United States

Introduction

Introduction

The United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a federal republic composed of ‹See TfD›50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions.Forty-eight of the fifty states and the federal district are contiguous and located in North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is in the far northwestern corner of North America, with a land border to the east with Canada and separated by the Bering Strait from Russia. The state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Nine time zones are covered. The geography, climate and wildlife of the country are extremely diverse.

At 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million km2) and with over 324 million people, the United States is the world's fourth-largest country by total area (and fourth-largest by land area) and the third-most populous. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multiculturalnations, and is home to the world's largest immigrant population. Urbanization climbed to over 80% in 2010 and leads to growing megaregions. The country's capital is Washington, D.C. and its largest city is New York City; the other major metropolitan areas, all with around five million or more inhabitants, are Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston, Miami, and Atlanta.

Paleo-Indians migrated from Asia to the North American mainland at least 15,000 years ago. European colonizationbegan in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British coloniesalong the East Coast. Numerous disputes between Great Britain and the colonies in the aftermath of the Seven Years' War led to the American Revolution, which began in 1775. On July 4, 1776, as the colonies were fighting Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence. The war ended in 1783 with recognition of the independence of the United States by Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire. The current constitution was adopted in 1788, after the Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1781, were felt to have provided inadequate federal powers. The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and designed to guarantee many fundamental civil liberties.

The United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century, displacing American Indian tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting new states until it spanned the continent by 1848. During the second half of the 19th century, the American Civil War led to the end of legal slavery in the country. By the end of that century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean, and its economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution, began to soar. The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a global military power. The United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the first country to develop nuclear weapons, the only country to use them in warfare, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It is a founding member of the Organization of American States (UAS) and various other Pan-American and international organisations. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the United States as the world's sole superpower.

The United States is a highly developed country, with the world's largest economy by nominal GDP. It ranks highly in several measures of socioeconomic performance, including average wage, human development, per capita GDP, and productivity per person. While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, characterized by the dominance of services and knowledge economy, the manufacturing sector remains the second-largest in the world. Though its population is only 4.4% of the world total, the United States accounts for nearly a quarter of world GDP and almost a third of global military spending, making it the world's foremost military and economic power. The United States is a prominent political and cultural force internationally, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovations.


Understand

The United States is not the America of television and movies. It is large, complex, and diverse, with distinct regional identities. Due to the distances involved, traveling between regions can be time-consuming and expensive.

Government and politics

The United States is a federal republic. Its major constituents are the 50 states and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.); it also has various island territories in the Caribbean and Pacific that are strongly – but often not fully – integrated into the union. Many of these territories are within the U.S. customs and immigration area and so for practical purposes can be considered part of the U.S.

The federal government derives its power from the Constitution, which is the oldest written constitution in continuous use. Within the overarching federal laws, each state maintains its own constitution, government and laws, and so retains considerable autonomy within the federation. State laws can vary in their details but are, for the most part, fairly uniform from state to state.

The President is elected every four years and is the head of the federal government as well as head of state. He and his administration form the executive branch. The bicameral Congress (comprising the lower House of Representatives and the upper Senate) is also popularly elected, and constitutes the legislative branch. The Supreme Court tops the judicial branch. State governments are organized similarly, with governors, legislatures, and judiciaries.

Two major political parties have dominated at both state and federal levels since the end of the Civil War: the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Since the 1960s the Republican party has become generally the more right-wing or "conservative" party whereas the Democratic party is usually the more left-wing or "liberal" of the two parties. While smaller political parties exist, the winner-take-all electoral system means that they rarely succeed at any level.

Culture

The United States is made up of many diverse ethnic groups and the culture varies greatly across the vast area of the country and even within cities – a city like New York will have dozens, if not hundreds, of different ethnicities represented within a neighborhood. Despite this difference, there exists a strong sense of national identity and certain predominant cultural traits. Generally, Americans tend to believe strongly in personal responsibility and that an individual determines his or her own success or failure, but there are many exceptions and that a nation as diverse as the United States has literally thousands of distinct cultural traditions. One will find Mississippi in the South to be very different culturally from Massachusetts in the North.

