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United States of America




Gold mining in the United States

US annual gold production, 1840-2012.

Gold mining in the United States has taken place continually since the discovery of gold at the Reed farm in North Carolina in 1799. The first documented occurrence of gold was in Virginia in 1782.[1] Some minor gold production took place in North Carolina as early as 1793, but created no excitement. The discovery on the Reed farm in 1799 which was identified as gold in 1802 and subsequently mined marked the first commercial production.[2]

The large scale production of gold started with the California Gold Rush in 1848.

The closure of gold mines during World War II by the War Production Board Limitation Order No. 208 in autumn 1942 was a major impact on the production until the end of the war.[3]

US gold production greatly increased during the 1980s, due to high gold prices and the use of heap leaching to recover gold from disseminated low-grade deposits in Nevada and other states.

In 2015 the United States produced 200 tonnes of gold, 6.7% of world production, making it the fourth-largest gold-producing nation, behind China, Australia and Russia. Most gold produced today in the US comes from large open-pit heap leach mines in the state of Nevada. The US is a net exporter of gold.[4][5]





Gold mining by state

Gold was discovered in
Alabama about 1830, shortly following the Georgia Gold Rush. The principal districts were the Arbacoochee district in Cleburne County, mostly from placer deposits, and the Hog Mountain district in Tallapoosa County, which produced 24,000 troy ounces (750 kg) from veins in schist.[6]


Main article: Gold mining in Alaska

Russian explorers discovered placer gold in the Kenai River in 1848, but no gold was produced. Gold mining started in 1870 from placers southeast of Juneau.[7] Today, most gold production in Alaska is from the Fort Knox mine, a large open pit and cyanide leaching operation in the Fairbanks mining district. The Fort Knox mine produced 333,000 troy ounces (10,400 kg) of gold in 2006. Alaska produced a total of 40,300,000 troy ounces (1,250,000 kg) of gold from 1880 through the end of 2007.


Arizona has produced more than 16 million troy ounces (498 tonnes) of gold.

Gold mining in Arizona reportedly began in 1774 when Spanish priest Manuel Lopez directed Papago Indians to wash gold from gravel on the flanks of the Quijotoa Mountains, Pima County. Gold mining continued there until 1849, when the Mexican miners were lured away by the California Gold Rush. Other gold mining under Spanish and Mexican rule took place in the Oro Blanco district of Santa Cruz County, and the Arivaca district, Pima County.[8]

Mountain man Pauline Weaver discovered placer gold on the east side of the Colorado River in 1862. Weaver's discovery started the Colorado River Gold Rush to the now ghost town of La Paz, Arizona and other locations along the river in the ensuing years.

Gold Road mine, Oatman, Arizona.

The most prominent of these were those of the San Francisco district, which includes the towns of Oatman, Bullhead City and Katherine in Mohave County was discovered in 1863 or 1864, but saw little activity until a rush to the district occurred in 1902. The district produced 2.0 million ounces of gold through 1959.[9]

The gold-bearing quartz veins of the Vulture Mine, southwest of Wickenburg, in Maricopa County were discovered in 1863. The mine produced 366,000 troy ounces (11,400 kg) of gold through 1959.[10]

The last gold mine to operate in Arizona was the Gold Road mine at Oatman, which shut down in 1998. Patriot Gold is exploration drilling at the Moss mine at Oatman.[11]

In 2006, all of Arizona's gold production came as a byproduct of copper mining.


Main article: Gold in California

Spanish prospectors found gold in the Potholes district between 1775 and 1780, along the Colorado River, in present Imperial County, California, about ten miles northeast from Yuma, Arizona. The gold was recovered from dry placers. Other placer deposits on the west bank of the Colorado River were quickly found, including the Picacho and Cargo Muchacho districts.

Placer gold deposits were found at San Ysidro in San Diego County in 1828, San Francisquito Canyon and Placerita Canyon in Los Angeles County in 1835 and 1842, respectively

Gold miners excavate a gold-bearing bluff with jets of water at a placer mine in Dutch Flat, California sometime between 1857 and 1870.

