United States of America
God We Trust (official)
E Pluribus Unum (traditional)
Out of Many, One)
New York City
||None at federal level[a]
Barack Obama (D)
Joe Biden (D)
Speaker of the House
John Boehner (R)
House of Representatives
Independence from the
Kingdom of Great Britain
||July 4, 1776
||September 3, 1783
||June 21, 1788
||9,826,675 km2 [c](3rd/4th)
3,794,101 sq mi
||$15.065 trillion (1st)
||$15.065 trillion (1st)
United States dollar ($) (
|Drives on the
^ a. English is the official language of at least 28
states—some sources give a higher figure, based on differing
definitions of "official".
Hawaiian are both official languages in the state of
^ b. English is the de facto language of
American government and the sole language spoken at home by 80% of
Americans age five and older. Spanish is the
second most commonly spoken language.
^ c. Whether the United States or the
People's Republic of China is larger is
disputed. The figure given is from the U.S.
Central Intelligence Agency's
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 includes people whose
usual residence is in the fifty states and the District of Columbia,
including noncitizens. It does not include either those living in
the territories, amounting to more than 4 million U.S. citizens
Puerto Rico), or U.S. citizens living outside the United States.
The United States of America (also called the United States,
the States, the U.S., the USA, and
America) is a
constitutional republic comprising
fifty states and a
federal district. The country is situated mostly in central
North America, where its
forty-eight contiguous states and
Washington, D.C., the
capital district, lie between the
Atlantic Oceans, bordered by
to the north and
to the south. The state of
is in the northwest of the continent, with Canada to the east and
to the west across the
Bering Strait. The state of
archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also possesses
several territories in the Pacific and
At 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km2) and with
over 312 million people, the United States is the
third or fourth largest country by total area, and the third largest
land area and
population. It is one of the world's most
ethnically diverse and
multicultural nations, the product of large-scale
immigration from many countries.
U.S. economy is the world's largest national economy, with an
GDP of $14.53 trillion (23% of
nominal global GDP and over 19% of global GDP at
Indigenous peoples descended from
migrated from Asia have inhabited what is now the mainland United
States for many thousands of years. This
Native American population was greatly reduced by disease and
European contact. The United States was founded by
thirteen British colonies located along the
Atlantic seaboard. On July 4, 1776, they issued the
Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed their right to
self-determination and their establishment of a cooperative union.
The rebellious states defeated the
British Empire in the
American Revolution, the first successful
colonial war of independence.
United States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787; its
ratification the following year made the states part of a single
republic with a strong central government. The
Bill of Rights, comprising ten
constitutional amendments guaranteeing many
fundamental civil rights and freedoms, was ratified in 1791.
Through the 19th century, the United States displaced native tribes,
Louisiana territory from France,
Florida from Spain, part of the
Oregon Country from the United Kingdom,
Alta California and New Mexico from Mexico,
Alaska from Russia, and annexed the
Republic of Texas and the
Republic of Hawaii. Disputes between the
agrarian South and
industrial North over the expansion of the
institution of slavery and
states' rights provoked the
Civil War of the 1860s. The North's victory prevented a permanent
split of the country and led to the
end of legal slavery in the United States. By the 1870s, its
national economy was the world's largest.
Spanish–American War and
World War I confirmed the country's status as a military power. It
World War II as the
first country with nuclear weapons and a permanent member of the
United Nations Security Council. The end of the
War and the
dissolution of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole
superpower. The country accounts for 41% of
global military spending,
and it is a leading economic, political, and cultural force in the
In 1507, German
Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the
lands of the Western Hemisphere
"America" after Italian explorer and cartographer
The former British colonies first used the country's modern name in the
Declaration of Independence, the "unanimous Declaration of the
thirteen united States of America".
On November 15, 1777, the
Second Continental Congress adopted the
Articles of Confederation, which states, "The Stile of this
Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America.'" The
Franco-American treaties of 1778 used "United States of North America",
but from July 11, 1778, "United States of America" was used on the
bills of exchange, and it has been the official name ever since.
The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms
include the "U.S.", the "USA", and "America". Colloquial names include
the "U.S. of A." and, internationally, the "States". "Columbia",
a once popular name for the United States, derives from
Christopher Columbus; it appears in the name "District
The standard way to refer to a citizen of the United States is as an
Although "United States" is the official appositional term, "American"
and "U.S." are more commonly used to refer to the country adjectivally
("American values", "U.S. forces"). "American" is rarely used in English
to refer to people not connected to the United States.
The phrase "United States" was originally treated as plural—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—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 land area of the
contiguous United States is approximately 1,900 million acres
(7,700,000 km2). Alaska, separated from the contiguous United
States by Canada, is the largest state at 365 million acres (1,480,000
km2). Hawaii, occupying an archipelago in the central
Pacific, southwest of North America, has just over 4 million acres
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).
Including 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
deciduous forests and the rolling hills of the
Appalachian Mountains divide the eastern seaboard from the
Great Lakes and the grasslands of the
River, the world's
fourth longest river system, runs mainly north–south through the
heart of the country. The flat, fertile
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
Sierra Nevada and
Cascade mountain ranges run close to the
Pacific coast. At 20,320 feet (6,194 m), Alaska's
Mount McKinley is the tallest peak in the country and in North
are common throughout Alaska's
Aleutian Islands, and Hawaii consists of volcanic islands. The
Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies is the continent's largest
bald eagle, national bird of the United States since 1782
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
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
coastal California, and
oceanic in coastal
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
occur within the country, mainly in the Midwest's
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
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.
Endangered Species Act of 1973 protects threatened and endangered
species and their habitats, which are monitored by the
United States Fish and Wildlife Service. There are fifty-eight
national parks and hundreds of other federally managed parks,
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.
