Primary navigation:

QFINANCE Quick Links
QFINANCE Topics
QFINANCE Reference
Add the QFINANCE search widget to your website

Home > Country Profiles Whitaker's Almanack Country Profiles > United States of America

Whitaker's Almanack: United States of America

Information on United States of America

See also QFINANCE article

Whitaker's Almanack Definitions

  • Area – 9,826,675 sq. km
  • Capital – Washington, District of Columbia; population, 4,420,650 (2009 est)
  • Major cities – Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, San José
  • Currency – US dollar (US$) of 100 cents
  • Population – 313,847,465 rising at 0.9 per cent a year (2011 est); white 80 per cent, black 12.9 per cent, Asian 4.4 per cent, Amerindian and Alaskan native 1 per cent, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.2 per cent; Hispanic 15.1 per cent (persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race or ethnic group) (2007 est)
  • Religion – Christian (Protestant 51 per cent, Roman Catholic 24 per cent, Mormon 2 per cent, other 2 per cent), Jewish 2 per cent, Buddhist 1 per cent, Muslim 1 per cent (est)
  • Language – English, Spanish, Hawaiian (official in Hawaii)
  • Population density – 34 per sq. km (2010)
  • Urban population – 82.3 per cent (2010 est)
  • Median age (years) – 36.9 (2011 est)
  • National anthem – 'The Star-Spangled Banner'
  • National day – 4 July (Independence Day)
  • Death penalty – Abolished in 16 states, District of Columbia and US insular territories
  • CPI score – 7.1 (2011)

Back to top

Climate and Terrain

The coastline has a length of about 3,329km on the Atlantic Ocean, 12,268km on the Pacific, 1,705km on the Arctic, and 2,624km on the Gulf of Mexico. The principal river is the Mississippi-Missouri-Red (5,970km long), traversing the whole country from Montana to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico. The Rocky Mountains range runs the length of the western portion of the country. West of this, bordering the Pacific coast, the Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada form the outer edge of a high tableland, consisting partly of stony and sandy desert and partly of grazing land and forested mountains, and including the Great Salt Lake, which extends to the Rocky Mountains. A vast central plain lies between the Rockies and the hills and low mountains of the eastern states, where large forests still exist, remnants of the forests which formerly extended over the entire Atlantic slope. Elevation extremes range from 6,194m (Mt McKinley, Alaska) to −86m (Death Valley, California). The climate varies with latitude but is mostly temperate, with semi-arid conditions on the great plains and arid in the south-west. Average temperatures in Washington DC range from −1°C from December–February to 31°C in July.

Two states are detached: Alaska and Hawaii. Alaska occupies the north-western extremity of North America, separated from the rest of the USA by the Canadian province of British Columbia. The terrain is arctic tundra with mountain ranges, and the climate is arctic. The state of Hawaii is a chain of about 20 mountainous volcanic islands in the north Pacific Ocean, of which the chief islands are Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai and Molokai. The climate is tropical.

The Pacific coast and Hawaii are prone to seismic activity. The Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts frequently experience hurricanes.

Back to top

History and Politics

By the constitution of 17 September 1787 (which has been amended 15 times, most recently in 1992), the government of the USA is entrusted to three separate authorities: the federal executive (the president and cabinet), the legislature (Congress, which consists of a senate and a House of Representatives) and the judicature. The president is indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve a four-year term, and may serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. If a president dies in office, the vice-president serves the remainder of his term. The president appoints the cabinet officers and all the chief officials, subject to confirmation by the senate. He makes recommendations of a general nature to Congress, and when laws are passed, he may return them to Congress with a veto. But, if a measure so vetoed is again passed by both houses by a two-thirds majority in each house, it becomes law, notwithstanding the objection of the president.

Each of the 50 states has its own executive, legislature and judiciary. In theory, they are sovereign, but in practice their autonomy is increasingly circumscribed.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Candidates for the presidency must be at least 35 years of age and a native citizen of the USA. The electoral college for each state is directly elected by universal adult suffrage in the November preceding the January in which the presidential term expires. The number of members of the electoral college is equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state is entitled in the national congress. The electoral college for each state meets in its state in December and each member votes for a presidential candidate by ballot. The ballots are sent to Washington, and opened on 6 January by the president of the senate in the presence of Congress. The candidate who has received a majority of the whole number of electoral votes cast is declared president for the ensuing term. If no one has a majority, then from the highest on the list (not exceeding three) the House of Representatives elects a president, the votes being taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote. A presidential term begins at noon on 20 January.

