United States of America:
Capital: Washington, D.C. (606,900)

Language: No official national language; English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7%; Hawaiian is an official language in the state of Hawaii

Currency: U.S. dollar

Religion: the United States has a greater number of religious groups than any other country in the world; Protestant 52%, Roman Catholic 24%; Secular 13.2%; Muslim 1.4%; Judaism 1.3%; Mormon 2%; Others: 8%; Regular church attendance: 44%

Area: 3.5 million square miles (9,631,418 km²); 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); about the same size as China; almost two and a half times the size of the European Union

By total area including water, the United States is either slightly larger or smaller than the People’s Republic of China, making it the world’s third or fourth largest nation. Its rank depends on whether one includes Taiwan and two territories claimed by India but governed by China when calculating China’s size. By land area (exclusive of waters), the United States is the world’s third largest country, following Russia and China.

Population: 301 million (3rd most populated country in world); population density of 29.77 persons per sq. km.; population growth rate: 0.894%; Spanish population has increased 61% or more since 1970; 3.05 migrants/1,000 population

Ethnic groups: white 81.7%, black 12.9%, Asian 4.2%, Amerindian and Alaska native 1%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.2%

Geography: Located in the Western Hemisphere and consists of 50 states (48 contiguous states on the North American continent + Alaska and Hawaii). The contiguous forty-eight states are otherwise bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast. The U.S. also holds several territories in the Pacific & Caribbean. Shares land borders with Canada and Mexico and a water border with Russia. Forested land makes up 24.7% of the land mass.

The geography of the United States varies across their immense area. Within the continental U.S., eight distinct physiographic divisions exist, though each is composed of several smaller physiographic subdivisions. These major divisions are the: 1) Laurentian Highlands (Great Lakes area); 2) Atlantic Plain; 3) Appalachian Highlands; 4) Interior Plains (Great Plains); 5) Interior Highlands (includes the Ozark Plateau); 6) Rocky Mountain System; 7) Intermontane Plateaus (a system of plateaus, basins, ranges and gorges between the Rocky and Pacific Mountain Systems); 8) Pacific Mountain System.

More broadly, the terrain consists of a vast central plain, mountains in the west, hills and low mountains in the east, rugged mountains and broad river valleys in Alaska, and rugged, volcanic topography in Hawaii.

Climate: temperate in most areas, but contains examples of nearly every global climate

Natural Resources: coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, timber

Health: Life Expectancy at Birth total: 78 years; male: 75.15 years; female: 80.97 years; Obesity 30.6%; Infant Mortality Rate: 6.37 deaths/1,000 live births; 2.09 children born/woman

Education: Literacy: 99%; Duration of compulsory education: 12 years; Average age of schooling of adults: 12 years; School life expectancy: 15.2 years

Executive branch (chief of state): President George W. BUSH (since January 2001); Vice President Richard B. CHENEY (since January 2001); note – the president is both the chief of state and head of government
Executive branch – elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by a college of representatives who are elected directly from each state; president and vice president serve four-year terms (eligible for a second consecutive term)

Type of Government: federal democracy

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Independence: July 4, 1776

Judicial Branch: Supreme Court (nine justices; nominated by the president and confirmed with the advice and consent of the Senate; appointed to serve for life); United States Courts of Appeal; United States District Courts; State and County Courts

Legal system: federal court system based on English common law; each state has its own unique legal system, of which all but one (Louisiana, which is still influenced by the Napoleonic Code) is based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Legislative branch: Congress consists of the Senate (100 seats, 2 members are elected from each state by popular vote to serve six-year terms; one-third are elected every two years) and the House of Representatives (435 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)

Constitution: September 1787, effective March 1789

The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $43,500 (2006 est.). In this market-oriented economy, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to enter their rivals’ home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment; their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II. The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a “two-tier labor market” in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households.

The war in March-April 2003 between a US-led coalition and Iraq, and the subsequent occupation of Iraq, required major shifts in national resources to the military. Soaring oil prices in 2005 and 2006 threatened inflation and unemployment, yet the economy continued to grow through year-end 2006. Imported oil accounts for about two-thirds of US consumption. Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups. Population below the poverty line is 12%. Unemployment is 4.8%.

The U.S. is the leading industrial power in the world; industries include petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, telecommunications, chemicals, electronics, food processing, consumer goods, lumber, and mining. Agricultural products include wheat, corn, other grains, fruits, vegetables, cotton, beef, pork, poultry, dairy products, forest products, and fish. The labor force by occupation is: farming, forestry, and fishing 0.7%, manufacturing, extraction, transportation, and crafts 22.9%, managerial, professional, and technical 34.9%, sales and office 25%, other services 16.5%

Condensed History: 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.