UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

The 48 states that make up the continental United States are located in North America between Mexico and Canada. The state of Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between North America and Asia, and the state of Alaska is located on the extreme northwest corner of North America. The United States also controls a number of small islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The nation is the third-largest country in the world in area behind Russia and Canada. It has a total area of 9,629,091 square kilometers (3,717,792 square miles). This total includes the 50 states and the District of Columbia, but not the nation's territories and dependencies. Of this territory, 9,158,960 square kilometers (3,536,274 square miles) are land, while there are 470,131 square kilometers (181,517 square miles) of water. The United States is about one-half the size of Russia, and slightly larger than either Brazil or China. It shares long borders with both Canada (8,893 kilometers or 5,526 miles) and Mexico (3,326 kilometers or 2,066 miles). The nation's total borders are 12,248 kilometers (7,610 miles) long. The Eastern United States borders the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, while the West Coast borders the Pacific Ocean. Areas of Alaska border the Arctic Ocean. In all, the country has 19,924 kilometers (12,380 miles) of coastline. The nation's capital is Washington, D.C., which is located on the East Coast, almost midway between Maine and Florida. The capital has a population of 519,000, but America's largest cities are New York, with a population of 7,428,162, followed by Los Angeles with 3,633,591 people, and Chicago with 2,799,050.

POPULATION.

The population of the United States was estimated to be 275,562,673 in July 2000. Females slightly outnumbered males and there were 0.96 males for every female in the population. This phenomenon is most pronounced among the elderly and is partially the result of longer life spans for women. In the United States, the life expectancy for males is 74.24 years, but 79.9 for females. The elderly are the fastest growing segment of the population and thus have contributed to the "greying" (aging) of the American population. In 2000, those aged 65 and older accounted for 12.64 percent of the population. Meanwhile, those Americans age 14 and younger accounted for 21.25 percent of the population. The most significant factor causing the greying of the population is the aging of the baby-boomers (those people born in the aftermath of World War II when there was rapid population growth or a "boom" period of births). Over the next decade, many of the baby-boomers will reach retirement age, creating new pressures on the health-care and retirement systems. By 2030, the elderly population in the United States will have doubled.

After periods of dramatic population growth early in the 20th century, the American population is now growing at a slow rate of 0.91 percent per year. By 2010, the population is expected to be 297,976,000. The birth rate is 14.2 births per 1,000 people, and the mortality rate is 8.7 deaths per 1,000. The fertility rate is 2.06 children born per woman. Fertility rates have thus stabilized at replacement levels (a point at which there are just enough births to replace the children's parents). Much of the increase in the population is not the result of the birth rate, but rather because of immigration . There are about 3.5 new immigrants to the United States for every

1,000 people in the country. In 1998, there were 660,477 legal immigrants admitted to the United States. In addition, there were an estimated 500,000 to 1 million illegal immigrants.

The American population is one of the most diverse in the world and is constantly changing because of immigration and differences in birth rates. In 1970, non-white minority groups accounted for 16 percent of the population, but by 1998 these groups accounted for 27 percent of the population and estimates are that by 2050, minorities will account for more than 50 percent of the population. Currently, whites make up 72.2 percent of the population. African Americans are the largest minority group at 12.6 percent of the population, followed by Hispanics at 10.6 percent, Asians at 3.7 percent, and Native Americans at 0.8 percent. However, between 2005 and 2010, Hispanics are expected to overtake African Americans to become the largest minority group. The largest ethnic group in the United States is the Germans (42.9 percent), followed by the Irish (28.6 percent), Africans (12.6 percent), and the Italians (10.8 percent).

For most of its history the United States was a rural nation, but through the 20th century there was increasing urbanization. In 2000, 76 percent of the American population lived in urban areas and 53 percent lived in or near the nation's 20 largest cities. There are now 9 cities in the United States that have populations of more than 1 million people. In order of size, they are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Dallas. In addition, there are a number of cities, including Detroit and San Jose, with populations near 1 million.

Despite the nation's size, the population density of the United States is relatively low. There are 28.4 people per square kilometer (73.5 people per square mile) in the United States. However, this density is uneven. For instance, the population density of New York City is 8,880 per square kilometer (23,000 per square mile). The state with the highest population density is New Jersey (386 people per square kilometer, or 1,000 per square mile). Alaska has the lowest density with less than 1 person per square kilometer (at about 1 person per square mile). The United States also has one of the most mobile populations in the world. Although 84 percent of the population lives in the same residence as they have for the past 5 years, the average American will move 6 times during his or her lifetime.