The United States is a
federal union of fifty states. The original thirteen states were the
successors of the
thirteen colonies that rebelled against British rule. Early in the
country's history, three new states were organized on territory
separated from the claims of the existing states:
North Carolina; and
Massachusetts. Most of the other states have been carved from
territories obtained through war or purchase by the U.S. government. One
set of exceptions comprises
each was an independent republic before joining the union. During the
American Civil War,
West Virginia broke away from Virginia. The most recent
state—Hawaii—achieved statehood on August 21, 1959. The states
do not have the right to
secede from the union.
The states compose the vast bulk of the U.S. land mass; the two other
areas considered integral parts of the country are the District of
federal district where the capital, Washington, is located; and
Palmyra Atoll, an uninhabited but
incorporated territory in the Pacific Ocean. The United States also
possesses five major overseas territories:
Puerto Rico and the
United States Virgin Islands in the Caribbean; and
Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific.
Those born in the major territories (except for American Samoa) possess
American citizens residing in the territories have many of the same
rights and responsibilities as citizens residing in the states; however,
they are generally exempt from federal income tax, may not vote for
president, and have only
nonvoting representation in the U.S. Congress.
Native American and European settlement
indigenous peoples of the U.S. mainland, including
Alaska Natives, are believed to have
migrated from Asia, beginning between 12,000 and 40,000 years ago.
Some, such as the
Mississippian culture, developed advanced agriculture, grand
architecture, and state-level societies. After
Europeans began settling the Americas,
many millions of indigenous Americans died from epidemics of
imported diseases such as smallpox.
Christopher Columbus, under contract to the Spanish crown, reached
several Caribbean islands, making
first contact with the indigenous people. On April 2, 1513, Spanish
Juan Ponce de León landed on what he called "La
Florida"—the first documented European arrival on what would become
the U.S. mainland. Spanish settlements in the region were followed by
ones in the present-day
southwestern United States that drew thousands through Mexico.
French fur traders established outposts of
France around the
Great Lakes; France eventually claimed much of the North American
interior, down to the Gulf of Mexico. The first successful English
settlements were the
Virginia Colony in
Jamestown in 1607 and the
Plymouth Colony in 1620. The 1628 chartering of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony resulted in a wave of migration; by 1634,
New England had been settled by some 10,000
Between the late 1610s and the American Revolution, about 50,000
convicts were shipped to Britain's American colonies.
Beginning in 1614, the Dutch settled along the lower
Hudson River, including
New Amsterdam on
In 1674, the Dutch ceded their American territory to England; the
New Netherland was renamed New York. Many new immigrants, especially
the South, were indentured servants—some two-thirds of all Virginia
immigrants between 1630 and 1680.
By the turn of the 18th century,
African slaves were becoming the primary source of bonded labor.
With the 1729 division of
the Carolinas and the 1732 colonization of
thirteen British 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. All legalized the
African slave trade. With high birth rates, low death rates, and
steady immigration, the colonial population grew rapidly. 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,
francophone population remained politically isolated from the
southern colonies. Excluding the
Native Americans (popularly known as "American Indians"), who were
being displaced, those thirteen colonies had a population of 2.6 million
in 1770, about one-third that of Britain; nearly one in five Americans
were black slaves.
subject to British taxation, the American colonials had no
representation in the
Parliament of Great Britain.
Independence and expansion
Tensions between American colonials and the British during the
revolutionary period of the 1760s and early 1770s led to the
American Revolutionary War, fought from 1775 to 1781. On June 14,
Continental Congress, convening in
Philadelphia, established a
Continental Army under the command of
George Washington. Proclaiming that "all
men are created equal" and endowed with "certain
unalienable Rights", the Congress adopted the
Declaration of Independence, drafted largely by
Thomas Jefferson, on July 4, 1776. That date is now celebrated
annually as America's
Independence Day. In 1777, the
Articles of Confederation established a weak
confederal government that operated until 1789.
British defeat by American forces
assisted by the French and
Spanish, Great Britain
recognized the independence of the United States and the states'
sovereignty over American territory west to the
Mississippi River. Those wishing to establish a strong national
government with powers of taxation organized a
constitutional convention in 1787. The
United States Constitution was ratified in 1788, and the new
first Senate, House of Representatives, and
president—George Washington—took office in 1789. The
Bill of Rights, forbidding federal restriction of
personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protections, was
adopted in 1791.
slavery were shifting; a
clause in the Constitution protected the
transatlantic slave trade only until 1808. The Northern states
abolished slavery between 1780 and 1804, leaving the
slave states of the South as defenders of the "peculiar
Second Great Awakening, beginning about 1800, made
evangelicalism a force behind various social reform movements,
Territorial acquisitions by date
Americans' eagerness to
expand westward prompted a long series of
Indian Wars. The
Louisiana Purchase of French-claimed territory under President
Thomas Jefferson in 1803 almost doubled the nation's size.
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. The
Trail of Tears in the 1830s exemplified the
Indian removal policy that stripped the native peoples of their
land. The United States annexed the
Republic of Texas in 1845, amid a period when the concept of
Manifest Destiny was becoming popular.
Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of the present-day
American Northwest. The U.S. victory in the
Mexican-American War resulted in the
1848 cession of
California and much of the present-day
American Southwest. The
California Gold Rush of 1848–49 further spurred western migration.
New railways made relocation easier for settlers and increased
conflicts with Native Americans. Over a half-century, up to 40 million
American bison, or buffalo, were slaughtered for skins and meat and
to ease the railways' spread. The loss of the buffalo, a primary
resource for the
plains Indians, was an existential blow to many native cultures.
War and industrialization
slave and free states mounted with arguments over the relationship
state and federal governments, as well as
violent conflicts over the spread of slavery into new states.
Abraham Lincoln, candidate of the largely antislavery
Republican Party, was elected president in 1860. Before he took
office, seven slave states declared their secession—which the federal
government maintained was illegal—and formed the
Confederate States of America. With the Confederate
attack upon Fort Sumter, the
Civil War began and four more slave states joined the Confederacy.
Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 declared slaves in the Confederacy
to be free. Following the
Union victory in 1865, three amendments to the U.S. Constitution
ensured freedom for the nearly four million
African Americans who had been slaves,
made them citizens, and
gave them voting rights. The war and its resolution led to a
substantial increase in
The war remains the deadliest conflict in American history, resulting in
the deaths of 620,000 soldiers.
After the war, the
assassination of Lincoln
Reconstruction policies aimed at reintegrating and rebuilding the
Southern states while ensuring the rights of the newly freed slaves. The
resolution of the disputed
1876 presidential election by the
Compromise of 1877 ended Reconstruction;
Jim Crow laws soon
disenfranchised many African Americans. In the North, urbanization
and an unprecedented
influx of immigrants from Southern Southern and Eastern Europe
country's industrialization. The wave of immigration, lasting until
1929, provided labor and transformed American culture. National
infrastructure development spurred economic growth. The 1867
Alaska Purchase from Russia completed the country's mainland
Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 was the last major armed conflict of
the Indian Wars. In 1893, the
indigenous monarchy of the Pacific
Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown in a coup led by American
residents; the United States annexed the archipelago in 1898. Victory in
Spanish–American War the same year demonstrated that the United
States was a
world power and led to the annexation of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the
The Philippines gained independence a half-century later; Puerto Rico
and Guam remain U.S. territories.
World War I, Great Depression, and World War II
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the United States remained
neutral. Most Americans sympathized with the British and French,
although many opposed intervention.
In 1917, the United States joined the
Allies, and the
American Expeditionary Forces helped to turn the tide against the
Central Powers. After the war, the Senate did not ratify the
Treaty of Versailles, which established the
League of Nations. The country pursued a policy of unilateralism,
In 1920, the women's rights movement won passage of a
constitutional amendment granting
women's suffrage. The prosperity of the
Roaring Twenties ended with the
Wall Street Crash of 1929 that triggered the
Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932,
Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the
Deal, a range of policies increasing government intervention in the
economy, including the establishment of the
Social Security system.
Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and
spurred a new wave of western migration.
The United States, effectively neutral during
World War II's early stages after Nazi Germany's
invasion of Poland in September 1939, began supplying materiel to
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 as well as the
internment of Japanese Americans by the thousands.
Participation in the war spurred capital investment and industrial
capacity. Among the major combatants, the United States was the only
nation to become richer—indeed, far richer—instead of poorer because of
Allied conferences at
Bretton Woods and
Yalta outlined a new system of international organizations that
United States and
Soviet Union at the center of world affairs. As
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, having
developed the first nuclear weapons, used them on the Japanese
Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August.
Japan surrendered on September 2, ending the war.
War and protest politics
The United States and Soviet Union jockeyed for power after World War
II during the
War, dominating the military affairs of Europe through
Warsaw Pact, respectively. While they engaged in
wars and developed powerful nuclear arsenals, the two countries
avoided direct military conflict. Resisting leftist land and income
redistribution projects around the world, the United States often
supported authoritarian governments. American troops fought
Communist Chinese forces in the
Korean War of 1950–53. The
House Un-American Activities Committee pursued a series of
investigations into suspected leftist subversion, while Senator
Joseph McCarthy became the figurehead of anticommunist sentiment.
The 1961 Soviet launch of the
manned spaceflight prompted President
John F. Kennedy's call for the United States to be first to land
"a man on the moon", achieved in 1969. Kennedy also faced a
tense nuclear showdown with Soviet forces in Cuba. Meanwhile, the
United States experienced sustained economic expansion. A growing
civil rights movement, symbolized and led by African Americans such
Martin Luther King, Jr., and
James Bevel, used
nonviolence to confront segregation and discrimination. Following
Kennedy's assassination in 1963, the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 and
Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed under President
Lyndon B. Johnson. He also signed into law the
Medicaid programs. Johnson and his successor,
Richard Nixon, expanded a proxy war in Southeast Asia into the
Vietnam War. A widespread
countercultural movement grew, fueled by
opposition to the war,
black nationalism, and the
Gloria Steinem, and others led a
new wave of feminism that sought political, social, and economic
equality for women.
As a result of the
Watergate scandal, in 1974 Nixon became the first U.S. president to
resign, to avoid being
impeached on charges including obstruction of justice and abuse of
Jimmy Carter administration of the late 1970s was marked by
stagflation and the
Iran hostage crisis. The election of
Ronald Reagan as president in 1980 heralded a
rightward shift in American politics, reflected in major changes in
taxation and spending priorities. His second term in office brought
Iran-Contra scandal and significant
diplomatic progress with the Soviet Union. The subsequent Soviet
collapse ended the Cold War.
George H. W. Bush, the United States took a lead role in the
War. The longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history—from
March 1991 to March 2001—encompassed the
Bill Clinton administration and the
civil lawsuit and
sex scandal led to
Clinton's impeachment in 1998, but he remained in office. The
2000 presidential election, one of the closest in American history,
was resolved by a
U.S. Supreme Court decision—George
W. Bush, son of George H. W. Bush, became president.
September 11, 2001,
al-Qaeda terrorists struck the
World Trade Center in New York City and
The Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly three thousand
people. In response, the
Bush administration launched the global
War on Terror,
invading Afghanistan and removing the
government and al-Qaeda training camps.
Taliban insurgents continue to fight a guerrilla war. In 2002, the
Bush administration began to press for
regime change in Iraq on
Forces of a so-called
Coalition of the Willing
invaded Iraq in 2003, ousting
Saddam Hussein. In 2005,
Hurricane Katrina caused severe destruction along much of the
Gulf Coast, devastating
New Orleans. In 2008, amid a global
economic recession, the first African American president,
Barack Obama, was elected. In 2010, major
health care and
financial system reforms were enacted.
