the District of Columbia, not the territories.
d.^ See Time in the United States for details about laws governing time zones in the United States.
e.^ Except U.S. Virgin Islands.
The United States of America (USA or U.S.A.), commonly referred to as the United States (US or U.S.), America, and sometimes the States, is a federal republic consisting of 50 states and a federal district. The 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is 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 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km2) in total and with around 318 million people, the United States is the third or 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. The geography and climate of the United States is also extremely diverse, and it is home to a wide variety of wildlife.

Paleo-Indians migrated from Eurasia to what is now the U.S. mainland around 15,000 years ago, with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the Atlantic seaboard. Disputes between Great Britain and these 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. The current Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.

Driven by the doctrine of manifest destiny, the United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century. This involved displacing native tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting new states. The American Civil War ended legal slavery in the country. By the end of the 19th century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean, and its economy was the world's largest. The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a global military power. The United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the first country with nuclear weapons, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole superpower.

The United States is a developed country and has the world's largest national economy, with an estimated GDP in 2013 of $16.8 trillion—23% of global nominal GDP and 19% at purchasing-power parity. The economy is fueled by an abundance of natural resources and high worker productivity, with per capita GDP being the world's sixth-highest in 2010. While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, it continues to be one of the world's largest manufacturers. The U.S. has the highest mean and fourth highest median household income in the OECD as well as the highest gross average wage, though it has the fourth most unequal income distribution, with roughly 15% of the population living in poverty as defined by the U.S. Census. The country accounts for 36.6% of global military spending, being the world's foremost economic and military power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovation.

Contents

                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). 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.

                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. 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. 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". In 1777 the Articles of Confederation announced, "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America'".

                The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms include the "U.S.", the "U.S.A.", 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". In non-English languages, the name is frequently translated as 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.

                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". The difference has been described as more significant than one of usage, but reflecting the difference between a collection of states and a unit.

                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.

                History

                Main articles: History of the United States and Timeline of United States history

                Native American and European contact

                Further information: Pre-Columbian era and Colonial history of the United States



                Native Americans meeting with Europeans, 1764
                The first North American settlers migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge approximately 15,000 or more years ago. Some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, developed advanced agriculture, grand architecture, and state-level societies. After European explorers and traders made the first contacts, the native population declined due to various reasons, including diseases such as smallpox and measles, intermarriage, and violence.

                In the early days of colonization many settlers were subject to shortages of food, disease and attacks from Native Americans. Native Americans were also often at war with neighboring tribes and allied with Europeans in their colonial wars. 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. Natives taught many settlers where, when and how to cultivate corn, beans and squash in the frontier. European missionaries and others felt it was important to "civilize" the Indians and urged them to concentrate on farming and ranching without depending on hunting and gathering.

                Settlements

                Further information: European colonization of the Americas and 13 colonies
                After Columbus' first voyage to the New World in 1492 other explorers and settlement followed into the Floridas and the American Southwest. 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. 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 colonies.



                The signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1620
                Most settlers in every colony were small farmers, but other industries developed. 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. 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. 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, so the numbers of slaves grew rapidly. Colonial society was largely divided over the religious and moral implications of slavery and colonies passed acts for and against the practice. But by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves were replacing indentured servants for cash crop labor, especially in southern regions.

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

                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. The colonies' distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-government, but their success motivated monarchs to periodically seek to reassert Royal authority.

                Independence and expansion




                The Declaration of Independence: the Committee of Five presenting their draft to the Second Continental Congress in 1776
                Further information: American Revolutionary War, United States Declaration of Independence and American Revolution
                The American Revolutionary War was the first successful colonial war of independence against a European power. Americans had developed an ideology of "republicanism" that held 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. The Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1776, proclaiming that humanity is created equal in their inalienable rights. That date is now celebrated annually as America's Independence Day. In 1777, the Articles of Confederation established a weak government that operated until 1789.