MANUFACTURING AND CONSTRUCTION.

The strong economy of the 1990s produced record profits for many American manufacturing firms. Sales of manufactured goods totaled $354.9 billion in 1999. One result of this has been increased investment in new factories and equipment and in research and development of new products. Profits in industry have also been aided by the increased productivity of workers. New investment by industry increased by 9 percent since 1995.

In the manufacturing sector, durable goods (products that are designed to last 5 years or more) accounted for 9.5 percent of the nation's GDP while non-durable goods, such as food or clothing, accounted for 6.9 percent of GDP. In 2000, the main durable goods were electronic products, motor vehicles, industrial machinery, fabricated metal products, lumber and wood products, and other transportation goods (including airplanes and aerospace equipment). In 1999, there were 11.1 million people employed in the manufacture of durable goods. The main non-durable goods sectors were food and foodstuffs, printing and publishing, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, rubber and plastics, textiles and clothing, and tobacco. In 1999, there were 7.44 million Americans working in the non-durable goods production sector of the economy.

Because of increased production, many American workers in the manufacturing sector worked more than 40 hours a week in order to keep up with demand. In 1999, the average manufacturing employee worked 4.6 hours of overtime per week. Average earnings in the manufacturing sector were $13.24 per hour. This marked a 3.3 percent increase in earnings from the previous year. American manufacturing companies were operating at about 82 percent of total capacity in 1999. In comparison, throughout the 1980s and early 1990s these companies were operating at an average of only 76 percent of capacity. The greatest gains in productivity in the manufacturing sector were in electronics, industrial machinery, and automobile production.

In 1999, 6.4 million Americans worked in the construction industry. The total value of new construction that same year was $764 billion. This included $172.1 billion worth of construction by local, state, and national governments. There were 1.66 million new houses built and 299,700 business structures completed.

ENERGY AND MINING.

The United States produces 74 percent of its energy needs. The nation has significant reserves of coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric power. The United States has the sixth-largest reserves of natural gas and is one of the world's largest producers of gas. The United States is also the third-largest exporter of coal. The nation has the twelfth-largest reserves of oil, but it is one of the world's largest importers of oil. About 57 percent of the oil consumed in the United States is imported. The majority of the nation's oil production is concentrated in Alaska, Texas, Louisiana, and California. Although profits for U.S. energy companies have doubled since 1990, many companies have shifted their efforts to develop new oil fields overseas. The 15 largest U.S. energy companies now have operations in such diverse places as Asia, Africa, and South America. There has been increased consolidation in the energy field. In 1999, Exxon and Mobil merged to form the largest private energy company in the world, worth $81 billion. This was followed in 2000 by a merger announcement between Chevron and Texaco. Rising oil prices in the United States contributed to the economic slowdown that began in 2000.

Non-fuel mineral production in the United States in 1997 amounted to $39.6 billion. The major minerals included zinc, lead, gold, iron ore, phosphates, and platinum. Eleven states accounted for 56 percent of total production. There were also $26.7 billion worth of mineral commodities produced. The main commodities were crushed stone, cement, copper, sand, lime and clays. Many of these products were used in the construction industry. In 1999, mining employed about 535,000 people.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY.

One of the fastest growing areas of the U.S. economy is IT. This includes the development of computer software and computer applications for business and government, as well as new methods of communication. The IT sector also covers systems that integrate new technologies. For instance, IT includes systems that link Internet access and mobile phones. Although IT accounts for only a small part of the U.S. GDP (8.3 percent in 2000), it is responsible for one-third of new output. In addition, spending on IT software and services accounted for 11 percent of the 14 percent increase in business spending on procurement in 2000. IT was also responsible for a 30 percent growth in personal income. Most of the technology involved in this sector of the economy was invented before 1990, including the personal computer, fax machine, cellular phone and Internet. It has only been since 1995 that systems have been developed that integrate these new technologies.

RETAIL.

Retail and wholesale trade has posted substantial growth since 1993. By 2000, retail and wholesale trade employed 25 percent of all workers in the private sector and accounted for 19.3 percent of all businesses. Strong sales in these sectors have been bolstered by increases in productivity. Average worker productivity has increased by about 5 percent per year since 1995. Wages in the retail sector are far lower than the national average. In 1999, the average wage for retail workers was $9.08 per hour, while the national average wage was $13.24 per hour. In addition, retail workers usually work less than 40 hours per week (on average just 29 hours) and often do not have benefits such as health insurance and retirement.