Religion is very important in the United States. Only 20% of people in the United States identify with no religion, which is very low in comparison to other Western nations. Roughly one-quarter of Americans are Roman Catholic, and one-half of them are Protestant, with Protestantism being further broken down into mainline, Evangelical and Pentecostal sects. There are much smaller numbers of Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and a host of other religions. Because of many Americans' strong religious belief, many businesses and institutions are closed on Sundays, and a number of areas in the South and Midwest forbid certain actions from taking place on Sunday, while some Jewish businesses close on Friday nights and Saturdays for the sabbath.

Overall, while the United States is less religious than many other nations, it is more religious than Canada and Northern Europe; however, this trend varies greatly by region, with the Pacific Northwest and New England being largely secular and the American South being extraordinarily Christian, particularly Evangelical. Differences in religiosity largely correlate with politics, too, so the Northeast and West Coast are generally progressive and Democratic; most of the South and heavily Mormon states like Utah, Idaho and Wyoming are very conservative and Republican; and much of the rest of the country (e.g., several Midwestern, Southwestern/Rocky Mountain, and Southern coastal states) is nearly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Units of measure

The United States is the only industrialized country that eschews the metric system. Instead it uses "customary units" (feet, miles, gallons, pounds, etc.), which are largely derived from the English units of the 18th century, and are sometimes different from the imperial units that occasionally linger in Britain. Road distances are given in miles and speed limits in miles per hour. One of the more confusing things is that an "ounce" can be either a measure of weight or (as a "fluid ounce") a measure of volume. The U.S. fluid ounce is also slightly larger than its Imperial counterpart, while U.S. gallons, quarts and pints are smaller than their counterparts. Gasoline and other liquids are usually sold per gallon, quart, or fluid ounce (a U.S. gallon is 3.78 liters, so a U.S. quart [a quarter gallon] is slightly less than a liter). Beverages such as soda are sometimes sold by the liter and other times sold by the fluid ounce, with just under 34 ounces to a liter. Temperatures are reported in Fahrenheit only; 32 degrees (with units unspecified) is freezing, not warm! Most cars' speedometers show both miles and kilometers per hour (good for trips to Canada and Mexico), and almost all packaged foods and other products are labeled in both systems. Outside of scientific work, medicine and the military, there is little day-to-day exposure to the metric system, so Americans will assume you understand the U.S. customary measures.

There is no government regulation of clothes or shoe sizes. There are ill-enforced informal standards, and the only thing you can count on is that sizes tend to be consistent within the same brand. Therefore, trial and error is required for each brand to determine what fits, because you cannot count on any two brands' sizes being equivalent. For shoes, trial and error will be required for each model, even within the same brand—even if different models are the same nominal size and width, they may differ slightly in actual length and/or width, and also may be built around a different foot shape.

Visitor information

The federal government of the U.S. sets foreign policy (including border control), while the states deal with tourism. As such, the federal government provides the best information about legal requirements for entry, while information about places to visit and see will be provided by the state and local tourism bureaus. Contact information is available in the individual state entries. Highway rest stops at state borders, as well as major airports in a state, usually serve as Visitor's Centers and often offer travel and tourism information and material, almost all of which is also available online. Nearly every rest stop has a posted road map with a clearly indicated "You Are Here" marker. Some also offer free paper roadmaps to take with you. If you call or write the state Commerce department, they can also mail you information.

Time zones

Taking into consideration even the small territories in the Pacific Ocean (some of which cannot be easily accessed) the U.S. spans eleven time zones. Just four time zones are used in the contiguous 48 states. Be aware that time zone borders do not always correspond to state borders!

  • Eastern Time (UTC-5): Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Michigan except extreme northwestern counties, Indiana except the southwest and northwest corners, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, eastern Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida except western part of panhandle.
  • Central Time (UTC-6): Wisconsin, Illinois, the southwest and northwest corners of Indiana, western Kentucky, western and middle Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, north and east North Dakota, eastern South Dakota, middle and eastern Nebraska, most of Kansas, Oklahoma, most of Texas, part of western Florida(panhandle).
  • Mountain Time (UTC-7): southwest North Dakota, western South Dakota, western Nebraska, a sliver of Kansas, Montana, a sliver of Oregon, southern Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, a corner of Texas
  • Pacific Time (UTC-8): Washington, northern Idaho, most of Oregon, California, Nevada

In addition to these, there are also three other time zones with major travel destinations:

  • Alaska Time (UTC-9): Alaska, except the Aleutian Islands
  • Hawaii-Aleutian Time (UTC-10): Hawaii the Aleutian Islands
  • Atlantic Time (UTC-4): Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

Most parts of the U.S. observe daylight saving time, but Hawaii and most of Arizona do not.