Major gold mining in California began during the California Gold Rush. Gold was found by James Marshall at Sutters Mill, property of John Sutter, in present-day Coloma. In 1849, people started hearing about the gold and after just a few years San Francisco's population increased to thousands. Gold production in California peaked in 1852, at 3.9 million troy ounces (121 tonnes) produced in that year. But the placer deposits worked in the early years were quickly exhausted, and production crashed. Hardrock mining (in California called quartz mining) began in 1849, and placer mining by hydraulic mining began in 1852. Despite the new mining methods, by 1865 production was 867,000 troy ounces (27,000 kg), less than one-quarter of peak production.

Production sank to 412,000 troy ounces (12,800 kg) in 1929, but then soared to more than 1,400,000 troy ounces (44,000 kg) for each year 1939 through 1941, after the price was raised from $20.67 to $35 per ounce. However, the federal government, in War Production Board Order L-208, ordered gold mines closed, to free up resources for the war effort during World War II, and production fell to 148,000 troy ounces (4,600 kg) in 1943. Post-war gold production never reached the peak of the early 1940s, as inflation and the fixed price of gold eroded its value.[12]

The largest gold-mining district in California is the famous Mother Lode of the Sierra Nevada. Found in the early 1850s, the lode is a zone one to four miles wide and running 120 miles northwest-southeast from El Dorado County in the north, through Amador, Calaveras, and Tuolumne counties, to Mariposa County in the south. The gold of the Mother Lode is in quartz veins within phyllite, schist, slate, and greenstone. Through 1959, the Mother Lode produced about 13.3 million troy ounces (414 tonnes) of gold.[13]

The second-largest gold-mining district in California was Grass Valley-Nevada City district in Nevada County. Gold in Holocene gravels was found in 1850, followed a few years later by hydraulic mining of Tertiary gravels. By 1880, most of the mining had shifted to lode deposits, such as the Empire Mine. Through 1959, the district produced 10.4 million troy ounces (323 tonnes) of lode gold, and 2.2 million troy ounces (68.4 tonnes) of placer gold.[14]

The rich placer deposits of the Columbia Basin-Jamestown-Sonora district were found in 1853. Almost all the gold was found at the base of Quaternary gravels, but some drift mines were worked in Tertiary gravels. Total production was about 5.9 million troy ounces (183 tonnes) of gold.[15]

In 2007, California produced 9,400 troy ounces (290 kg) of gold from two mines. The Mesquite mine in Imperial County restarted active mining in 2007, having been inactive since 2001; now owned by New Gold, it produces more than 100,000 troy ounces (3,100 kg) of gold per year.[16] The only other gold producer in the state, the Briggs mine in Inyo County stopped mining in 2004, but continues to produce small amounts of gold from the leach pads, from previously mined ore.[17]


Gold was discovered in 1858 during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush in the vicinity of present-day Denver in 1858, but the deposits were small. The first important gold discoveries in Colorado were in the Central City-Idaho Springs district in January 1859. Only one Colorado mine continues to produce gold, the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine at Victor near Colorado Springs, an open-pit heap leach operation owned by Newmont Mining Corporation, which produced 211,000 troy ounces (6,600 kg) of gold in 2014.[18]


Small amounts of gold were mined commercially in North Eastern Florida during the late 19th Century, at the site where Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park is located today. No records are extant on the amount of gold produced, but the find was insufficient to keep the operation running commercially, and the small amount of pay dirt was depleted within a matter of months.[19]


Georgia is credited with a total historical production of 871,000 troy ounces (27,100 kg) of gold from 1830 through 1959.[20] Although historically important, the state is not currently a gold producer.

See also:


Gold was first discovered in Idaho in 1860, in Pierce at the juncture where Canal Creek meets Orofino Creek.

The leading historical gold-producing district is the Boise Basin in Boise County, which was discovered in 1862 and produced 2.9 million troy ounces (90.2 tonnes), mostly from placers.[21]

The French Creek-Florence district in Idaho County began in the 1860s, and has produced about 1 million troy ounces (31 tonnes) from placers.

The Silver City district in Owyhee County began producing in 1863, and made over 1 million troy ounces (31 tonnes), mostly from lode deposits.