                Britain recognized the independence of the United States following their defeat at Yorktown. 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, and it was ratified in state conventions in 1788. The federal government was reorganized into three branches for their 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.

                Although the federal government criminalized the international slave trade in 1808, after 1820 cultivation of the highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the Deep South, and along with it the slave population. The Second Great Awakening, beginning about 1800, converted millions to evangelical Protestantism. In the North it energized multiple social reform movements, including abolitionism, in the South, Methodists and Baptists proselytized among slave populations.

                Americans' eagerness to expand westward prompted a long series of Indian Wars. The Louisiana Purchase of French-claimed territory in 1803 almost doubled the nation's size. The War of 1812, declared against Britain over various grievances and fought to a draw, strengthened U.S. nationalism. A series of U.S. military incursions into Florida led Spain to cede it and other Gulf Coast territory in 1819. 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 land.



                U.S. territorial acquisitions–portions of each territory were granted statehood since the 18th century.
                From 1820 to 1850, Jacksonian democracy began a set of reforms which included wider male suffrage, and it led to the rise of the Second Party System of Democrats and Whigs as the dominant parties from 1828 to 1854. The Trail of Tears in the 1830s exemplified the Indian removal policy that moved Indians into the west to their own reservations. The U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845 during a period of expansionist Manifest Destiny. The 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of the present-day American Northwest. Victory in the Mexican-American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cession of California and much of the present-day American Southwest.

                The California Gold Rush of 1848–49 spurred western migration and the creation of additional western states. After the American Civil War, new transcontinental railways made relocation easier for settlers, expanded internal trade and increased conflicts with Native Americans. Over a half-century, the loss of the buffalo was an existential blow to many Plains Indians cultures. In 1869, a new Peace Policy sought to protect Native-Americans from abuses, avoid further warfare, and secure their eventual U.S. citizenship.

                Civil War and Reconstruction Era

                Further information: American Civil War and Reconstruction Era



                Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania during the Civil War
                From the beginning of the United States, inherent divisions over slavery between the North and the South in American society ultimately led to the American Civil War. Initially states entering the Union alternated slave and free, 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 states, tensions between slave and free states mounted with arguments over federalism and disposition of the territories, whether and how to expand or restrict slavery.

                Following the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, the first president from the largely anti-slavery Republican Party, conventions in thirteen states ultimately declared secession and formed the Confederate States of America, while the U.S. federal government maintained secession was illegal. 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.

                Following the Union victory in 1865, three amendments to the U.S. Constitution prohibited slavery, made the nearly four million African Americans who had been slaves U.S. citizens, and promised them voting rights. The war and its resolution led to a substantial increase in federal power aimed at reintegrating and rebuilding the Southern states while ensuring the rights of the newly freed slaves. But following the Reconstruction Era, throughout the South Jim Crow laws soon effectively disenfranchised most blacks and some poor whites. Over the subsequent decades, in both the north and south blacks and some whites faced systemic discrimination, including racial segregation and occasional vigilante violence, sparking national movements against these abuses.

                Industrialization

                Further information: Labor history of the United States



                Ellis Island, in New York City, was a major gateway for the massive influx of immigration during the beginning of industrialization.
                In the North, urbanization and an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe supplied a surplus of labor for the country's industrialization and transformed its culture. National infrastructure including telegraph and transcontinental railroads spurred economic growth and greater settlement and development of the American Old West. The later invention of electric lights and telephones would also impact communication and urban life. The end of the Indian Wars further expanded acreage under mechanical cultivation, increasing surpluses for international markets. Mainland expansion was completed by the Alaska Purchase from Russia in 1867. In 1898 the U.S. entered the world stage with important sugar production and strategic facilities acquired in Hawaii. Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were ceded by Spain in the same year, following the Spanish American War.

                Rapid economic development at the end of the 19th century produced many prominent industrialists, and the U.S. economy became the world's largest. Dramatic changes were accompanied by social unrest and the rise of populist, socialist, and anarchist movements. This period eventually ended with the beginning 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.