Geography

The contiguous United States or "Lower 48" (the 48 states other than Alaska and Hawaii) are bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, with much of the population living on these three coasts or along the Great Lakes, which are sometimes dubbed another "coast". Its only land borders — both quite long — are shared with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The U.S. also shares maritime borders with Russia, Cuba and the Bahamas.

The country has three major mountain ranges. The Appalachians extend from Canada to the state of Alabama, a few hundred miles west of the Atlantic Ocean. They are the oldest of the three mountain ranges and offer spectacular sightseeing and excellent camping spots. The Rockies are, on average, the highest in North America, extending from Alaska to New Mexico, with many areas designated as national parks that offer hiking, camping, skiing, and sightseeing opportunities. The combined Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges are the youngest. The Sierras extend across the "backbone" of California, with sites such as Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park, then give way to the even younger volcanic Cascade range, with some of the highest points in the country.

The Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast of Texas, to the south of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida's Panhandle, and constitutes the West Coast of Florida.

The Great Lakes define much of the border between the eastern United States and Canada. More fresh water inland seas than lakes, they were formed by the pressure of glaciers retreating north at the end of the last Ice Age. The five lakes span hundreds of miles, bordering the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and their shores vary from pristine wilderness areas to industrial "rust belt" cities. They are the second-largest bodies of freshwater in the world, after the polar ice caps.


Climate

The overall climate is temperate, with notable exceptions. Alaska has Arctic tundra, while Hawaii, South Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are tropical. The Great Plains are dry, flat and grassy, turning into arid desert in the far West and Mediterraneanalong the California coast.

In the winter, the northern and mid-western major cities can see as much as 2 feet (61 cm) of snowfall in one day, with cold temperatures. Summers are humid, but mild. Temperatures over 100 °F (38 °C) sometimes invade the Midwest and Great Plains. Some areas in the northern plains can experience cold temperatures of −30 °F (−34 °C) during the winter. Temperatures below 0 °F (−18 °C) sometimes reach as far south as Oklahoma.

The climate of the South also varies. In the summer, it is hot and humid, but from October through April the weather can range from 60 °F (15 °C) to short cold spells of 20 °F (−7 °C) or so.

The Great Plains and Midwestern states also experience tornadoes from the late spring to early fall, earlier in the south and later in the north. States along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico may experience hurricanes between June and November. These intense and dangerous storms frequently miss the U.S. mainland, but evacuations are often ordered and should be heeded.

The Rockies are cold and snowy. Some parts of the Rockies see over 500 inches (1,200 cm) of snow in a season. Even during the summer, temperatures are cool in the mountains, and snow can fall nearly year-round. It is dangerous to go up in the mountains unprepared in the winter and the roads through them can get very icy.

The deserts of the Southwest are hot and dry during the summer, with temperatures often exceeding 100 °F (38 °C). Thunderstorms can be expected in the southwest frequently from July through September. Winters are mild, and snow is unusual. Average annual precipitation is low, usually less than 10 inches (25 cm).

Cool and damp weather is common much of the year in the coastal northwest (Oregon and Washington west of the Cascade Range, and the northern part of California west of the Coast Ranges/Cascades). Summers (July through September) are usually quite dry with low humidity, though, making it the ideal climate for outdoor activities. Rain is most frequent in winter, snow is rare, especially along the coast, and extreme temperatures are uncommon. Rain falls almost exclusively from late fall through early spring along the coast. East of the Cascades, the northwest is considerably drier. Much of the inland northwest is either semi-arid or desert, especially in Oregon.

Northeastern and Upper Southern cities are known for summers with temperatures reaching into the 90s (32 °C) or more, with extremely high humidity, usually over 80%. This can be a drastic change from the Southwest. High humidity means that the temperature can feel hotter than actual readings. The Northeast also experiences snow, and at least once every few years there will be a dumping of the white stuff in enormous quantities.