Government, elections, and politics
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
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. 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.
The federal government is composed of three branches:
Congress, made up of the
Senate and the
House of Representatives, makes
declares war, approves treaties, has the
power of the purse, and has the power of
impeachment, by which it can remove sitting members of the
president is the
commander-in-chief of the military, can veto
legislative bills before they become law, and appoints the
members of the Cabinet (subject to Senate approval) and other
officers, who administer and enforce federal laws and policies.
Supreme Court and lower
federal courts, whose judges are appointed by the president with
Senate approval, interpret laws and overturn those they find
The House of Representatives has 435 voting members, each
congressional district for a two-year term. House seats are
apportioned among the states by population every tenth year. As of
2000 census, seven states have the minimum of one representative,
while California, the most populous state, has fifty-three. The Senate
has 100 members with each state having two senators, elected
at-large to six-year terms; one third of Senate seats are up for
election every other year. The president serves a four-year term and may
be elected to the office
no more than twice. The president is
not elected by direct vote, but by an indirect
electoral college system in which the determining votes are
apportioned to the states and the
District of Columbia. The Supreme Court, led by the
Chief Justice of the United States, has nine members, who serve for
The state governments are structured in roughly similar fashion;
Nebraska uniquely has a
unicameral legislature. The
governor (chief executive) of each state is directly elected. Some
state judges and cabinet officers are appointed by the governors of the
respective states, while others are elected by popular vote.
The original text of the Constitution establishes the structure and
responsibilities of the federal government and its relationship with the
Article One protects the right to the "great writ" of
habeas corpus, and
Article Three guarantees the
right to a jury trial in all criminal cases.
Amendments to the Constitution require the approval of three-fourths
of the states. The Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times; the
first ten amendments, which make up the
Bill of Rights, and the
Fourteenth Amendment form the central basis of Americans' individual
rights. All laws and governmental procedures are subject to
judicial review and any law ruled in violation of the Constitution
is voided. The principle of judicial review, not explicitly mentioned in
the Constitution, was declared by the Supreme Court in
Marbury v. Madison (1803).
The United States has operated under a
two-party system for most of its history. For elective offices at
most levels, state-administered
primary elections choose the major party nominees for subsequent
general elections. Since the
general election of 1856, the major parties have been the
founded in 1824, and the
founded in 1854. Since the Civil War, only one
third-party presidential candidate—former president
Theodore Roosevelt, running as a
1912—has won as much as 20% of the popular vote.
political culture, the Republican Party is considered center-right
conservative and the Democratic Party is considered center-left or
liberal. The states of the
West Coast and some of the
Great Lakes states, known as "blue
states", are relatively liberal. The "red
states" of the
South and parts of the
Great Plains and
Rocky Mountains are relatively conservative.
The winner of the
2008 presidential election, Democrat
Barack Obama, is the
44th U.S. president. The
2010 midterm elections saw the Republican Party
take control of the House and
make gains in the Senate, where the Democrats retain the majority.
112th United States Congress, the Senate comprises 51 Democrats, two
independents who caucus with the Democrats, and 47 Republicans; the
House comprises 240 Republicans and 192 Democrats—three seats are
vacant. There are 29 Republican and 20 Democratic
state governors, as well as one independent.
Foreign relations and military
The United States exercises global economic, political, and military
influence. It is a permanent member of the
United Nations Security Council and New York City hosts the
United Nations Headquarters. It is a member of the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Almost all
embassies in Washington, D.C., and many have
consulates around the country. Likewise, nearly all nations host
American diplomatic missions. However,
Republic of China (Taiwan) do not have formal diplomatic relations
with the United States.
The United States has a "special
relationship" with the
and strong ties with
and several European countries. It works closely with fellow
members on military and security issues and with its neighbors through
Organization of American States and
free trade agreements such as the trilateral
North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and
Mexico. In 2008, the United States spent a net $25.4 billion on
official development assistance, the most in the world. As a share
of America's large
gross national income (GNI), however, the U.S. contribution of 0.18%
ranked last among twenty-two donor states. By contrast, private overseas
giving by Americans is relatively generous.
The president holds the title of commander-in-chief of the nation's
armed forces and appoints its leaders, the
secretary of defense and the
Joint Chiefs of Staff. The
United States Department of Defense administers the armed forces,
Marine Corps, and
Air Force. The
Coast Guard is run by the
Department of Homeland Security in peacetime and the
Department of the Navy in time of war. In 2008, the armed forces had
1.4 million personnel on active duty. The
National Guard brought the total number of troops to 2.3 million.
The Department of Defense also employed about 700,000 civilians, not
Military service is voluntary, though
conscription may occur in wartime through the
Selective Service System. American forces can be rapidly deployed by
the Air Force's large fleet of transport aircraft, the Navy's eleven
active aircraft carriers, and
Marine Expeditionary Units at sea with the Navy's
Pacific fleets. The military operates 865 bases and facilities
deployments greater than 100 active duty personnel in 25 foreign
The extent of this global military presence has prompted some scholars
to describe the United States as maintaining an "empire of bases".
Total U.S. military spending in 2008, more than $600 billion, was
over 41% of global military spending and greater than the next fourteen
largest national military expenditures combined. The per capita spending
of $1,967 was about nine times the world average; at 4% of GDP, the rate
was the second-highest among the top fifteen military spenders, after
The proposed base
Department of Defense budget for 2012, $553 billion, is a 4.2%
increase over 2011; an additional $118 billion is proposed for the
military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As of September 2010, the United States is scheduled to have 96,000
troops deployed to Afghanistan, and 50,000 to Iraq.
As of July 25, 2011, the United States had suffered 4,474 military
fatalities during the
and 1,680 during the
War in Afghanistan.
