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© 1996-2006
Bob Starkgraf


Britain's American colonies broke with the mother country in 1776 and were recognized as the new nation of the United States of America following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. During the 19th and 20th centuries, 37 new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. The two most traumatic experiences in the nation's history were the Civil War (1861-65) and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Buoyed by victories in World Wars I and II and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US remains the world's most powerful nation-state. The economy is marked by steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology.


North America, bordering both the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean, between Canada and Mexico
Geographic coordinates:
38 00 N, 97 00 W
Map references:
North America
total: 9,629,091 sq km
land: 9,158,960 sq km
water: 470,131 sq km
note: includes only the 50 states and District of Columbia
Area - comparative:
about half the size of Russia; about three-tenths the size of Africa; about half the size of South America (or slightly larger than Brazil); slightly larger than China; about two and a half times the size of Western Europe
Land boundaries:
total: 12,034 km
border countries: Canada 8,893 km (including 2,477 km with Alaska), Mexico 3,141 km
note: US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is leased by the US and thus remains part of Cuba; the base boundary is 29 km
19,924 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
continental shelf: not specified
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the great plains west of the Mississippi River, and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the northwest are ameliorated occasionally in January and February by warm chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains
vast central plain, mountains in west, hills and low mountains in east; rugged mountains and broad river valleys in Alaska; rugged, volcanic topography in Hawaii
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Death Valley -86 m
highest point: Mount McKinley 6,194 m
Natural resources:
coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, timber
Land use:
arable land: 19.32%
other: 80.46% (1998 est.)
permanent crops: 0.22%
Irrigated land:
214,000 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
tsunamis, volcanoes, and earthquake activity around Pacific Basin; hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts; tornadoes in the midwest and southeast; mud slides in California; forest fires in the west; flooding; permafrost in northern Alaska, a major impediment to development
Environment - current issues:
air pollution resulting in acid rain in both the US and Canada; the US is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels; water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; very limited natural fresh water resources in much of the western part of the country require careful management; desertification
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Biodiversity, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Hazardous Wastes
Geography - note:
world's third-largest country by size (after Russia and Canada) and by population (after China and India); Mt. McKinley is highest point in North America and Death Valley the lowest point on the continent


290,342,554 (July 2003 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 20.9% (male 31,098,473; female 29,675,712)
15-64 years: 66.7% (male 96,628,469; female 97,061,559)
65 years and over: 12.4% (male 14,888,185; female 20,990,156) (2003 est.)
Median age:
total: 35.8 years
male: 34.5 years
female: 37.1 years (2002)
Population growth rate:
0.92% (2003 est.)
Birth rate:
14.14 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Death rate:
8.44 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Net migration rate:
3.52 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2003 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 6.75 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.46 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.02 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.14 years
female: 80.05 years (2003 est.)
male: 74.37 years
Total fertility rate:
2.07 children born/woman (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.6% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
900,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
15,000 (2001 est.)
noun: American(s)
adjective: American
Ethnic groups:
white 77.1%, black 12.9%, Asian 4.2%, Amerindian and Alaska native 1.5%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.3%, other 4% (2000)
note: a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the US Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean a person of Latin American descent (including persons of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin) living in the US who may be of any race or ethnic group (white, black, Asian, etc.)
Protestant 56%, Roman Catholic 28%, Jewish 2%, other 4%, none 10% (1989)
English, Spanish (spoken by a sizable minority)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
female: 97% (1979 est.)
total population: 97%
male: 97%
People - note:
note: data for the US are based on projections that do not take into consideration the results of the 2000 census