Demographics

Population

Race/Ethnicity (2015 ACS estimates)
By race:
White73.1%
Black12.7%
Asian5.4%
Some other race4.8%
Multiracial3.1%
American Indian and Alaska Native0.8%
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander0.2%
By ethnicity:
Hispanic/Latino (of any race)17.6%
Non-Hispanic/Latino (of any race)82.4%

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the country's population to be 323,425,550 as of April 25, 2016, and to be adding 1 person (net gain) every 13 seconds, or about 6,646 people per day. 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 China and India, the United States is the only major industrialized nation in which large population increases are projected. In the 1800s the average woman had 7.04 children, by the 1900s this number had decreased to 3.56. Since the early 1970s the birth rate has been below the replacement rate of 2.1 with 1.86 children per woman in 2014. Foreign born immigration has caused the US population to continue its rapid increase with the foreign born population doubling from almost 20 million in 1990 to over 40 million in 2010, representing one third of the population increase. The foreign born population reached 45 million in 2015.

The United States has a birth rate of 13 per 1,000, which is 5 births below the world average. Its population growth rate is positive at 0.7%, higher than that of many developed nations. In fiscal year 2012, over one million immigrants (most of whom entered through family reunification) were granted legal residence. Mexico has been the leading source of new residents since the 1965 Immigration Act. China, India, and the Philippines have been in the top four sending countries every year since the 1990s. As of 2012, approximately 11.4 million residents are illegal immigrants. As of 2015, 47% of all immigrants are Hispanic, 26% are Asian, 18% are white and 8% are black. The percentage of immigrants who are Asian is increasing while the percentage who are Hispanic is decreasing.

According to a survey conducted by the Williams Institute, nine million Americans, or roughly 3.4% of the adult population identify themselves as homosexual, bisexual, or transgender. A 2012 Gallup poll also concluded that 3.5% of adult Americans identified as LGBT. The highest percentage came from the District of Columbia (10%), while the lowest state was North Dakota at 1.7%. In a 2013 survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 96.6% of Americans identify as straight, while 1.6% identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7% identify as being bisexual.

In 2010, the U.S. population included an estimated 5.2 million people with some 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 in 2010, over 18.5 million (97%) of whom are of Hispanic ethnicity.

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 Mexican descent. 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; in 2007, 12.6% of the U.S. population was foreign-born, with 54% of that figure born in Latin America.

About 82% of Americans live in urban areas(including suburbs);about half of those reside in cities with populations over 50,000. The US has numerous clusters of cities known as megaregions, the largest being the Great Lakes Megalopolis followed by the Northeast Megalopolis and Southern California. In 2008, 273 incorporated municipalities had populations over 100,000, nine cities had more than one million residents, and four global cities had over two million (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston). There are 52 metropolitan areas with populations greater than one million. Of the 50 fastest-growing metro areas, 47 are in the West or South. The metro areas of San Bernardino, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Phoenix all grew by more than a million people between 2000 and 2008.

Religion

 
Religious affiliation in the U.S. (2014)
Affiliation % of U.S. population
Christian70.6 
Protestant46.5 
Evangelical Protestant25.4 
Mainline Protestant14.7 
Black church6.5 
Catholic20.8 
Mormon1.6 
Jehovah's Witnesses0.8 
Eastern Orthodox0.5 
Other Christian0.4 
Jewish1.9 
Muslim0.9 
Buddhist0.7 
Hindu0.7 
Other faiths1.8 
Irreligious22.8 
Nothing in particular15.8 
Agnostic4.0 
Atheist3.1 
Don't know or refused answer0.6 
Total100 

The First Amendmentof the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion and forbids Congress from passing laws respecting its establishment. Christianity is by far the most common religion practiced in the U.S., but other religions are followed, too. In a 2013 survey, 56% of Americans said that religion played a "very important role in their lives", a far higher figure than that of any other wealthy nation. In a 2009 Gallup poll, 42% of Americans said that they attended church weekly or almost weekly; the figures ranged from a low of 23% in Vermont to a high of 63% in Mississippi.

As with other Western countries, the U.S. is becoming less religious. Irreligion is growing rapidly among Americans under 30. Polls show that overall American confidence in organized religion has been declining since the mid to late 1980s, and that younger Americans in particular are becoming increasingly irreligious. According to a 2012 study, Protestant share of U.S. population dropped to 48%, thus ending its status as religious category of the majority for the first time. Americans with no religion have 1.7 children compared to 2.2 among Christians. The unaffiliated are less likely to get married with 37% marrying compared to 52% of Christians.