The United States has a capitalist
mixed economy, which is fueled by abundant natural resources, a
well-developed infrastructure, and high productivity.
According to the
International Monetary Fund, the U.S. GDP of $15 trillion
constitutes 23% of the
gross world product at market exchange rates and over 20% of the
gross world product at
purchasing power parity (PPP).
Though larger than any other nation's, its national GDP is about 5%
smaller than the GDP of the
European Union at PPP in 2008. The country ranks ninth in the world
nominal GDP per capita and sixth in
GDP per capita at PPP.
U.S. dollar is the world's primary
The United States is the
largest importer of goods and
third largest exporter, though
exports per capita are relatively low. In 2010, the total
U.S. trade deficit was $634.9 billion.
Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, and Germany are its top trading partners.
In 2010, oil was the largest import commodity, while transportation
equipment was the country's largest export.
China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. public debt.
In 2009, the private sector was estimated to constitute 55.3% of the
economy, with federal government activity accounting for 24.1% and state
and local government activity (including federal transfers) the
While its economy has reached a
postindustrial level of development and its
service sector constitutes 67.8% of GDP, the United States remains
an industrial power.
The leading business field by gross business receipts is wholesale and
retail trade; by net income it is manufacturing.
Chemical products are the leading manufacturing field.
The United States is the third largest producer of oil in the world, as
well as its largest importer.
It is the world's number one producer of electrical and nuclear energy,
as well as liquid natural gas, sulfur, phosphates, and salt. While
agriculture accounts for just under 1% of GDP,
the United States is the world's top producer of corn
McDonald's are the two most recognized brands in the world.
In August 2010, the American labor force comprised 154.1 million
people. With 21.2 million people, government is the leading field of
employment. The largest private employment sector is health care and
social assistance, with 16.4 million people. About 12% of workers are
unionized, compared to 30% in Western Europe.
The World Bank ranks the United States first in the ease of hiring and
In 2009, the United States had the third highest labor productivity per
person in the world, behind Luxembourg and Norway. It was fourth in
productivity per hour, behind those two countries and the Netherlands.
Compared to Europe, U.S. property and corporate
income tax rates are generally higher, while labor and,
particularly, consumption tax rates are lower.
and human development
According to the
United States Census Bureau, the pretax
median household income in 2010 was $49,445. The median ranged from
$64,308 among Asian American households to $32,068 among African
Using purchasing power parity exchange rates, the overall median is
similar to the most affluent cluster of
developed nations. After declining sharply during the middle of the
20th century, poverty rates have plateaued since the early 1970s, with
11–15% of Americans below the poverty line every year, and 58.5%
spending at least one year in poverty between the ages of 25 and 75.
In 2010, 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty, a figure that rose for
the fourth year in a row.
welfare state is one of the least extensive in the developed world,
relative poverty and
absolute poverty by considerably less than the mean for rich
though combined private and public social expenditures per capita are
While the American welfare state effectively reduces poverty among the
it provides relatively little assistance to the young.
UNICEF study of children's well-being in twenty-one industrialized
nations ranked the United States next to last.
Between 1947 and 1979,
real median income rose by over 80% for all classes, with the
incomes of poor Americans rising faster than those of the rich.
However, income gains since then have been slower, less widely shared,
and accompanied by increased economic insecurity.
Median household income has increased for all classes since 1980,
largely owing to more dual-earner households, the closing of the
gender gap, and longer work hours, but the growth has been strongly
tilted toward the very top.
Consequently, the share of income of the top 1%—21.8% of total reported
income in 2005—has more than doubled since 1980,
leaving the United States with the greatest income inequality among
The top 1% pays 27.6% of all federal taxes, while the top 10% pays
Wealth, like income, is highly concentrated: The richest 10% of the
adult population possesses 69.8% of the country's household wealth, the
second-highest share among developed nations.
The top 1% possesses 33.4% of net wealth.
In 2010 the
United Nations Development Programme ranked the United States 12th
among 139 countries on its
inequality-adjusted human development index (IHDI), eight places
lower than in the standard
The United States has been a leader in scientific research and
technological innovation since the late 19th century. In 1876,
Alexander Graham Bell was awarded the first U.S.
patent for the telephone.
Thomas Edison's laboratory developed the
phonograph, the first
long-lasting light bulb, and the first viable
Nikola Tesla pioneered
alternating current, the
motor, and radio. In the early 20th century, the automobile
Ransom E. Olds and
Henry Ford popularized the
assembly line. The
Wright brothers, in 1903, made the
first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight.
The rise of
in the 1930s led many European scientists, including
Albert Einstein and
Enrico Fermi, to immigrate to the United States. During World War
Manhattan Project developed nuclear weapons, ushering in the
Atomic Age. The
Space Race produced rapid advances in rocketry,
materials science, and computers.
Apple Computer, and
Microsoft refined and popularized the
personal computer. The United States largely developed the
and its successor, the
Internet. Today, 64% of research and development funding comes from
the private sector.
The United States leads the world in scientific research papers and
Americans possess high levels of technological consumer goods,
and almost half of U.S. households have
broadband Internet access.
The country is the primary developer and grower of
genetically modified food, representing half of the world's biotech
Personal transportation is dominated by automobiles, which operate on
a network of 13 million roads,
including the world's
longest highway system.
The world's second largest automobile market,
the United States has the highest rate of per-capita vehicle ownership
in the world, with 765 vehicles per 1,000 Americans.
About 40% of
personal vehicles are vans,
SUVs, or light trucks.
The average American adult (accounting for all drivers and nondrivers)
spends 55 minutes driving every day, traveling 29 miles (47 km).
Mass transit accounts for 9% of total U.S. work trips,
ranking last in a survey of 17 countries.
transport of goods by rail is extensive, relatively few people use
rail to travel.
Light rail development has increased in recent years but, like
high speed rail, is below European levels.