The Coeur d’Alene district in Shoshone County has made 44,000 troy ounces (1,400 kg) of gold as byproduct to silver mining.[22]

In 2006, active gold mines in Idaho included the Silver Strand mine and the Bond mine.[23]


Gold was reported in Maryland as early as 1830, but no production resulted. Placer gold was discovered at Great Falls near Washington, DC in 1861 during the American Civil War by Union soldiers from California. After the war a number of mines were opened on gold-bearing quartz veins in Montgomery County. No gold production has been reported since 1951. Total production was about 6,000 troy ounces (190 kg).[24]


Approximately 29,000 troy ounces (900 kg) of gold were produced from the Ropes gold mine northeast of Ishpeming in Marquette County, Michigan. The underground mine, originally operated from 1880 to 1897, and reopened from 1983–1989,[25] extracted gold from quartz veins in peridotite.[26]


Swedish gold panners in 1860s Montana.

Gold was first discovered in Montana in 1852, but mining did not begin until 1862, when gold placers were discovered at Bannack, Montana in 1862. The resulting gold rush resulted in more placer discoveries, including those at Virginia City in 1863, and at Helena and Butte in 1864.[27] In 1867, the Atlantic Cable Quartz Lode was located.

The Butte district, although mined primarily for copper, produced 2.9 million ounces (91 tones) of gold through 1990, almost all as a byproduct of copper production.[28]

Current active hardrock gold mines include the Montana Tunnels mine, and the Golden Sunlight mine. Active gold placers include the Browns Gulch placer and the Confederate Gulch placer. Gold is also produced from three platinum mines in the Stillwater igneous complex: the Stillwater mine, the Lodestar mine, and the East Boulder Project.[29]


Main article: Gold mining in Nevada

Nevada is the leading gold-producing state in the nation, in 2014 representing 73% of US gold and 6% of the world's production.[30][31] Almost all the gold in Nevada comes from large open pit mining and with heap leaching recovery. A number of major mining companies, including Newmont Mining, Barrick Gold and Kinross Gold, operate gold mines in the state. Active major mines include Cortez, Jerritt Canyon and Getchell.

Newmont and Barrick operate the largest mining operations, on the prolific Carlin Trend, one of the world's richest mining districts.

New Mexico

Gold was first discovered in New Mexico in 1828 in the “Old Placers” district in the Ortiz Mountains, Santa Fe County, New Mexico. The placer gold discovery was followed by discovery of a nearby lode deposit.[32]

In 1877, two prospectors collected float in the area of the future Opportunity Mine near Hillsboro, New Mexico, which was assayed at $160 per ton in gold and silver. Soon, ore was discovered at the nearby Rattlesnake vein and a placer deposit of gold was found in November at the Rattlesnake and Wicks gulches. Total production prior to 1904 was about $6,750,000.[33]

In 2007 all gold production in New Mexico (13,000 troy ounces (400 kg)) came as a byproduct of copper mining from two large open pit mines in Grant County. However, two primary gold mines are being readied for production: the Northstar mine in Rio Arriba County, and the San Lorenzo Claims mine in Socorro County.[34]

North Carolina

Main article: Carolina Gold Rush

North Carolina was the site of the first gold rush in the United States, following the discovery of a 17-pound (7.7 kg) gold nugget by 12-year-old Conrad Reed in a creek at his father’s farm in 1799. The Reed Gold Mine, southwest of Georgeville in Cabarrus County, North Carolina produced about 50,000 troy ounces (1,600 kg) of gold from lode and placer deposits.[35]

Gold was produced from 15 districts, almost all in the Piedmont region of the state. Total gold production is estimated at 1.2 million troy ounces (37.3 tonnes).


Although gold mines are spread over much of Oregon, almost all of the gold produced has come from two principal areas: the Klamath Mountains in southwest Oregon, including Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties; and the Blue Mountains in northeast Oregon, mostly in Baker and Grant counties.

Prospectors from Illinois discovered placer gold in the Klamath Mountains of southwest Oregon in 1850, starting a rush to the area. Lode gold deposits were also discovered.

Travellers along the Oregon Trail bound for the Willamette Valley are said to have discovered gold in northeastern Oregon in 1845, but mining in earnest did not begin until 1861.[36]

The 2013 television show Ghost Mine involved gold miners in Sumpter, Oregon.


About 37,000 troy ounces (1,200 kg) of gold was produced from the Cornwall iron mine five miles south of Lebanon, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. Although the deposit produced iron since 1742, no gold was reported from the mine until 1878.[37]

South Carolina

Gold mines in the Carolina Slate Belt - USGS.