The 2008 presidential election was won by the Democrat candidate Barack Obama, the first African-American to hold the office. In the 2008 legislative elections, the Democrat Party retained its majorities in both houses of congress. The Democrat majority in the senate was lost in early 2010 but a narrow majority was regained at the November 2010 elections. In the 2010 elections to the House of Representatives, the Democrats lost heavily to the Republicans.

HEAD OF STATE

President, Barack Obama, elected 2008, sworn in 20 January 2009
Vice-President, Joseph Biden

SELECTED GOVERNMENT MEMBERS as at July 2012

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton
Defence, Leon Panetta
Interior, Ken Salazar
Treasury, Timothy Geithner
Secretary for Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano

THE CONGRESS

Legislative power is vested in the bicameral Congress, comprising the senate and the House of Representatives. The senate has 100 members, two from each state, elected for a six-year term, with one-third elected every two years. The House of Representatives has 435 members directly elected in each state for a two-year term; a resident commissioner from Puerto Rico and a delegate each from American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands serve as non-voting members of the house.

Members of the 112th congress were elected on 2 November 2010 and sworn into office on 5 January 2011. As at July 2012, the 112th congress is constituted as follows:

Senate: Democrats 51; Republicans 47; Independent 2
House of Representatives: Democrats 191; Republicans 240
President of the Senate, The Vice-President
Senate majority leader, Harry Reid (D), Nevada
Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner (R), Ohio
House majority leader, Eric Cantor (R), Virginia

THE JUDICATURE

The federal judiciary consists of three sets of federal courts: the Supreme Court at Washington, DC, consisting of a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices; the US court of appeals, consisting of 179 circuit judges within 12 regional circuits and one federal circuit; and the 94 US district courts served by 678 district court judges.

THE SUPREME COURT

US Supreme Court Building, Washington DC 20543
Chief Justice, John Roberts, apptd 2005

UNITED STATES EMBASSY

24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE
T 020-7499 9000 W www.usembassy.org.uk
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, HE Louis B. Susman, apptd 2009

BRITISH EMBASSY

3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008
T (+1) (202) 588 6500 E washi@fco.gov.uk W ukinusa.fco.gov.uk
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Sir Peter Westmacott, KCMG, LVO, apptd 2012

Back to top

The States of the Union

The USA is a federal republic consisting of 50 states and the federal District of Columbia, and also of organised territories. Of the present 50 states, 13 are original states, seven were admitted without previous organisation as territories, and 30 were admitted after such organisation.