Bicycle usage for work commutes is minimal.
The civil airline industry is entirely privately owned and has been
deregulated since 1978, while most major airports are publicly
owned. The four largest airlines in the world by passengers carried are
Southwest Airlines is number one.
Of the world's thirty busiest passenger airports, sixteen are in the
United States, including the busiest,
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
United States energy market is 29,000
terawatt hours per year.
Energy consumption per capita is 7.8 tons of oil equivalent per
year, the 10th highest rate in the world. In 2005, 40% of this energy
came from petroleum, 23% from coal, and 22% from natural gas. The
remainder was supplied by nuclear power and
renewable energy sources.
The United States is the world's largest consumer of petroleum.
nuclear power has played a limited role relative to many other
developed countries, in part due to public perception in the wake of a
1979 accident. In 2007, several applications for new nuclear plants
The United States has 27% of global coal reserves.
Harvard University, the country's oldest institution of higher
learning and its first corporation, is one of the most prestigious
universities in the world.
public education is operated by state and local governments,
regulated by the
United States Department of Education through restrictions on
federal grants. Children are required in most states to attend school
from the age of six or seven (generally,
first grade) until they turn eighteen (generally bringing them
twelfth grade, the end of
high school); some states allow students to leave school at sixteen
About 12% of children are enrolled in
private schools. Just over 2% of children are
The United States has many competitive private and public
institutions of higher education. According to prominent
international rankings, 13 or 15 American colleges and universities are
ranked among the top 20 in the world.
There are also local
community colleges with generally more open admission policies,
shorter academic programs, and lower tuition. Of Americans twenty-five
and older, 84.6% graduated from high school, 52.6% attended some
college, 27.2% earned a
bachelor's degree, and 9.6% earned graduate degrees.
literacy rate is approximately 99%.
The United Nations assigns the United States an Education Index of 0.97,
tying it for 12th in the world.
The United States life expectancy of 78.3 years at birth is ranked
36th among 194 United Nations member states; while above the world
average, it falls short of the overall figure in Western Europe.
Increasing obesity in the United States and health improvements
elsewhere have contributed to lowering the country's rank in life
expectancy from 1987 to 2007, from 11th to 42nd in the world.
The infant mortality rate of 6.37 per thousand places the United States
42nd out of 221 countries, above average but behind all of Western
one-third of the adult population is obese and an additional third
the obesity rate, the highest in the industrialized world, has more than
doubled in the last quarter-century.
type 2 diabetes is considered epidemic by health care professionals.
The U.S. health care system far
outspends any other nation's, measured in both per capita spending
and percentage of GDP.
World Health Organization ranked the U.S. health care system in 2000
as first in responsiveness, but 37th in overall performance.
Health care coverage in the United States is a combination of public
and private efforts, and is not
universal as in all other developed countries. In 2004, private
insurance paid for 36% of personal health expenditures, private
out-of-pocket payments covered 15%, and federal, state, and local
governments paid for 44%.
In 2005, 46.6 million Americans, 15.9% of the population, were
uninsured, 5.4 million more than in 2001. The main cause of this rise is
the drop in the number of Americans with employer-sponsored health
The subject of uninsured and underinsured Americans is a major political
A 2009 study estimated that lack of insurance is associated with nearly
45,000 deaths a year.
Massachusetts became the first state to mandate universal health
Federal legislation passed in early 2010 will create a
near-universal health insurance system around the country by 2014.
Law enforcement in the United States is primarily the responsibility
of local police and
state police providing broader services. Federal agencies such as
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the
U.S. Marshals Service have specialized duties. At the federal level
and in almost every state, jurisprudence operates on a
common law system. State courts conduct most criminal trials;
federal courts handle certain designated crimes as well as certain
appeals from the state systems.
Federal law prohibits a variety of drugs, although states sometimes
pass laws in conflict with federal regulations. The
smoking age is generally 18 and the
drinking age is generally 21.
Among developed nations, the United States has above-average levels
of violent crime and particularly high levels of
gun violence and homicide.
There were 5.0 murders per 100,000 persons in 2009, 10.4% fewer than in
Gun ownership rights are the subject of
contentious political debate.
The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate
and total prison population
in the world. At the start of 2008, more than 2.3 million people were
incarcerated, more than one in every 100 adults.
The current rate is about seven times the 1980 figure,
and over three times the figure in Poland, the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
country with the next highest rate.
African American males are jailed at about six times the rate of white
males and three times the rate of Hispanic males.
The country's high rate of incarceration is largely due to
Though it has been abolished in most Western nations, capital
punishment is sanctioned in the United States for certain federal and
military crimes, and in thirty-four states. Since 1976, when the U.S.
reinstated the death penalty after a four-year moratorium, there
have been more than 1,000 executions.
In 2010, the country had the fifth highest number of executions in the
world, following China,
North Korea, and
Jersey became the first state to legislatively abolish the death
penalty since the 1976 Supreme Court decision, followed by
Mexico in 2009 and
Illinois in 2011.
Largest ancestry groups by county, 2000
U.S. Census Bureau estimates the country's population now to be
including an estimated 11.2 million
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
India, the United States is the only industrialized nation in which
large population increases are projected.
Even with a birth rate of 13.82 per 1,000, 30% below the world average,
population growth rate is positive at 1%, significantly higher than
those of many developed nations.
In fiscal year 2010, over 1 million
immigrants (most of whom entered through
family reunification) were granted
Mexico has been the leading source of new residents for over two
decades; since 1998, China, India, and the Philippines have been in the
top four sending countries every year.
The United States has a very
ancestry groups have more than one million members.
White Americans are the largest
Irish Americans, and
English Americans constitute three of the country's four largest
African Americans are the nation's largest
racial minority and third largest ancestry group.