South Carolina had a number of lode gold mines along the Carolina Slate Belt.[38]

The Haile deposit was discovered in Lancaster County in 1827, and at least 257,000 troy ounces (8,000 kg) of gold were extracted intermittently between then and 1942, when the gold mine was ordered closed as nonessential to the war effort. Beginning in 1951, the deposit was mined for associated sericite, which was used as a white filler.[39] Gold is associated with silicic, kaolinitic, and pyritic alteration of greenschist-grade felsic metavolcanics.[40] The mine was reopened as an open pit in the 1980s, and operated until 1992. Kinross Gold Corporation's reclamation of the Haile site was nominated for a US Bureau of Land Management "Hardrock Mineral Environmental Award."

The Brewer mine operated from 1828 to 1995, and is now a federal Superfund site.[41]

Kennecott Minerals operated the Ridgeway open-pit gold mine from 1988 to 1999, and the land is now being reclaimed by Kennecott.

The Barite Hill mine operated from 1990 to 1994.

South Dakota

Main article: Black Hills Gold Rush

The only operating gold mine in South Dakota is the Wharf mine, an open pit heap leach operation.[42]


Placer gold was discovered on Coker Creek in Monroe County, Tennessee in 1827. The district produced about 9,000 troy ounces (280 kg).[43]

About 15,000 troy ounces (470 kg) of gold was recovered from the massive sulfide copper ores at Ducktown, Tennessee.


Some prospects have been excavated for gold on the Llano Uplift of central Texas. Gold prospects include the Heath mine and the Babyhead district, both in Llano County, and the Central Texas mine in Gillespie County. Gold production, if any, is not known.[44] Historically, the Lost Nigger Gold Mine may be in Texas.


Most gold produced in Utah today is a byproduct of the huge Bingham Canyon copper mine, southwest of Salt Lake City. In 2013, the Bingham Canyon mine produced 192,300 troy ounces (5,980 kg) of gold, making it one of the largest gold producers in the US.[45] Over its life, Bingham Canyon has produced more than 23 million ounces (715 tonnes) of gold.

The Barneys Canyon mine in Salt Lake County, the last primary gold mine to operate in Utah, stopped mining in 2001, but is still recovering gold from its heap leaching pads. Utah gold production was 460,000 troy ounces (14,000 kg) in 2006.[46]



Gold was first discovered in Washington in 1853, as placer deposits in the Yakima Valley. Production from the state never exceeded 50,000 troy ounces per year until the mid-1930s, when large hard rock deposits were developed near the Chelan Lake and Wenatchee deposits in Chelan County, and the Republic deposit in Ferry County. Production through 1965 is estimated to be 2.3 million ounces.[47]


Gold was discovered at the South Pass-Atlantic City-Sweetwater district in present Fremont County in 1842. The placers were worked intermittently until 1867, when the first important gold vein was discovered, and prospectors and miners rushed to the area.. The towns of South Pass City, Atlantic City, and Miner's Delight catered to the miners. The district was nearly deserted by 1875, and was worked only intermittently afterward. Total gold production was about 300,000 troy ounces (9,300 kg). In 1962, the district became the site of a major iron mine.[48]

Moraine gold

Several states (e.g., Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania) have placer gold deposits, despite having no hard rock gold deposits. This placer gold is found north of, or near the terminus of, Pleistocene, or earlier, moraines left by Ice Age glaciers that pushed gold-rich dirt down from Canada, where hard rock gold deposits do exist, and which were scoured by glaciers. Small commercial operations have existed at various times, to mine this gold, with various degrees of limited success. The southernmost limit of these moraines, Pleistocene and older, is approximately at the Ohio River for Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.[49][50][51] The moraines in Pennsylvania are in the northwestern and northeastern portions of the Commonwealth.[52]

Gold mining royalties

Gold mining royalties and taxes in the US are levied at the state level, in the same manner as in other major international gold producers such as Canada and Australia. The rate of royalty varies from state to state, as well whether the royalty is gross (a proportion of the total sale proceeds), modified gross (Net smelter return) or net (the sale proceeds minus an allowance for production costs). US gold producers are additionally subject to the federal corporate income tax of 35% of net profits.[53][54]