§ The 13 original states

(D) Democratic Party; (I) Independent; (R) Republican Party

State (date and order of admission)Area sq. kmPopulation*CapitalGovernor (end of term in office)
Alabama (AL) (1819, 22)133,9154,779,736MontgomeryRobert Bentley (R), Jan. 2015
Alaska (AK) (1959, 49)1,530,694710,231JuneauSean Parnell (R), Dec. 2014
Arizona (AZ) (1912, 48)295,2596,392,017PhoenixJan Brewer (R), Jan. 2015
Arkansas (AR) (1836, 25)137,7542,915,918Little RockMike Beebe (D), Jan. 2015
California (CA) (1850, 31)411,04737,253,956SacramentoJerry Brown (D), Jan. 2015
Colorado (CO) (1876, 38)269,5955,029,196DenverJohn Hickenlooper (D), Jan. 2015
Connecticut (CT) § (1788, 5)12,9973,574,097HartfordDan Malloy (D), Jan. 2015
Delaware (DE) § (1787, 1)5,297897,934DoverJack Markell (D), Jan. 2013
Florida (FL) (1845, 27)151,93918,801,310TallahasseeRick Scott (R), Jan. 2015
Georgia (GA) § (1788, 4)152,5769,687,653AtlantaNathan Deal (R), Jan. 2015
Hawaii (HI) (1959, 50)16,7601,360,301HonoluluNeil Abercrombie (D), Dec. 2014
Idaho (ID) (1890, 43)216,4301,567,582BoiseC. L. (Butch) Otter (R), Jan. 2015
Illinois (IL) (1818, 21)145,93312,830,632SpringfieldPatrick Quinn III (D), Jan. 2015
Indiana (IN) (1816, 19)93,7196,483,802IndianapolisMitchell E. Daniels (R), Jan. 2013
Iowa (IA) (1846, 29)145,7523,046,355Des MoinesTerry Branstad (R), Jan. 2015
Kansas (KS) (1861, 34)213,0972,853,118TopekaSam Brownback (R), Jan. 2015
Kentucky (KY) (1792, 15)104,6614,339,367FrankfortSteve Beshear (D), Dec. 2015
Louisiana (LA) (1812, 18)123,6774,533,372Baton RougeBobby Jindal (R), Jan. 2016
Maine (ME) (1820, 23)86,1561,328,361AugustaPaul LePage (R), Jan. 2015
Maryland (MD) § (1788, 7)27,0915,773,552AnnapolisMartin O'Malley (D), Jan. 2015
Massachusetts (MA) § (1788, 6)21,4556,547,629BostonDeval Patrick (D), Jan. 2015
Michigan (MI) (1837, 26)151,5849,883,640LansingRick Snyder (R), Jan. 2015
Minnesota (MN) (1858, 32)218,6005,303,925St PaulMark Dayton (D), Jan. 2015
Mississippi (MS) (1817, 20)123,5142,967,297JacksonPhil Bryant (R), Jan. 2016
Missouri (MO) (1821, 24)180,5145,988,927Jefferson CityJeremiah (Jay) Nixon (D), Jan. 2013
Montana (MT) (1889, 41)380,848989,415HelenaBrian Schweitzer (D), Jan. 2013
Nebraska (NE) (1867, 37)200,3491,826,341LincolnDave Heineman (R), Jan. 2015
Nevada (NV) (1864, 36)286,3522,700,551Carson CityBrian Sandoval (R), Jan. 2015
New Hampshire (NH) § (1788, 9)24,0331,316,470ConcordJohn Lynch (D), Jan. 2013
New Jersey (NJ) § (1787, 3)20,1688,791,894TrentonChris Christie (R), Jan. 2014
New Mexico (NM) (1912, 47)314,9252,059,179Santa FéSusana Martinez (R), Jan. 2015
New York (NY) § (1788, 11)127,18919,378,102AlbanyAndrew Cuomo (D), Jan. 2015
North Carolina (NC) § (1789, 12)136,4129,535,483RaleighBeverly Perdue (D), Jan. 2013
North Dakota (ND) (1889, 39)183,117672,591BismarckJack Dalrymple (R), Dec. 2014
Ohio (OH) (1803, 17)107,04411,536,504ColumbusJohn Kasich (R), Jan. 2015
Oklahoma (OK) (1907, 46)181,1853,751,351Oklahoma CityMary Fallin (R), Jan. 2015
Oregon (OR) (1859, 33)251,4183,831,074SalemJohn Kitzhaber (D), Jan. 2015
Pennsylvania (PA) § (1787, 2)117,34712,702,379HarrisburgTom Corbett (R), Jan. 2015
Rhode Island (RI) § (1790, 13)3,1391,052,567ProvidenceLincoln Chafee (I), Jan. 2015
South Carolina (SC) § (1788, 8)80,5824,625,364ColumbiaNikki R. Haley (R), Jan. 2015
South Dakota (SD) (1889, 40)199,730814,180PierreDennis Daugaard (R), Jan. 2015
Tennessee (TN) (1796, 16)109,1536,346,105NashvilleBill Haslem (R), Jan. 2015
Texas (TX) (1845, 28)691,02725,145,561AustinRick Perry (R), Jan. 2015
Utah (UT) (1896, 45)219,8882,763,885Salt Lake CityGary Herbert (R), Jan 2013
Vermont (VT) (1791, 14)24,900625,741MontpelierPeter Shumlin (D), Jan. 2013
Virginia (VA) § (1788, 10)105,5868,001,024RichmondBob McDonnell (R), Jan. 2014
Washington (WA) (1889, 42)176,4796,724,540OlympiaChristine Gregoire (D), Jan. 2013
West Virginia (WV) (1863, 35)62,7611,852,994CharlestonEarl Ray Tomblin (D), Jan. 2013
Wisconsin (WI) (1848, 30)145,4365,686,986MadisonScott Walker (R), Jan. 2015
Wyoming (WY) (1890, 44)253,324563,626CheyenneMatthew Mead (R), Jan. 2015
Dist. of Columbia (DC) (1791)179601,723Vincent Gray (D), Jan. 2015 (Mayor)

Outlying Territories and Possessions

Area sq. kmPopulation*CapitalGovernor (end of term in office)
American Samoa19968,061Pago PagoTogiola Tulafono (D), Jan. 2013
Guam541185,674HagatnaEddie Calvo (R), Jan. 2015
Northern Mariana Islands47744,582SaipanBenigno Fitial (C), Jan. 2015
Puerto Rico13,7903,998,905San JuanLuis G. Fortuño (R), Jan. 2013
US Virgin Islands363109,574Charlotte AmalieJohn de Jongh Jr (D), Jan. 2015

* States 2010 estimate; outlying territories 2011 estimate

Back to top

Defence

Each military department is separately organised and functions under the direction, authority and control of the Secretary of Defence (except the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security created in 2002). The air force has primary responsibility for the Department of Defence space development programmes and projects.