                World War I, Great Depression, and World War II

                Further information: World War I, Great Depression and World War II



                U.S. troops approaching Omaha Beach during World War II
                The United States remained neutral at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, though by 1917, it joined the Allies, helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers. President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and advocated strongly for the U.S. to join the League of Nations. However, the Senate refused to approve this, and did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles that established the League of Nations.

                In 1920, the women's rights movement won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage. The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of radio for mass communication and the invention of early television. The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal, which included the establishment of the Social Security system. The Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and spurred a new wave of western migration.

                The United States was at first effectively neutral during World War II's early stages but began supplying material to the Allies in March 1941 through the Lend-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. Though the nation lost more than 400,000 soldiers, it emerged relatively undamaged from the war with even greater economic and military influence. 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. The United States developed the first nuclear weapons and used them on Japan; the Japanese surrendered on September 2, ending World War II.

                Cold War and Civil Rights era

                Main articles: History of the United States (1945–64), History of the United States (1964–80) and History of the United States (1980–91)



                US President Ronald Reagan (left) and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, meeting in Geneva in 1985
                After World War II the United States and the Soviet Union jockeyed for power during what is known as the Cold War, driven by an ideological divide between capitalism and communism. 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 forces in the Korean War of 1950–53. The Soviet Union's 1957 launch of the first artificial satellite and its 1961 launch of the first manned spaceflight initiated a "Space Race" in which the United States became the first to land a man on the moon in 1969. A proxy war was expanded in Southeast Asia with the Vietnam War.

                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. 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. 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.

                The 1970s and early 1980s saw the onset of stagflation. After his election in 1980, President Ronald Reagan responded to economic stagnation with free-market oriented reforms. Following the collapse of détente, he abandoned "containment" and initiated the more aggressive "rollback" strategy towards the USSR. After a surge in female labor participation over the previous decade, by 1985 a majority of women age 16 and over were employed. The late 1980s brought a "thaw" in relations with the USSR, and its collapse in 1991 finally ended the Cold War.

                Contemporary history

                The former World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan on 9/11
                One World Trade Center, built in its place
                Main article: History of the United States (1991–present)
                After the Cold War, the 1990s saw the longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history, ending in 2001. 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. 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. In response the United States launched the War on Terror, which includes the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the 2003–11 Iraq War. In 2008, amid the Great Recession, Barack Obama was elected president, becoming the first African-American to take the office.

                Geography, climate, and environment

                Main articles: Geography of the United States, Climate of the United States and Environment of the United States



                A composite satellite image of the contiguous United States and surrounding areas
                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 Pacific, southwest of North America, is 10,931 square miles (28,311 km2) in area.

                The United States is the world's third or fourth largest nation by total area (land and water), ranking behind Russia and Canada and just above or below China. The ranking varies depending on how two territories disputed 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) to 3,717,813 square miles (9,629,091 km2) to 3,794,101 square miles (9,826,676 km2). Measured by only land area, the United States is third in size behind Russia and China, just ahead of Canada.

                The coastal plain of the Atlantic seaboard gives way further inland to deciduous forests and the rolling hills of the Piedmont. The Appalachian Mountains divide the eastern seaboard from the Great Lakes and the grasslands of the Midwest. 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.

                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. Farther west are the rocky Great Basin and deserts such as the Chihuahua and Mojave. 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, and only about 80 miles (130 km) apart. At 20,320 feet (6,194 m), Alaska's Mount McKinley is the tallest peak in the country and in North America. 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.

                The United States, with its large size and geographic variety, includes most climate types. To the east of the 100th meridian, the climate ranges from humid continental in the north to humid subtropical in the south. The southern tip of Florida is tropical, as is Hawaii. The Great Plains west of the 100th meridian are semi-arid. Much of the Western mountains are alpine. 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 the Midwest's Tornado Alley.