Royalty rates for each of the US gold mining states (in order of production) are:

  • Nevada - 5% net[55][56]
  • Alaska - 7% net[57]
  • Utah - 2.6% gross[58]
  • Colorado - 2.25% gross[59]
  • California- $5 per ounce produced[53]
  • Washington - 0.48% gross[53]
  • South Dakota - 4% net[60]
  • Montana - 1.6% net[53]
  • Idaho - 1% gross[53]

Nevada and Alaska together account for 85% of US gold production.[54]

See also



External links









Alaska National Parks

 Denali National Park
Gates of the Arctic National Park
Glacier Bay National Park
Katmai National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park
Kobuk Valley National Park
Lake Clark National Park
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Arizona National Parks

 Grand Canyon National Park
Petrified Forest National Park
Saguaro National Park

Arkansas National Parks

 Hot Springs National Park

California National Parks

 Channel Islands National Park
Death Valley National Park (also located in Nevada)
Joshua Tree National Park
Kings Canyon National Park
Lassen Volcanic Park
Redwood National Park
Sequoia National Park
Yosemite National Park

Colorado National Parks

 Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

Florida National Parks

 Biscayne National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park
Everglades National Park

Hawaii National Parks

 Haleakala National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Idaho National Parks

 Yellowstone National Park (also located in Wyoming and Montana)

Kentucky National Parks

 Mammoth Cave Park

Maine National Parks

 Acadia National Park

Michigan National Parks

  Isle Royale National Park

Minnesota National Parks
 Voyageurs National Park
Montana National Parks

Glacier National Park

Yellowstone National Park (also located in Wyoming and Idaho)

Nevada National Parks

 Death Valley National Park (also located in California)
Great Basin National Park

New Mexico National Parks

 Carlsbad Caverns National Park

North Carolina National Parks

 Great Smoky Mountains National Park (also located in Tennessee)

North Dakota National Parks

 Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Ohio National Parks

 Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Oregon National Parks

 Crater Lake National Park

South Carolina National Parks
Congaree National Park

South Dakota National Parks
 Badlands National Park
Wind Cave National Park

 Tennessee National ParksGreat Smoky Mountains National Park (also located in North Carolina)

 Texas National Parks
Big Bend National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park

 Utah National Parks
Arches National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Zion National Park

Virginia National Parks
Shenandoah National Park

Washington National Parks
Mount Rainier National Park
North Cascades National Park
Olympic National Park

 Wyoming National Parks
Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park (also located in Montana and Idaho)

 US Territories National Parks


American Samoa National Park (located in American Samoa Territory)
Virgin Islands National Park (located in US Virgin Islands)

United States

Coordinates:°N 100°W / 40°N 100°W / 40; -100

United States of America


"In God we trust"[1][2]

Other traditional mottos  [show]

  • "E pluribus unum" (Latin) (de facto) "Out of many, one"
  • ·"Annuit cœptis" (Latin) "He has favored our undertakings"
  • ·"Novus ordo seclorum" (Latin) "New order of the ages"

Anthem: "The Star-Spangled Banner"




March: "The Stars and Stripes Forever"[3]





Projection of North America with the United States in green

The contiguous United States plus Alaska and Hawaii

The United States and its territories

The United States and its territories


Washington, D.C.
38°53′N 77°01′W / 38.883°N 77.017°W / 38.883; -77.017

Largest city

New York City
40°43′N 74°00′W / 40.717°N 74.000°W / 40.717; -74.000

Official languages

None at federal level[a]

National language


Ethnic groups

72.4% White




Federal presidential constitutional republic



Barack Obama


Vice President

Joe Biden


Speaker of the House

Paul Ryan


Chief Justice

John Roberts




Upper house



Lower house

House of Representatives

Independence from Great Britain



July 4, 1776 



March 1, 1781 


Treaty of Paris

September 3, 1783 



June 21, 1788 


Last polity admitted

March 24, 1976 



Total area

9,833,517 km2[5][d] (3rd/4th)
3,796,742 sq mi


Water (%)



Total land area

9,147,593 km2
3,531,905 sq mi



2016 estimate

324,099,593[6] (3rd)


2010 census

309,349,689[7] (3rd)



