|United States of America
|Anthem: "The Star-Spangled Banner"
|Largest city||New York City
|Official languages||None at federal level[a]|
|Government||Federal presidential constitutional republic|
|-||President||Barack Obama (D)|
|-||Vice President||Joe Biden (D)|
|-||Speaker of the House||Paul Ryan (R)|
|-||Chief Justice||John Roberts|
|-||Lower house||House of Representatives|
|Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain|
|-||Declared||July 4, 1776|
|-||Recognized||September 3, 1783|
|-||Current constitution||June 21, 1788|
|-||Total||9,826,675 km2[c] (3rd/4th)
3,794,101 sq mi
|-||2013 estimate||321,992,000 (3rd)|
|GDP (PPP)||2012 estimate|
|-||Total||$15.685 trillion (1st)|
|-||Per capita||$49,922 (6th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2012 estimate|
|-||Total||$15.685 trillion (1st)|
|-||Per capita||$49,922 (12th)|
high · 39th (2009)
|HDI (2013)|| 0.937
very high · 3rd
|Currency||United States dollar ($) (USD)|
|Time zone||(UTC−5 to −10)|
|-||Summer (DST)||(UTC−4 to −10[e])|
|Drives on the||right[g]|
|ISO 3166 code||US|
|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.|
|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. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language.|
|c.||^ Whether the United States or China is larger is 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.||^ The population estimate is of people whose usual residence is within the 50 states and the District of Columbia, regardless of nationality. It does not include those living in the territories (over 4 million people, mostly in Puerto Rico).|
|e.||^ See Time in the United States for details about laws governing time zones in the United States.|
|f.||^ Does not include insular areas and United States Minor Outlying Islands, which have their own ISO 3166 codes.|
|g.||^ Except US Virgin Islands.|
The United States of America (USA), usually referred to as the United States (US), or America is a country in North America. It is made up of 50 states, a federal district, and five territories. It is a superpower, and some argue that currently the US is the only superpower in the world. It has great influence over world finance, trade, culture, military, politics, and technology.
Government[change | change source]
The United States is a federal republic. The federal government of the United States is set up by the Constitution. There are three branches of government. They are the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. State governments work much like the federal government.
Executive branch[change | change source]
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 doesn't 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 business of government. For example, Department of Commerce makes rules about trade and business. 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.
Legislative branch[change | change source]
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. Before the President makes treaties or appoints officials, the Senate must approve them. 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.
Judicial branch[change | change source]
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.
Politics[change | change source]
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 usually 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 also many smaller parties; the largest of these are the Libertarian Party and the Green Party. People give money to political campaigns that they like, and try to persuade politicians to help them. This is called lobbying. All Americans are allowed to lobby the government, 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 want rules to be made to change it.
Since 2009, the president is a Democrat, so Democrats have slightly more power in the federal government. However, there are still many powerful Republicans who can try to stop the Democrats from doing things that they believe will be bad for the country. Also, the Democrats do not always agree with each other on what to do. And if enough people decide to vote against Democrats in the next election, then 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, an especially important topic in American politics, and the politics of many other countries.
Land[change | change source]
The country grew from East to West. It conquered and bought lands. The states are divided into counties. Two states do not use the word "county". Louisiana uses the word "parish". Alaska uses the word "borough". The United States also consists of several other lands that are not states. Most of these are colonial territories, and none is on the North American continent. Some examples are:
The United States also includes one federal district that was split from a state:
- Washington, D.C., the capital.
The Philippines (islands) was once a possession of the United States. Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and other Pacific island nations were once governed by the United States as a United Nations "Trust Territory", but are now independent.
Geography[change | change source]
- 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.
Economy[change | change source]
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. America 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:
Demographics[change | change source]
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.
Money[change | change source]
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 $16,000,000,000,000.
Religion[change | change source]
Native American religions include various animistic practices, including reverence for nature and spirits. 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.
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 (1.7%), 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.
Doubts about the existence of a God, gods or goddesses are higher among young people. Among the non-religious population of the U.S., there are deists, humanists, ignotic, atheists, and agnostics.
Languages[change | change source]
|Spanish, incl. Creole||34.5 million|
|French, incl. Creole||2.0 million|
The United States does not currently have an official language, although 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. However, 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.
Culture[change | change source]
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.
Federal holidays[change | change source]
|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||Washington's Birthday||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||Gives thanks for God's blessings, and 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)|
Flag[change | change source]
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 cleanness. The 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies.
Music[change | change source]
American music is deeply influenced by African-American music, making it different from European music. Elements from folk such as the blues were changed into popular genres with big audiences. Jazz was invented by people like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington in the early 20th century. Country music started in the 1920s, and rhythm and blues in the 1940s.
Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry were among the 1950s stars of rock and roll, and James Brown led the development of funk. More recent American music includes hip hop and house music. American pop stars such as Presley, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Madonna have become world-wide celebrities, as have artists like Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Beyoncé.
References[change | change source]
- 36 U.S.C. § 302 National motto
- Simonson, 2010
- Dept. of Treasury, 2011
- "United States". The World Factbook. CIA. September 30, 2009. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html. Retrieved January 5, 2010 (area given in square kilometers).
- "U.S. POPClock Projection". U.S. Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/population/www/popclockus.html. (figure updated automatically).
- "United States". International Monetary Fund. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2013/01/weodata/weorept.aspx?pr.x=51&pr.y=7&sy=2012&ey=2012&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=111&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC%2CLP&grp=0&a=. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
- "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011". Newsroom. United States Census Bureau. September 12, 2012. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb12-172.html. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
- "Human Development Report 2013". United Nations Development Programme. March 14, 2013. http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR2013_EN_Complete.pdf. Retrieved March 14, 2013.
- Feder, Jody (January 25, 2007). "English as the Official Language of the United States: Legal Background and Analysis of Legislation in the 110th Congress". Ilw.com (Congressional Research Service). http://www.ilw.com/immigrationdaily/news/2007,0515-crs.pdf. Retrieved June 19, 2007.
- Media, Minorities, and Meaning: A Critical Introduction - Page 88, Debra L. Merskin - 2010
- Merica, Dan (2012-06-12). Pew Survey: Doubt of God Growing Quickly among Millennials
- "United States Facts - Ten Interesting and Unusual United States Facts". Geography. http://geography.about.com/od/unitedstatesofamerica/a/unitedstatesfacts.htm. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- "2014 Federal Holidays". U.S Office of Personnel Management. http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/snow-dismissal-procedures/federal-holidays/#url=2014. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
- USA Flag Meaning. 2009 Retrieved from http://www.mapsofworld.com/usa/usa-flag/usa-flag-meaning.html on 16th of September 2010
Other websites[change | change source]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: United States|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide about: United States of America|
Government[change | change source]
- US Constitution in basic English
- Official website of the United States government - Gateway to governmental sites
- The White House - Official site of the Presidential residence
- Senate.gov - Official site of the United States Senate
- House.gov - Official site of the United States House of Representatives
- SCOTUS - Official site of the Supreme Court of the United States
- Portrait of the USA - Published by the United States Information Agency, September 1997.
- US Census Housing and Economic Statistics Updated regularly by US Bureau of the Census.
- CIA world factbook
Other[change | change source]
- National Motto: History and Constitutionality
- Historical Documents
- Reference: US specific web resources sorted by state
- Geography Trainer US States 1.1 game
- United States of America - Citizendium