Asian Americans are the country's second largest racial minority;
the two largest Asian American ethnic groups are
Chinese Americans and
In 2010, the U.S. population included an estimated 5.2 million people
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
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
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; as of 2007, 12.6% of the U.S.
population was foreign-born, with 54% of that figure born in
Fertility is also a factor; the average Hispanic woman gives birth to
3.0 children in her lifetime, compared to 2.2 for non-Hispanic black
women and 1.8 for non-Hispanic white women (below the
replacement rate of 2.1).
Minorities (as defined by the Census Bureau as all those beside
non-Hispanic, non-multiracial whites) constitute 36.3% of the population
and are projected to constitute the majority by 2042.
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 1 million residents, and four
global cities had over 2 million (New
There are fifty-two
metropolitan areas with populations greater than 1 million.
Of the fifty fastest-growing metro areas, forty-seven are in the West or
The metro areas of
Phoenix all grew by more than a million people between 2000 and
Leading population centers
||Metro area pop.
Metropolitan Statistical Area
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA MSA
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA MSA
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI MSA
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX MSA
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD MSA
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX MSA
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL MSA
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH MSA
based on the 2010 U.S. Census
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 2007, about
226 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 twenty-eight states.
Hawaiian and English are official languages in Hawaii by state law.
While neither has an official language,
Mexico has laws providing for the use of both English and Spanish,
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
Chamorro are recognized by American Samoa and Guam, respectively;
Carolinian and Chamorro are recognized by the Northern Mariana
Islands; Spanish is an official language of Puerto Rico.
Presbyterian church; most Americans identify as Christian.
The United States is officially a
secular nation; the
First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free
exercise of religion and forbids the establishment of any
religious governance. In a 2002 study, 59% of Americans said that
religion played a "very important role in their lives", a far higher
figure than that of any other wealthy nation.
According to a 2007 survey, 78.4% of adults identified themselves as
down from 86.4% in 1990.
Protestant denominations accounted for 51.3%, while
Roman Catholicism, at 23.9%, was the largest individual
denomination. The study categorizes white
evangelicals, 26.3% of the population, as the country's largest
another study estimates evangelicals of all races at 30–35%.
The total reporting non-Christian religions in 2007 was 4.7%, up from
3.3% in 1990.
The leading non-Christian faiths were
Hinduism (0.4%), and
Unitarian Universalism (0.3%).
The survey also reported that 16.1% of Americans described themselves as
or simply having
religion, up from 8.2% in 1990.
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 mostly work outside the home and receive a majority of
Same-sex marriage is a contentious issue. Some states permit
civil unions or
domestic partnerships in lieu of marriage. Since 2003,
several states have legalized gay marriage as the result of judicial
or legislative action. Meanwhile, the
federal government and a majority of states define marriage as
between a man and a woman and/or explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage.
Public opinion on the issue has shifted from general opposition in
the 1990s to a statistical deadlock
as of 2011.
The U.S. teenage pregnancy rate, 79.8 per 1,000 women, is the highest
among OECD nations.
Abortion policy was left to the states until the Supreme Court
legalized the practice in 1972. The issue remains highly
public opinion closely divided for many years.
Many states ban public funding of the procedure and restrict
late-term abortions, require parental notification for minors, and
mandate a waiting period. 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.
American cultural icons: apple pie, baseball, and the
The United States is a
multicultural nation, home to a wide variety of ethnic groups,
traditions, and values.
Aside from the now small
Native American and
Native Hawaiian populations, nearly all Americans or their ancestors
immigrated within the past five centuries.
The culture held in common by most Americans—mainstream American
Western culture largely derived from the
traditions of European immigrants with influences from many other
sources, such as
traditions brought by slaves from Africa.
More recent immigration from
Asia and especially
Latin America has added to a cultural mix that has been described as
both a homogenizing
melting pot, and a heterogeneous
salad bowl in which immigrants and their descendants retain
distinctive cultural characteristics.
American culture is considered the most
individualistic in the world.
American Dream, or the perception that Americans enjoy high
social mobility, plays a key role in attracting immigrants, other
developed nations offer greater social mobility.
While the mainstream culture holds that the United States is a
scholars identify significant differences between the country's social
socialization, language, and values.
American middle and professional class has initiated many
contemporary social trends such as
environmentalism, and multiculturalism.
Americans' self-images, social viewpoints, and cultural expectations are
associated with their occupations to an unusually close degree.
While Americans tend greatly to value socioeconomic achievement, being
ordinary or average is generally seen as a positive attribute.
The world's first commercial motion picture exhibition was given in
New York City in 1894, using
Kinetoscope. The next year saw the first commercial screening of a
projected film, also in New York, and the United States was in the
sound film's development in the following decades. Since the early
20th century, the U.S. film industry has largely been based in and
Hollywood, California. Director
D. W. Griffith was central to the development of
film grammar and
Citizen Kane (1941) is frequently cited as the greatest film of
American screen actors like
John Wayne and
Marilyn Monroe have become iconic figures, while
Walt Disney was a leader in both
animated film and movie
major film studios of Hollywood have produced the most commercially
successful movies in history, such as
Star Wars (1977) and
Titanic (1997), and the products of Hollywood today dominate the
global film industry.
Americans are the heaviest television viewers in the world,
and the average viewing time continues to rise, reaching five hours a
day in 2006.
The four major broadcast networks are all commercial entities. Americans
listen to radio programming, also largely commercialized, on average
just over two-and-a-half hours a day.
search engines, the most popular websites are
The rhythmic and lyrical styles of
African-American music have deeply influenced
American music at large, distinguishing it from European traditions.
folk idioms such as the
what is now known as
old-time music were adopted and transformed into
popular genres with global audiences.
developed by innovators such as
Louis Armstrong and
Duke Ellington early in the 20th century.
Country music developed in the 1920s, and
rhythm and blues in the 1940s.