35/km2 (180th)
90.6/sq mi


2016 estimate



$18.558 trillion[8] (2nd)


Per capita

$57,220[8] (10th)

GDP (nominal)

2016 estimate



$18.558 trillion[8] (1st)


Per capita

$57,220[8] (6th)

Gini (2013)


HDI (2014)

Increase 0.915[12]
very high ·


United States dollar ($) (USD)

Time zone

(UTC−4 to −12, +10, +11)


Summer (DST)

 (UTC−4 to −10[e])

Date format


Drives on the


Calling code


ISO 3166 code


Internet TLD

.us   .gov   .mil   .edu


^ English is the official language of 32 states; English and Hawaiian are both official languages in Hawaii, and English and 20 Native American languages are official in Alaska. Algonquian, Cherokee, and Sioux are among many other official languages in Native-controlled lands throughout the country. French is a de facto, but unofficial, language in Maine and Louisiana, while New Mexico law grants Spanish a special status.[14][15][16][17]


^ In five territories, English as well as one or more indigenous languages are official: Spanish in Puerto Rico, Samoan in American Samoa, Chamorro in both Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Carolinian is also an official language in the Northern Mariana Islands.


^ Not including Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, see Race and ethnicity in the United States for more information.


^ Whether the United States or China is larger has been disputed. The figure given is from the U.S. Census and United Nations.[18]


^ See Time in the United States for details about laws governing time zones in the United States.


^ Except American Samoa and the Virgin Islands.

The United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a federal republic composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions.[fn 1] The 48 contiguous states and federal district are in central North America between Canada and Mexico, with the state of Alaska in the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii comprising an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. At 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million km2)[18] and with over 324 million people, the United States is the world's third largest country by total area (and fourth largest by land area)[fn 2] and the third most populous. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many other countries.[24] The geography and climate are also extremely diverse, and the country is home to a wide variety of wildlife.[25]

Paleo-Indians migrated from Asia to the North American mainland at least 15,000 years ago,[26] with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies along 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.[27] 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,[28] displacing American Indian tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting new states until it spanned the continent by 1848.[28] During the second half of the 19th century, the American Civil War led to the end of legal slavery in the country.[29][30] By the end of that century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean,[31] and its economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution, began to soar.[32] 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. 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.[33]

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,[34] human development, per capita GDP, and productivity per person.[35] While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, characterized by the dominance of services, the manufacturing sector remains the second largest in the world.[36] Though its population is only 4.4% of the world total,[37] the United States accounts for nearly a quarter of world GDP[38] and almost a third of global military spending,[39] 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.[40]





See also: Naming of America, Names for United States citizens, American (word), and Names of the United States

In 1507 the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the lands of the Western Hemisphere "America" after the Italian explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci (Latin: Americus Vespucius).[41] The first documentary evidence of the phrase "United States of America" is from a letter dated January 2, 1776, written by Stephen Moylan, Esq., George Washington's aide-de-camp and Muster-Master General of the Continental Army. Addressed to Lt. Col. Joseph Reed, Moylan expressed his wish to carry the "full and ample powers of the United States of America" to Spain to assist in the revolutionary war effort.[42][43][44]

The first known publication of the phrase "United States of America" was in an anonymous essay in The Virginia Gazette newspaper in Williamsburg, Virginia, on April 6, 1776.[45][46] The second draft of the Articles of Confederation, prepared by John Dickinson and completed by June 17, 1776, at the latest, declared "The name of this Confederation shall be the 'United States of America.'"[47] The final version of the Articles sent to the states for ratification in late 1777 contains the sentence "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America'".[48] In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the phrase "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" in all capitalized letters in the headline of his "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence.[49][50] This draft of the document did not surface until June 21, 1776, and it is unclear whether it was written before or after Dickinson used the term in his June 17 draft of the Articles of Confederation.[47] In the final Fourth of July version of the Declaration, the title was changed to read, "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America".[51] The preamble of the Constitution states "...establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms are the "U.S.", the "USA", and "America". Colloquial names are the "U.S. of A." and, internationally, the "States". "Columbia", a name popular in poetry and songs of the late 18th century, derives its origin from Christopher Columbus; it appears in the name "District of Columbia".[52] In non-English languages, the name is frequently the translation of either the "United States" or "United States of America", and colloquially as "America". In addition, an abbreviation (e.g. USA) is sometimes used.[53]