According to a 2014 survey, 70.6% of adults identified themselves as Christian, Protestant denominations accounted for 46.5%, while Roman Catholicism, at 20.8%, was the largest individual denomination. The total reporting non-Christian religions in 2014 was 5.9%. Other religions include Judaism (1.9%), Islam (0.9%), Buddhism (0.7%), Hinduism (0.7%). The survey also reported that 22.8% of Americans described themselves as agnostic, atheist or simply having no religion, up from 8.2% in 1990. There are also Unitarian Universalist, Baha'i, Sikh, Jain, Shinto, Confucian, Taoist, Druid, Native American, Wiccan, humanist and deist communities.

Protestantism is the largest Christian religious grouping in the United States. Baptists collectively form the largest branch of Protestantism, and the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest individual Protestant denomination. About 26% of Americans identify as Evangelical Protestants, while 15% are Mainline and 7% belong to a traditionally Black church. Roman Catholicism in the United States has its origin in the Spanish and Frenchcolonization of the Americas, and later grew because of Irish, Italian, Polish, German and Hispanic immigration. Rhode Island has the highest percentage of Catholics with 40 percent of the total population. Lutheranism in the U.S. has its origin in immigration from Northern Europe and Germany. North and South Dakota are the only states in which a plurality of the population is Lutheran. Presbyterianism was introduced in North America by Scottish and Ulster Scots immigrants. Although it has spread across the United States, it is heavily concentrated on the East Coast. Dutch Reformed congregations were founded first in New Amsterdam (New York City) before spreading westward. Utah is the only state where Mormonism is the religion of the majority of the population. The Mormon Corridor also extends to parts of Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming.

The Bible Belt is an informal term for a region in the Southern United States in which socially conservative Evangelical Protestantism is a significant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average. By contrast, religion plays the least important role in New England and in the Western United States.


Economy

Economic indicators
Nominal GDP$18.45 trillion (Q2 2016)
Real GDP growth1.4% (Q2 2016)
 2.6% (2015)
CPI inflation1.1% (August 2016)
Employment-to-population ratio59.7% (August 2016)
Unemployment4.9% (August 2016)
Labor force participation rate62.8% (August 2016)
Total public debt$19.808 trillion (October 25, 2016)
Household net worth$89.063 trillion (Q2 2016)
 

The United States has a capitalistmixed economy which is fueled by abundant natural resources and high productivity. According to the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. GDP of $16.8 trillion constitutes 24% of the gross world product at market exchange rates and over 19% of the gross world product at purchasing power parity (PPP).

The US's nominal GDP is estimated to be $17.528 trillion as of 2014 From 1983 to 2008, U.S. real compounded annual GDP growth was 3.3%, compared to a 2.3% weighted average for the rest of the G7. The country ranks ninth in the world in nominal GDP per capitaand sixth in GDP per capita at PPP. The U.S. dollar is the world's primary reserve currency.

The United States is the largest importer of goods and second-largest exporter, though exports per capitaare relatively low. In 2010, the total U.S. trade deficit was $635 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. Japan is the largest foreign holder of U.S. public debt. The largest holder of the U.S. debt are American entities, including federal government accounts and the Federal Reserve, who hold the majority of the debt.

In 2009, the private sector was estimated to constitute 86.4% of the economy, with federal government activity accounting for 4.3% and state and local government activity (including federal transfers) the remaining 9.3%. The number of employees at all levels of government outnumber those in manufacturing by 1.7 to 1. 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. In the franchising business model, McDonald's and Subway are the two most recognized brands in the world. Coca-Cola is the most recognized soft drink company in the world.

Chemical products are the leading manufacturing field. The United States is the largest producer of oil in the world, as well as its second-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. The National Mining Association provides data pertaining to coal and minerals that include beryllium, copper, lead, magnesium, zinc, titanium and others.