                The bald eagle has been the national bird of the United States since 1782.
                The U.S. ecology is considered "megadiverse": about 17,000 species 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. The United States is home to more than 400 mammal, 750 bird, and 500 reptile and amphibian species. About 91,000 insect species have been described. The bald eagle is both the national bird and national animal of the United States, and is an enduring symbol of the country itself.

                There are 58 national parks and hundreds of other federally managed parks, forests, and wilderness areas. Altogether, the government owns 28.8% of the country's land area. Most of this is protected, though some is leased for oil and gas drilling, mining, logging, or cattle ranching; 2.4% is used for military purposes.

                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, and international responses to global warming. Many federal and state agencies are involved. The most prominent is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), created by presidential order in 1970. The idea of wilderness has shaped the management of public lands since 1964, with the Wilderness Act. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is intended to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats, which are monitored by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

                Demographics

                Main articles: Demographics of the United States, Americans and List of United States cities by population

                Population




                Largest ancestry groups by county, 2000
                Race/Ethnicity
                (as given by the 2012 Census Estimate)
                By race:
                White77.9%
                African American13.1%
                Asian5.1%
                American Indian and Alaska Native1.2%
                Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander0.2%
                Multiracial (2 or more)2.4%
                By ethnicity:
                Hispanic/Latino (of any race)16.9%
                Non-Hispanic/Latino (of any race)83.1%



                The Statue of Liberty in New York City is a symbol of both the U.S. and the ideals of freedom, democracy, and opportunity.
                The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the country's population now to be 318,320,000, including an approximate 11.2 million illegal immigrants. The U.S. population almost quadrupled during the 20th century, from about 76 million in 1900. 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.

                The United States has a very diverse population—31 ancestry groups have more than one million members. German Americans are the largest ethnic group (more than 50 million) - followed by Irish Americans (circa 35 million), Mexican Americans (circa 31 million) and English Americans (circa 27 million).

                White Americans are the largest racial group; Black Americans are the nation's largest racial minority and third largest ancestry group. Asian Americans are the country's second largest racial minority; the three largest Asian American ethnic groups are Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, and Indian Americans.

                With a birth rate of 13 per 1,000, 35% below the world average, its population growth rate is positive at 0.9%, significantly higher than those of many developed nations. In fiscal year 2012, over one million immigrants (most of whom entered through family reunification) were granted legal residence. Mexico has been the leading source of new residents since the 1965 Immigration Act. China, India, and the Philippines have been in the top four sending countries every year.

                According to a survey conducted by the Williams Institute, nine million Americans, or roughly 3.5% of the adult population identify themselves as homosexual, bisexual, or transgender. A 2012 Gallup poll also concluded that 3.5% of adult Americans identified as LGBT. The highest percentage coming from the Disctrict of Columbia (10%), while the lowest state was North Dakota at 1.7%.

                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). The census counted more than 19 million people of "Some Other Race" who were "unable to identify with any" of its five official race categories in 2010.

                The population growth of Hispanic and Latino Americans (the terms are officially interchangeable) is a major demographic trend. The 50.5 million Americans of Hispanic descent are identified as sharing a distinct "ethnicity" by the Census Bureau; 64% of Hispanic Americans are of Mexican descent. Between 2000 and 2010, the country's Hispanic population increased 43% while the non-Hispanic population rose just 4.9%. 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.

                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). Minorities (as defined by the Census Bureau as all those beside non-Hispanic, non-multiracial whites) constituted 36.3% of the population in 2010, and over 50% of children under age one, and are projected to constitute the majority by 2042. This contradicts the report by the National Vital Statistics Reports, based on the U.S. census data, which concludes that 54% (2,162,406 out of 3,999,386 in 2010) of births were non-Hispanic white.