Military expenditure – US$689,591m (2011)

All aged 16–49, 2010 estMalesFemales
Available for military service73,270,04371,941,969
Fit for military service60,620,14359,401,941

Back to top

Economy and Trade

The USA is one of the world's leading industrial nations, with a sophisticated market economy that saw huge growth during the 20th century. Economic development was due in part to the mechanisation of the agrarian economy, the expansion of the transport infrastructure and large amounts of relatively cheap migrant labour; more recently it has been driven by rapid advances in technology. In the late 20th century, the economy shifted emphasis from industry to services, and government involvement in the economy was steadily reduced. Until 2008, the economy experienced steady growth, with low unemployment and inflation, although there were large budget and trade deficits, high levels of personal debt and an increasingly uneven distribution of wealth.

The US sub-prime mortgage crisis in 2007 triggered a global economic downturn, and falling property prices and tight credit pushed the domestic economy into recession by mid 2008. Following the failure of several investment banks, Congress passed a US$700bn relief programme to stabilise the financial markets in October 2008, and in spring 2009 a US$787bn fiscal stimulus package and a record US$3.6 trillion budget for 2010 were approved. Despite these measures, the economy still experienced the collapse of key industries (such as vehicle manufacturing), and rising unemployment and inflation before growth restarted in late 2009 after the USA's longest and deepest recession since the 1930s; the budget and trade deficits remain very high. The USA's triple 'A' credit rating was reduced in August 2011 following a deficit reduction plan passed by Congress.

Agriculture is a major industry in the USA; principal crops are wheat, maize, other grains, fruit, vegetables, cotton, meat and dairy products. Agriculture, fishing and forestry contribute 1.2 per cent of GDP and employ 0.7 per cent of the workforce.

Mining and extraction are important to the economy. Large quantities of coal, iron ore, phosphate rock, copper, zinc and lead are mined. About one-third of the country's oil requirements are supplied by domestic production, principally from fields in the Gulf of Mexico. Natural gas is also produced. Despite its domestic oil and natural gas resources and its electricity generating capacity, the USA is a net importer of energy.

The industrial sector is highly diversified and technologically advanced. The main manufacturing industries produce steel, vehicles, aircraft and aerospace equipment, telecommunications equipment, chemicals, electronic equipment and consumer goods, and process food. Industry contributes 19.2 per cent of GDP and services account for 79.6 per cent of GDP.

The main trading partners are Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, Germany and the UK. Principal exports are capital goods (chiefly transistors, aircraft, vehicle parts, computers, telecommunications equipment), industrial supplies (e.g. organic chemicals), consumer goods (cars, medicines) and agricultural produce (soya beans, fruit, maize). The main imports are industrial goods (especially crude oil), consumer goods (cars, clothing, medicines, furniture, toys), capital goods (computers, telecommunications equipment, vehicle parts, office machines, electric power machinery) and agricultural products.

GNI – US$14,635,600m; US$47,390 per capita (2010)
Annual average growth of GDP – 1.5 per cent (2011 est)
Inflation rate – 3 per cent (2011 est)
Population below poverty line – 15.1 per cent (2010 est)
Unemployment – 9.1 per cent (2011 est)
Total external debt – US$14,710,000m (2011)
Imports – US$1,968,070m (2010)
Exports – US$1,277,580m (2010)

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Trade – US$690,490m deficit (2010)
Current Account – US$470,898m deficit (2010)

Trade with UK20102011
Imports from UK£37,436,308,922£38,979,793,542
Exports to UK£34,889,461,456£30,295,972,028

Back to top

Communications

Airports – There are over 15,000 airports; nearly 200 are capable of handling international flights, the rest cater for the high domestic demand

Waterways – The main seaports are at Baton Rouge, Corpus Christi, Hampton Roads, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Oaklands, Plaquemines, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, Savannah, Seattle, Tampa and Texas City