Increases in sales and productivity have meant dramatic profits for many retailers. However, many companies have not been able to compete with the mega-retail firms such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target. By 2001, many of the country's oldest and most respected firms—including Montgomery Ward and Bradlees— were bankrupt. Wal-Mart is the nation's number-one retail store, and in 2000, it came in second place only to General Electric in overall sales among all American companies (including such firms as Ford, Microsoft, and Exxon Mobil). The number-two retail firm was Home Depot. Along with this trend has been the slow demise of the mom-and-pop stores (small, independent, often family-owned businesses that are usually involved in retail ventures such as service stations and neighborhood grocery stores). One of the fastest growing segments of the retail sector is e-commerce (business that is conducted through the Internet). The United States currently leads the world in e-commerce. In 2000, e-commerce was worth $35 billion in the United States as 11 million consumers purchased products via the Internet. However, initial estimates of wild growth in the sector have not come true and many online companies have struggled to become profitable. Official government estimates were that e-commerce would be worth $800 billion by 2005, but new estimates place that figure at only $230 billion.

DEPENDENCIES

GUAM.

As part of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-America War in 1898, Guam became part of the United States. The island is currently a dependency of the nation, but many on Guam seek commonwealth status, like Puerto Rico, which would give the territory increased autonomy and control over its government and economy. The territory has an elected governor and assembly and sends 1 non-voting representative to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Guam is located in the Pacific Ocean and has an area of 541 square kilometers (211 square miles). Its population is 150,000. The territory's GDP is $4.6 billion and its GDP per capita is $24,000. Guam uses the American dollar as its currency. There is a substantial U.S. military presence in Guam, with 23,000 troops and their dependents. The main products and industries of Guam's economy include petroleum products, tourism, retail sales, construction materials, and fish. Its main trading partners are the United States and Japan.

In 1997, Guam had a total of 2,707 businesses, which ranged from construction companies to retail stores and included hotels and a variety of service companies. Total employment on Guam in 1997 was 42,477 (this does not include the military and those engaged in subsistence farming and fishing). Tourism plays a strong part in the territory's economy and hotels and motels had $460 million in revenues in 1997, while tourist shops and souvenir businesses had $415.9 million in sales. Total sales for the retail sector were $1.8 billion. Total employees numbered 15,334. Two factors have helped maintain the growth of the retail industry. The first is sales to military families. The second is sales to foreign tourists. Guam allows tourists to buy goods without paying a sales tax. Since U.S. products are cheaper on Guam than in Japan, this tax-break further lowers the cost and has made the island a popular stop for Japanese tourists to shop. The island is also home to the world's largest K-Mart store.

Behind retail and tourism, all other service industries including, legal, medical, maintenance and transportation services had combined total revenues of $1.18 billion and employed 15,336 people. Manufacturing and construction made up only a small part of the economy. In 1997, manufacturing employed 1,320 people and had revenues of $164 million. Construction employed 7,094 people and had revenues of $505 million.

During the 1990s, the economy of Guam expanded significantly. Although construction was down by 29 percent during the decade, most other segments of the economy have posted impressive gains. Retail sales were up by 65 percent while wholesale revenues have increased by 120 percent. Service revenues have increased by 81 percent and manufacturing by 49 percent. This growth has led to a higher inflation rate than the American average, 4 percent compared with 1.7 percent. The economy will likely continue to grow in the near future. The island's dependency on food imports and tourism makes it vulnerable to price increases and economic slowdowns by its major trade partners.

THE VIRGIN ISLANDS.

The territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands consists of 3 islands and small cays (low island or reef) in the Caribbean. The 3 main islands are St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. Combined, these islands have a total area of 350 square kilometers (135 square miles). The total population of the territory is 125,000. The majority of the population lives on St. Croix and St. Thomas (only about 4,500 people live on St. John).

In 1997, the GDP of the Virgin Islands was $2.3 billion and its per capita GDP was $17,000. The economy of the Virgin Islands employs about 41,800 people. There are a further number of seasonal jobs that are dependent on tourism, and a percentage of the population works outside of regular businesses in subsistence farming and fishing. The dominant industry is tourism. There is also a significant retail sector in the islands and some minor oil refining. The territory's main trade partners are the United States and Puerto Rico. The majority of the citizens of the islands are of African descent (75 percent), but there is also a significant community of whites who moved to the islands from the United States (13 percent) as well as Puerto Ricans (5 percent).