Elvis Presley and
Chuck Berry were among the mid-1950s pioneers of
rock and roll. In the 1960s,
Dylan emerged from the
folk revival to become one of America's most celebrated songwriters
James Brown led the development of
recent American creations include
hip hop and
house music. American pop stars such as Presley,
Michael Jackson, and
Madonna have become global celebrities.
Literature, philosophy, and the arts
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, American art and literature
took most of its cues from Europe. Writers such as
Edgar Allan Poe, and
Henry David Thoreau established a distinctive American literary
voice by the middle of the 19th century.
Mark Twain and poet
Walt Whitman were major figures in the century's second half;
Emily Dickinson, virtually unknown during her lifetime, is now
recognized as an essential American poet.
A work seen as capturing fundamental aspects of the national experience
and character—such as
Moby-Dick (1851), Twain's
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), and
F. Scott Fitzgerald's
The Great Gatsby (1925)—may be dubbed the "Great
Eleven U.S. citizens have won the
Nobel Prize in Literature, most recently
Toni Morrison in 1993.
William Faulkner and
Ernest Hemingway are often named among the most influential writers
of the 20th century.
Popular literary genres such as the
hardboiled crime fiction developed in the United States. The
Beat Generation writers opened up new literary approaches, as have
postmodernist authors such as
Thomas Pynchon, and
transcendentalists, led by Thoreau and
Ralph Waldo Emerson, established the first major
American philosophical movement. After the Civil War,
Charles Sanders Peirce and then
William James and
John Dewey were leaders in the development of
pragmatism. In the 20th century, the work of
W. V. Quine and
Richard Rorty, built upon by
Noam Chomsky, brought
analytic philosophy to the fore of U.S. academics.
John Rawls and
Robert Nozick led a revival of
In the visual arts, the
Hudson River School was a mid-19th-century movement in the tradition
realist paintings of
Thomas Eakins are now widely celebrated. The 1913
Armory Show in New York City, an exhibition of European
modernist art, shocked the public and transformed the U.S. art
Marsden Hartley, and others experimented with new styles, displaying
a highly individualistic sensibility. Major artistic movements such as
abstract expressionism of
Jackson Pollock and
Willem de Kooning and the
Andy Warhol and
Roy Lichtenstein developed largely in the United States. The tide of
modernism and then
postmodernism has brought fame to American architects such as
Frank Lloyd Wright,
Philip Johnson, and
One of the first major promoters of
American theater was impresario
P. T. Barnum, who began operating a lower
Manhattan entertainment complex in 1841. The team of
Harrigan and Hart produced a series of popular
musical comedies in New York starting in the late 1870s. In the 20th
century, the modern musical form emerged on
Broadway; the songs of musical theater composers such as
Cole Porter, and
Stephen Sondheim have become
pop standards. Playwright
Eugene O'Neill won the Nobel literature prize in 1936; other
acclaimed U.S. dramatists include multiple
Pulitzer Prize winners
Edward Albee, and
Though little known at the time,
Charles Ives's work of the 1910s established him as the first major
U.S. composer in the classical tradition, while experimentalists such as
Henry Cowell and
Cage created a distinctive American approach to classical
Aaron Copland and
George Gershwin developed a new synthesis of popular and classical
Isadora Duncan and
Martha Graham helped create
modern dance, while
George Balanchine and
Jerome Robbins were leaders in 20th century ballet. Americans have
long been important in the modern artistic medium of
photography, with major photographers including
Edward Steichen, and
Ansel Adams. The newspaper
comic strip and the
comic book are both U.S. innovations.
Superman, the quintessential comic book
superhero, has become an American icon.
Mainstream American cuisine is similar to that in other Western
countries. Wheat is the primary cereal grain. Traditional American
cuisine uses indigenous ingredients, such as turkey, venison, potatoes,
sweet potatoes, corn, squash, and maple syrup, which were consumed by
Native Americans and early European settlers. Slow-cooked pork and beef
barbecue, crab cakes, potato chips, and chocolate chip cookies are
distinctively American foods.
food, developed by African slaves, is popular around the South and
among many African Americans elsewhere.
Syncretic cuisines such as
are regionally important.
Characteristic dishes such as apple pie, fried chicken, pizza,
hamburgers, and hot dogs derive from the recipes of various immigrants.
French fries, Mexican dishes such as burritos and tacos, and pasta
dishes freely adapted from Italian sources are widely consumed.
Americans generally prefer coffee to tea. Marketing by U.S. industries
is largely responsible for making orange juice and milk ubiquitous
food industry, the world's largest, pioneered the
drive-through format in the 1930s. Fast food consumption has sparked
health concerns. During the 1980s and 1990s, Americans' caloric intake
frequent dining at fast food outlets is associated with what public
health officials call the American "obesity
Highly sweetened soft drinks are widely popular, and sugared beverages
account for 9% of American caloric intake.
Baseball has been regarded as the
national sport since the late 19th century, while
American football is now by several measures the most popular
hockey are the country's next two leading professional team sports.
College football and
basketball attract large audiences. Boxing and horse racing were
once the most watched individual sports, but they have been eclipsed by
auto racing, particularly
Soccer is played widely at the youth and amateur levels.
and many outdoor sports are popular as well.
While most major U.S. sports have evolved out of European practices,
cheerleading are American inventions.
arose from Native American and Native Hawaiian activities that predate
Western contact. Eight
Olympic Games have
taken place in the United States. The United States has won 2,301
medals at the
Summer Olympic Games, more than any other country,
and 253 in the
Winter Olympic Games, the second most.
The nation retains United States customary units, comprising mainly
imperial units such as miles,
degrees Fahrenheit. Distinct units include the U.S. gallon and U.S. pint
volume measurements. The United States is one of only three countries
that do not rely primarily on the
International System of Units. However,
metric units are increasingly used in science, medicine, and many
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