Roadways – There are 6,506,204km of roads, including 75,238km of motorways

Railways – There are 224,792km of railways

Telecommunications – 151 million fixed lines and 279 million mobile subscriptions (2009); there were 245 million internet users in 2009

Internet code and IDD – us; 1 (from UK), 011 44 (to UK)

Major broadcasters – The major television networks are ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, MTV, HBO and the Public Broadcasting System, which serves around 350 local member stations and is partially funded by the government and by private grants

Press – There are more than 1,500 daily newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times

WPFI score – 6,75 (20)

Back to top

Education and Health

All the states have compulsory school attendance laws. In general, children are obliged to attend school from seven to 16 years of age.

Gross enrolment ratio (percentage of relevant age group) – primary 104 per cent; secondary 96 per cent; tertiary 89 per cent (2009 est)
Health expenditure (per capita) – US$7,410 (2009)
Hospital beds (per 1,000 people) – 3.1 (2004–9)
Life expectancy (years) – 78.49 (2012 est)
Mortality rate – 8.39 (2012 est)
Birth rate – 13.68 (2012 est)
Infant mortality rate – 5.98 (2012 est)

Back to top

Culture

The culture of the USA is indebted to the diverse origins of its immigrants; European, African and Latin American influences are particularly strong.

The best-known writers include Mark Twain (1835–1910), Henry James (1843–1916), and poets Walt Whitman (1819–92) and Emily Dickinson (1830–86) in the 19th century; William Faulkner (1897–1962), Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961), John Steinbeck (1902–68), poet Robert Frost (1874–1963) and dramatist Eugene O'Neill (1888–1953) in the early 20th century; and Saul Bellow (1915–2005), John Updike (1932–2009), Philip Roth (b. 1933) and playwrights Arthur Miller (1915–2005) and Tennessee Williams (1911–83) among the post-war generation. African-American literature has been assimilated into the literary canon through the works of James Baldwin (1924-87), Maya Angelou (b. 1928), Toni Morrison (b. 1931) and Alice Walker (b. 1944).

The Hollywood film industry is the most wide-reaching in the world; celebrated film-makers include Walt Disney (1901–66), Orson Welles (1915–85), Stanley Kubrick (1928–99), Martin Scorsese (b. 1942) and Steven Spielberg (b. 1946).

Renowned artists include Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Jackson Pollock (1912–56), Roy Lichtenstein (1923–97) and Andy Warhol (1928–87).

Musical icons include Elvis Presley (1935–77) and Bob Dylan (b. 1941) in rock, Hank Williams (1923–53) and Johnny Cash (1932–2003) in country music, Leadbelly (1888–1949) and Muddy Waters (1915–83) in blues, and Louis Armstrong (1901–71), Miles Davis (1926–91) and John Coltrane (1926–67) in jazz.

Back to top

US Territories Etc

US insular areas are territories that are not part of one of the 50 US states or a federal district. The US Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs has jurisdiction over American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the US Virgin Islands, part of Palmyra Atoll (4 sq. km) and Wake Atoll (6.4 sq. km), the latter shared with the US army's Space and Strategic Defence Command. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has jurisdiction over Baker Island (1.5 sq. km), Howland Island (2.5 sq. km), Jarvis Island (4.2 sq. km), Johnston Atoll (2.5 sq. km, shared with the Defence Threat Reduction Agency), Midway Atoll (5.2 sq. km), Navassa Island (7.8 sq. km), Kingman Reef and part of Palmyra Atoll. The Aleutian Islands (17,666 sq. km) form part of the Alaskan archipelago.

American Samoa

Territory of American Samoa

Area – 199 sq. km
Capital – Pago Pago
Population – 68,061 rising at 1.21 per cent per year (2011 est)
National day – 17 April (Flag Day)

American Samoa consists of the islands of Tutuila, Aunu’u, Ofu, Olosega, Ta’u, Rose Island and Swains Island. The islands were discovered by Europeans in the 18th century and the USA took possession in 1900. Those born in American Samoa are US non-citizen nationals, although some have acquired citizenship through service in the US armed forces or other naturalisation procedures. American Samoa is represented in Congress by a non-voting delegate, who is directly elected for a two-year term. Under the 1966 constitution, American Samoa has a measure of self-government, with certain powers reserved to the US Secretary of the Interior. The governor and deputy governor are directly elected for a four-year term. The bicameral legislative assembly comprises a 21-member House of Representatives (one appointed member and 20 members directly elected for a two-year term) and an 18-seat senate with members elected from among the traditional chiefs for a four-year term. Tuna fishing and canning are the principal economic activities. The economy and infrastructure were severely damaged by a tsunami in 2009.