Because of their strategic importance as naval ports, the United States purchased what is now the U.S. Virgin Islands from Denmark at the outbreak of World War I in 1914 for $25 million. The islands were granted home rule in 1970 and remain unincorporated American territories.

Tourism dominates the economy of the Virgin Islands. Not only does it provide income for people who directly work in tourist-related activities, but it also drives the retail and service sectors of the economy. The islands are serviced by most major American airlines and many of the world's major cruise lines. About 2 million tourists visit the islands each year. Services, including tourism and retail sales, produced $1.8 billion in revenues in 1997. This represented a 20 percent increase since 1990. Retailers and wholesalers employed about 9,000 people, while other services—including lodging, transportation and personal services—employed 10,600 people.

Industry, mainly oil production and construction, employed 3,500 workers and had a total output of $200 million. A small number of financial institutions have established themselves on the islands. Financial services, including banking, insurance and real estate, employ about 1,900 people.

The economy of the Virgin Islands was stable throughout the 1990s, but the tourist industry experienced a period of slow—and in some years, negative—growth. Crime and high costs prompted many tourists to go elsewhere in the Caribbean. As a result, several major airlines cut service to the territory. A reform program that cut the number of government workers from 12,000 to 10,200 employees caused a slight increase in unemployment. These factors will continue to constrain the economy and limit the potential for future growth.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carson, Thomas, editor. Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999.

Collins, Robert M. More: The Politics of Economic Growth in Postwar America. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Dahms, Harry F., editor. Transformations of Capitalism: Economy, Society, and the State in Modern Times. New York: New York University Press, 2000.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: United States of America. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

"Fiscal Year 2002 Budget." Office of Managment and Budget, Executive Office of the President of the United States. <http://w3.access.gpo.gov/usbudget/index.html> . Accessed October 2001.

Stein, Herbert, and Murray Foss, with Matthew Clement. The Illustrated Guide to the American Economy. Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 1999.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html> . Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Council of Economic Advisers. Changing America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being by Race and Hispanic Origin. <http://w3.access.gpo.gov/eop/ca/index.html> . Accessed February 2001.

The U.S. Economy. Lexington, MA: Standard & Poor's DRI, 1999.

Weis, Linda and John M. Hobson. States and Economic Development: A Comparative Historical Analysis . Cambridge, USA: Polity Press, 1995.

World Trade Organization. Trade Policy Review: United States, July 1999. <http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp108_e.htm#Government%20report> . Accessed October 2001.

Wurman, Richard Saul. Understanding. Newport, RI: TED Conferences, 2000.

Zupnick, Elliot. Visions and Revisions: The United States in the Global Economy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999.

—Tom Lansford

CAPITAL:

Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia).

MONETARY UNIT:

United States dollar ($). One U.S. dollar equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cents and 1 dollar. There are notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 1,000, and 10,000 dollars.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Capital goods, automobiles, industrial supplies and raw materials, consumer goods, and agricultural products.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Crude oil and refined petroleum products, machinery, automobiles, consumer goods, industrial raw materials, and food and beverages.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

$9.963 trillion (2000 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: $776 billion (2000 est.). Imports: $1.223 trillion (2000 est.).

User Contributions:

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Jun 21, 2010 @ 7:07 am
i love america,i will like to spend the rest of my life in the united states of america if i am opportuned.thanks,God bless america
lacey
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Nov 29, 2010 @ 6:18 pm
Was Japan one of the top trading companies in the world before WW2?
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Apr 7, 2011 @ 9:21 pm
hello
my name is alisa and im from iran
plsease help me i need more information about e-commerce
E-commerce Statistics in the world and separate countries
please help me where i can find that information
thaknk ypu very much
alisa- from iran turkmenistan
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May 17, 2011 @ 4:04 am
I love America, it's a great nation and one of the best place to visit. I wish I could get there one day only if the opportunity comes. God Bless America
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Aug 22, 2011 @ 1:13 pm
Could you please give the deminsions of the U.S? I was wondering how long and how wide
(in miles) is our nation.
Brenda
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Oct 4, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
Where is the information about Puerto Rico? And one of the largest U.S. cities, San Juan? I am a mainlander living in Puerto Rico for a few years. I am shocked at how little most OTHER U.S. citizens know about this important commonwealth of the U.S. Check it out.

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