                About 82% of Americans live in urban areas (including suburbs); about half of those reside in cities with populations over 50,000. In 2008, 273 incorporated places had populations over 100,000, nine cities had more than one million residents, and four global cities had over two million (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston). There are 52 metropolitan areas with populations greater than one million. Of the 50 fastest-growing metro areas, 47 are in the West or South. The metro areas of Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Phoenix all grew by more than a million people between 2000 and 2008.
                Leading population centers (see complete list)
                RankCore city (cities)Metro area populationMetropolitan Statistical AreaRegion
                New York City


                New York City

                Los Angeles


                Los Angeles

                Chicago


                Chicago
                1New York City19,949,502New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA MSANortheast
                2Los Angeles13,131,431Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana, CA MSAWest
                3Chicago9,537,289Chicago–Joliet–Naperville, IL–IN–WI MSAMidwest
                4Dallas–Fort Worth6,810,913Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington, TX MSASouth
                5Houston6,313,158Houston–The Woodlands-Sugar Land MSASouth
                6Philadelphia6,034,678Philadelphia–Camden–Wilmington, PA–NJ–DE–MD MSANortheast
                7Washington, D.C.5,949,859Washington, DC–VA–MD–WV MSANortheast
                8Miami5,828,191Miami–Fort Lauderdale–Pompano Beach, FL MSASouth
                9Atlanta5,522,942Atlanta–Sandy Springs–Marietta, GA MSASouth
                10Boston4,684,299Boston–Cambridge–Quincy, MA–NH MSANortheast
                11San Francisco4,516,276San Francisco–Oakland–Fremont, CA MSAWest
                12Phoenix4,398,762Phoenix–Mesa–Glendale, AZ MSAWest
                13San Bernardino-Riverside4,380,878San Bernandino–Riverside–Ontario, CA MSAWest
                14Detroit4,294,983Detroit–Warren–Livonia, MI MSAMidwest
                15Seattle3,610,105Seattle–Tacoma–Bellevue, WA MSAWest
                16Minneapolis–St. Paul3,459,146Minneapolis–St. Paul–Bloomington, MN–WI MSAMidwest
                17San Diego3,211,252San Diego–Carlsbad–San Marcos, CA MSAWest
                18Tampa–St. Petersburg2,870,569Tampa–St. Petersburg–Clearwater, FL MSASouth
                19St. Louis2,810,056St. Louis–St. Charles–Farmington, MO–IL MSAMidwest
                20Baltimore2,770,738Baltimore–Towson, MD MSANortheast
                based upon 2013 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau

                Language



                Languages spoken by more than 1,000,000 in the U.S.


                as of 2010
                LanguagePercent of


                population
                Number of


                speakers
                English80%233,780,338
                Combined total of all languages


                other than English
                20%57,048,617
                Spanish

                (excluding Puerto Rico and Spanish Creole)
                12%35,437,985
                Chinese

                (including Cantonese and Mandarin)
                0.9%2,567,779
                Tagalog0.5%1,542,118
                Vietnamese0.4%1,292,448
                French0.4%1,288,833
                Korean0.4%1,108,408
                German0.4%1,107,869
                Main article: Languages of the United States
                See also: Language Spoken at Home 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. Some Americans advocate making English the country's official language, as it is in at least 28 states.

                Both Hawaiian and English are official languages in Hawaii, by state law. While neither has an official language, New Mexico has laws providing for the use of both English and Spanish, as Louisiana does for English and French. Other states, such as California, mandate the publication of Spanish versions of certain government documents including court forms. 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 and Chamorro are recognized by American Samoa and Guam, respectively;[citation needed] Carolinian and Chamorro are recognized by the Northern Mariana Islands;[citation needed] Spanish is an official language of Puerto Rico and is more widely spoken than English there.