Governor, Togiola Tulafono (D)

Guam

Guahan – Territory of Guam

Area – 541.3 sq. km
Capital – Hagatna (also known as Agana); population, 149,000 (2007 est)
Population – 185,674 rising at 1.28 per cent per year (2011 est); Chamorro (37 per cent), Filipino (26 per cent), other Pacific islander (11 per cent). The official languages are Chamorro (a language of the Malayo-Polynesian family with admixtures of Spanish) and English; most Chamorro residents are bilingual
National day – first Monday in March (Discovery Day)

Guam is the largest of the Mariana Islands, in the north Pacific Ocean. A Spanish colony for centuries, it was ceded to the USA in 1898 after the Spanish–American War. Guam was occupied by the Japanese in 1941 but was recaptured by US forces in 1944. Any person born in Guam is a US citizen. Guam is represented in Congress by a non-voting delegate, who is directly elected for a two-year term. Under the Organic Act of Guam 1950, Guam has statutory powers of self-government. The governor and lieutenant-governor are directly elected for a four-year term. The 15-member unicameral legislature is directly elected every two years. The main sources of revenue are tourism (particularly from Japan) and US military spending; the military installation is one of the most strategically important US bases in the Pacific.

Governor, Eddie Calvo (R)

Trade with UK20102011
Imports from UK£1,077,570£3,162,433
Exports to UK£13,646£6,342

Northern Mariana Islands

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Area – 464 sq. km
Seat of government – Saipan
Population – 44,582 falling at 2.45 per cent per year (2011 est)
National day – 8 January (Commonwealth Day)

The USA administered the Northern Mariana Islands, a group of 14 islands in the north-west Pacific Ocean, as part of a UN trusteeship until the trusteeship agreement was terminated in 1986, when the islands became a commonwealth under US sovereignty. Those resident in 1976 or subsequently born in the islands are US citizens. The islands are represented in Congress by a non-voting representative, who is directly elected for a two-year term. Under the 1978 constitution, the islands are self-governing. The governor and lieutenant-governor are directly elected for a four-year term. The bicameral legislature comprises a 20-member House of Representatives and a nine-member senate; members are directly elected, representatives for two years and senators for four years. Tourism and manufacturing, especially of clothing, are the main industries.

Governor, Benigno Fitial (R)

Puerto Rico

Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Area – 13,790 sq. km
Capital – San Juan; population, 2,729,980 (2009 est). Other major towns are: Bayamón, Carolina, Poncel
Population – 3,998,905 rising at 0.24 per cent per year (2011 est); most people are of Spanish descent. The official languages are Spanish and English
National day – 25 July (Constitution Day)

Puerto Rico (Rich Port) is an island of the Greater Antilles group in the Caribbean Sea and was discovered in 1493 by Columbus. It was a Spanish possession until 1898, when it was ceded to the USA after the Spanish–American War. Residents have been US citizens since 1917, and Puerto Rico is represented in Congress by a non-voting resident commissioner, who is directly elected for a four-year term. Under its 1952 constitution, Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth. The governor is directly elected for a four-year term. The bicameral legislative assembly consists of a 27-member senate and a 51-member House of Representatives, whose members serve four-year terms. Tourism, pharmaceuticals, electronics, clothing and food processing are the main economic activities.

Governor, Luis G. Fortuño (R)

The United States Virgin Islands

Area – 1,910 sq. km
Capital – Charlotte Amalie, on St Thomas; population, 53,526 (2009 est)
Population – 109,574 falling at 0.09 per cent per year (2011 est)
National day – 31 March (Transfer Day)

There are three main islands, St Thomas, St Croix and St John, and about 50 small islets or cays. These constituted the Danish part of the Virgin Islands from the 17th century until purchased by the USA in 1917. Those born in the US Virgin Islands are US nationals. The Virgin Islands are represented in Congress by a non-voting representative, who is directly elected for a two-year term. Under the provisions of the Revised Organic Act of 1954, the islands have powers of self-government. The governor and lieutenant-governor are directly elected for a four-year term. The unicameral senate has 15 members directly elected for a two-year term. Tourism, oil refining and manufacturing are the main industries.

Governor, John de Jongh Jr (D)

Back to top

Back to top

Share this page

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Bookmark and Share