Agriculture accounts for just under 1% of GDP, yet the United States is the world's top producer of corn and soybeans. The National Agricultural Statistics Service maintains agricultural statistics for products that include peanuts, oats, rye, wheat, rice, cotton, corn, barley, hay, sunflowers, and oilseeds. In addition, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides livestock statistics regarding beef, poultry, pork, and dairy products. The country is the primary developer and grower of genetically modified food, representing half of the world's biotech crops.

Consumer spending comprises 68% of the U.S. economy in 2015. In August 2010, the American labor force consisted of 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 firing workers. The United States is ranked among the top three in the Global Competitiveness Report as well. It has a smaller welfare stateand redistributes less income through government action than European nations tend to.

The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation and is one of just a few countries in the world without paid family leave as a legal right, with the others being Papua New Guinea, Suriname and Liberia. However, 74% of full-time American workers get paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although only 24% of part-time workers get the same benefits. While federal law currently does not require sick leave, it's a common benefit for government workers and full-time employees at corporations. In 2009, the United States had the third-highest workforce productivity per person in the world, behind Luxembourg and Norway. It was fourth in productivity per hour, behind those two countries and the Netherlands.

The 2008–2012 global recession significantly affected the United States, with output still below potential according to the Congressional Budget Office. It brought high unemployment (which has been decreasing but remains above pre-recession levels), along with low consumer confidence, the continuing decline in home values and increase in foreclosures and personal bankruptcies, an escalating federal debt crisis, inflation, and rising petroleum and food prices. There remains a record proportion of long-term unemployed, continued decreasing household income, and tax and federal budget increases.

Income, poverty and wealth

Americans have the highest average household and employee income among OECD nations, and in 2007 had the second-highest median household income. According to the Census Bureau, median household income was $53,657 in 2014. Despite accounting for only 4.4% of the global population, Americans collectively possess 41.6% of the world's total wealth, and Americans make up roughly half of the world's population of millionaires. The Global Food Security Index ranked the U.S. number one for food affordability and overall food security in March 2013. Americans on average have over twice as much living space per dwelling and per person as European Unionresidents, and more than every EU nation. For 2013 the United Nations Development Programme ranked the United States 5th among 187 countries in its Human Development Index and 28th in its inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI).

There has been a widening gap between productivity and median incomes since the 1970s. However, the gap between total compensation and productivity is not as wide because of increased employee benefits such as health insurance. While inflation-adjusted ("real") household income had been increasing almost every year from 1947 to 1999, it has since been flat on balance and has even decreased recently. According to Congressional Research Service, during this same period, immigration to the United Statesincreased, while the lower 90% of tax filers incomes became stagnant, and eventually decreasing since 2000. The rise in the share of total annual income received by the top 1 percent, which has more than doubled from 9 percent in 1976 to 20 percent in 2011, has significantly affected income inequality, leaving the United States with one of the widest income distributions among OECD nations. The post-recession income gains have been very uneven, with the top 1 percent capturing 95 percent of the income gains from 2009 to 2012. The extent and relevance of income inequality is a matter of debate.

United States' families median net worthsource: Fed Survey of Consumer Finances
in 2013 dollars19982013change
All families$102,500$81,200-20.8%
Bottom 20% of incomes$8,300$6,100-26.5%
2nd lowest 20% of incomes$47,400$22,400-52.7%
Middle 20% of incomes$76,300$61,700-19.1%
Top 10%$646,600$1,130,700+74.9%

Wealth, like income and taxes, is highly concentrated; the richest 10% of the adult population possess 72% of the country's household wealth, while the bottom half claim only 2%. Between June 2007 and November 2008 the global recession led to falling asset prices around the world. Assets owned by Americans lost about a quarter of their value. Since peaking in the second quarter of 2007, household wealth was down $14 trillion, but has since increased $14 trillion over 2006 levels. At the end of 2014, household debt amounted to $11.8 trillion, down from $13.8 trillion at the end of 2008.

There were about 578,424 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons in the U.S. in January 2014, with almost two-thirds staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. In 2011 16.7 million children lived in food-insecure households, about 35% more than 2007 levels, though only 1.1% of U.S. children, or 845,000, saw reduced food intake or disrupted eating patterns at some point during the year, and most cases were not chronic. According to a 2014 report by the Census Bureau, one in five young adults lives in poverty today, up from one in seven in 1980.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

United States - Travel guide

Go next

TOP

Pin It on Pinterest