                Religion

                Main article: Religion in the United States
                See also: History of religion in the United States, Freedom of religion in the United States, Separation of church and state in the United States and List of religious movements that began in the United States


                Religious affiliation in the U.S. (2012)
                Affiliation% of U.S. population
                Christian7373
                 
                Protestant4848
                 
                Catholic2222
                 
                Mormon22
                 
                Eastern Orthodox11
                 
                Other Faith66
                 
                Unaffiliated19.619.6
                 
                Don't know/refused answer22
                 
                Total100100
                 
                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. 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. As with other Western countries, the U.S. is becoming less religious. Irreligion is growing rapidly among Americans under 30. Polls show that overall American confidence in organized religion is declining, and that younger Americans in particular are becoming increasingly irreligious.

                According to a 2012 survey, 73% of adults identified themselves as Christian, down from 86.4% in 1990. Protestant denominations accounted for 48%, while Roman Catholicism, at 22%, was the largest individual denomination. The total reporting non-Christian religions in 2012 was 6%, up from 4% in 2007. Other religions include Judaism (1.7%), Buddhism (0.7%), Islam (0.6%), Hinduism (0.4%), and Unitarian Universalism (0.3%). The survey also reported that 19.6% of Americans described themselves as agnostic, atheist or simply having no religion, up from 8.2% in 1990. There are also Baha'i, Sikh, Jain, Shinto, Confucian, Taoist, Druid, Native American, Wiccan, humanist and deist communities.

                Protestantism is the largest group of religions in the United States, with Baptists being the largest Protestant sect, and the Southern Baptist Convention being the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. About 19 percent of Protestants are Evangelical, while 15 percent are mainline and 8 percent belong to a traditionally Black church. Roman Catholicism in the U.S. 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 the 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. Mormonism is also relatively common in parts of Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming.

                The Bible Belt is an informal term for a region in the Southern United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism is a significant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average. By contrast, religion plays the least important role in New England and in the Western United States.

                Family structure

                Main article: Family structure in the United States
                In 2007, 58% of Americans age 18 and over were married, 6% were widowed, 10% were divorced, and 25% had never been married. Women now work mostly outside the home and receive a majority of bachelor's degrees.

                The U.S. teenage pregnancy rate, 79.8 per 1,000 women, is the highest among OECD nations. Between 2007 and 2010, the highest teenage birth rate was in Mississippi, and the lowest in New Hampshire. Abortion is legal throughout the U.S., owing to Roe v. Wade, a 1973 landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court. 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. In 2011, the average age at first birth was 25.6 and 40.7% of births were to unmarried women. The total fertility rate (TFR) was estimated for 2013 at 2.06 births per woman. Adoption in the United States is common and relatively easy from a legal point of view (compared to other Western countries). In 2001, with over 127,000 adoptions, the U.S. accounted for nearly half of the total number of adoptions worldwide. The legal status of same-sex couples adopting varies by jurisdiction.

                Same-sex marriage is legally permitted in 19 U.S. states, 8 Native American Tribal Jurisdictions, and the District of Columbia. Limited recognition has been granted to out-of-state same-sex marriages in Alaska, Colorado, Missouri, Utah, and Ohio. Polygamy is illegal throughout the U.S. Although Cousin marriages are illegal in most states, they are legal in many states, the District of Columbia and some territories. Some states have some restrictions or exceptions for cousin marriages and/or recognize such marriages performed out-of-state.

                Government and politics

                Main articles: Federal government of the United States, state governments of the United States and elections in the United States
                U.S. Capitol,


                where Congress meets:


                the Senate, left; the House, right

                The White House, home of the U.S. President

                Supreme Court Building, where the nation's highest court sits

                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". 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. For 2012, the U.S. ranked 21st on the Democracy Index and 19th on the Corruption Perceptions Index.

                In the American federalist system, citizens are usually subject to three levels of government: federal, state, and local. The local government's duties are commonly split between county and municipal governments. In almost all cases, executive and legislative officials are elected by a plurality vote of citizens by district. There is no proportional representation at the federal level, and it is very rare at lower levels.
                Source: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States )
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