The United States of America – Facts & Figures

The United States is a young country, but it is unarguably one of the most powerful and most influential.

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The US declared independence from Britain in 1776 – at the time, comprising just 13 states. It is now made up of 50 states: 48 adjoining (or “contiguous”), plus Alaska to the north-west and Hawaii off the coast in the mid-Pacific.

The US is massive. It’s the world’s third biggest country by land mass, the third biggest by population and the biggest by GDP. It has the world’s second largest military, outnumbered only by China.

Its size, and the relative independence enjoyed by each of its states, means that the country is very diverse: in geography, in climate, in ethnicity, in culture and even in law. That’s why we decided to write separate guides for different states.

People from across the world want to live in the US – for a host of different reasons. Many aspiring expats want to study at American universities, try their luck in the job market or join family who already live in the US. Many more wish to retire to one of the sunnier states.

The basics

The Country: The United States of America (The United States of America)

Adjective: American (American)

The Nationality: American (American)

The People: Americans (Americans)

Languages: (2015) English 79%, Spanish 13%, other Indo-European 3.7%, Asian and Pacific island 3.4%, other 1%. The US has no national language, but English is the official language of 32 out of the 50 states.

Time Zone: Various

Currency: United States Dollar

Currency Code: USD

ISO International Country Code: USA

Internet Domain: .us (but .net, .org and .com are far more common)

Telephone Dialling Code: +1

The geography

Capital City: Washington, D.C.: population 672,228 (2015)

Area: 9,826,675 sq km (3 out of 252 countries in the world) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Coastline: 19,924km

Terrain: Incredibly varied.

Climate: Again, this varies massively. See the Köppen map below (click to expand in new tab) to get a general idea of the regional climates.

A koppen climate map of the US, showing the climate in different regions

Fresh Water: The US withdraws 1,600m3 of fresh water per capita (Australia: 5,104; Canada: 1,386; Mexico: 731; United Kingdom: 197). Some 99.4% of the population have access to ‘improved’ (good quality) drinking water. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The people

Population: 324,459,463 in 2017 (3 out of 233 countries in the world) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Population growth: 0.78% per year  lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Median age: 38.1 years lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Life expectancy at Birth: 79.3 years lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Urban population: 81.6% of total population lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Foreign-born population: 14.3% of total population lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Religion: Protestant 46.5%, Roman Catholic 20.8%, Jewish 1.9%, Mormon 1.6%, other Christian 0.9%, Muslim 0.9%, Jehovah’s Witness 0.8%, Buddhist 0.7%, Hindu 0.7%, other 1.8%, unaffiliated 22.8%, don’t know/refused 0.6% (2014 est.) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Ethnicity: White 72.4%, black 12.6%, Asian 4.8%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.9%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.2%, other 6.2%, two or more races 2.9% (2010 est.) (note: Hispanic is not included due to the US Census’ Bureau’s definition of the term, which can include people of white or black ethnicity). lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Hispanic wasn’t included on this list because someone from a Latin country could fall under any race/ethnicity – around 15% of the US is Hispanic.

UN Human Development Index: 10 of 188 countries (2016). This index attempts to measure a country’s achievements in education, healthcare, wealth generation and a number of other areas. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

UN Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index: 10 of 188 countries.This index is a list measuring the lost development potential arising from all types of inequality in a country.   lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Population Below Poverty Line: 15.1% lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The medical system

Healthcare in the United States is very advanced, but can be expensive. Getting good health insurance is extremely important.

Health Expenditure: 17.1% of GDP, US$9,892 per capita  lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Doctors: 2.45/1000 lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Hospital Beds: 2.9/1000 lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

World Health Organization ranking of health systems (last published in 2000): 31 of 191 countries

The Peace Index

The US is ranked 114 out of 163 countries included in the 2018 edition of the Vision of Humanity “Peace Index”. This is just ahead of El Salvador and just behind Rwanda. Iceland comes first. Syria comes last. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The US scored so poorly because of high incarceration rates, large stockpiles of nuclear and heavy weaponry, and lots of weapons exports.

The methodology may be open to some debate but this is a good snapshot of criminality, conflict, political attitudes and military expenditure.

The Global Terrorism Index

The US is ranked 32 out of the 163 countries in the 2017 edition of the “Global Terrorism Index”. A high number/low rank is good (Iraq is number 1), so the US is hovering in the wrong end of the list.lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

This is another interesting snapshot, from the same people.

The legal system

Law in the United States evolved from Anglo-Saxon (“common”) law but is now very distinct.

The legal system in America works on several levels. Federal law, which originates with the constitution, applies to the entire country. Each state also has its own constitution, government and laws. See a brief explanation of the court process here.

The United States is ranked 19 out of 113 countries included in the 2017-18 edition of the World Justice Project’s “Rule of Law Index”. This is behind the UK (11) and Canada (9) but way ahead of its southern neighbour Mexico (92). Denmark is top. Cambodia and Venezuela are bottom. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The US also scores fairly well on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. The United States is ranked 16 out of 180 countries included in the 2017 edition of the index. This is similar to Ireland and Belgium. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The economy:

The US has the world’s largest economy, in nominal terms.

Nearly 80% of the country’s workforce is in the service sector, but is the world’s second-largest manufacturer, with major outputs including petroleum, vehicles, aerospace and communications.

The New York Stock exchange is by far the largest in the world.

Agriculturally, the United States has around 3,730,000 km2 worth of farmland. Corn is far and away the most-farmed product – 354 million tonnes of it were harvested in 2013 – followed by beef (a mere 11.7 million tonnes).

GDP (purchasing power parity (‘PPP’): US$19,360billion. Ranks 2 out of 229 listed countries. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

GDP per capita: US$59,495. Ranks 11 out of 187 listed countries. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

GDP Growth 2016: 1.5%  lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Inflation 2017: 2.1% lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Public debt: 77.4% of GDP lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Unemployment: 4.1% (June 2018lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Currency: United States Dollar

Transportation

Very car-based. Internal flights are readily available. Public transport over long distances is relatively sparse, though some city public transport systems are good.

Business

America believes very strongly in the ‘American Dream’ – work hard enough and long enough and you can achieve anything. Whether or not this is truly the case, it influences American business culture. Business people are likely to have a very strong work ethic and are generally willing to put in long hours to get the job done; sometimes to the detriment of their health.

Although you may notice a somewhat informal atomosphere within American offices (workers are like to address their bosses by their first names, for example), there is a distinct hierarchy within most places of business in the US.

Meetings begin on time. Punctuality is highly valued.

Business communication strives to be direct and to the point, though it is usually polite. You are not likely to find any of the euphemisms or that you might come across in, say, the UK. This can be a bit jarring to a foreigner unused to a direct negative response in a business environment. You will also be expected to ‘speak up’ and voice any ideas or misgivings you might have.

The US ranks a high 5 out of 190 on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business Index” (2018). lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

As already mentioned, the United States scores fairly well on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (16 of 180 countries).

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