The phrase "United States" was originally plural, a description of a collection of independent states—e.g., "the United States are"—including in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865. The singular form—e.g., "the United States is"— became popular after the end of the American Civil War. The singular form is now standard; the plural form is retained in the idiom "these United States".[54] The difference is more significant than usage; it is a difference between a collection of states and a unit.[55]

A citizen of the United States is an "American". "United States", "American" and "U.S." refer to the country adjectivally ("American values", "U.S. forces"). "American" rarely refers to subjects not connected with the United States.[56]


Main articles: History of the United States, Timeline of United States history, American business history, Economic history of the United States, and Labor history of the United States

Indigenous and European contact

Further information: Pre-Columbian era and Colonial history of the United States

An artistic recreation of The Kincaid Site from the prehistoric Mississippian culture as it may have looked at its peak 1050-1400 AD

The first inhabitants of North America migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge and arrived at least 15,000 years ago, though increasing evidence suggests an even earlier arrival.[26] Some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, developed advanced agriculture, grand architecture, and state-level societies.[57] After the Spanish conquistadors made the first contacts, the native population declined for various reasons, primarily from diseases such as smallpox and measles. Violence was not a significant factor in the overall decline among Native Americans, though conflict among themselves and with Europeans affected specific tribes and various colonial settlements.[58][59][60][61][62][63] In the Hawaiian Islands, the earliest indigenous inhabitants arrived around 1 AD from Polynesia. Europeans under the British explorer Captain James Cook arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778.

In the early days of colonization, many European settlers were subject to food shortages, disease, and attacks from Native Americans. Native Americans were also often at war with neighboring tribes and allied with Europeans in their colonial wars. At the same time, however, many natives and settlers came to depend on each other. Settlers traded for food and animal pelts, natives for guns, ammunition and other European wares.[64] Natives taught many settlers where, when and how to cultivate corn, beans and squash. European missionaries and others felt it was important to "civilize" the Native Americans and urged them to adopt European agricultural techniques and lifestyles.[65][66]


Further information: European colonization of the Americas and Thirteen Colonies

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in the United States

The signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1620

After Spain sent Columbus' on his first voyage to the New World in 1492, other explorers followed. The Spanish set up small settlements in New Mexico and Florida. France had several small settlements along the Mississippi River. Successful English settlement on the eastern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown and the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony in 1620. Early experiments in communal living failed until the introduction of private farm holdings.[67] Many settlers were dissenting Christian groups who came seeking religious freedom. The continent's first elected legislative assembly, Virginia's House of Burgesses created in 1619, and the Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims before disembarking, established precedents for the pattern of representative self-government and constitutionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.[68][69]

Most settlers in every colony were small farmers, but other industries developed within a few decades as varied as the settlements. Cash crops included tobacco, rice and wheat. Extraction industries grew up in furs, fishing and lumber. Manufacturers produced rum and ships, and by the late colonial period Americans were producing one-seventh of the world's iron supply.[70] Cities eventually dotted the coast to support local economies and serve as trade hubs. English colonists were supplemented by waves of Scotch-Irish and other groups. As coastal land grew more expensive freed indentured servants pushed further west.[71]

Slave cultivation of cash crops began with the Spanish in the 1500s, and was adopted by the English, but life expectancy was much higher in North America because of less disease and better food and treatment, leading to a rapid increase in the numbers of slaves.[72][73][74] Colonial society was largely divided over the religious and moral implications of slavery and colonies passed acts for and against the practice.[75][76] But by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves were replacing indentured servants for cash crop labor, especially in southern regions.[77]

With the British colonization of Georgia in 1732, the 13 colonies that would become the United States of America were established.[78] 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.[79] With extremely high birth rates, low death rates, and steady settlement, the colonial population grew rapidly. Relatively small Native American populations were eclipsed.[80] The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and 1740s known as the Great Awakening fueled interest in both religion and religious liberty.[81]

During the Seven Years War (also known as the French and Indian War), British forces seized Canada from the French, but the francophone population remained politically isolated from the southern colonies. Excluding the Native Americans, who were being conquered and displaced, those 13 colonies had a population of over 2.1 million in 1770, about one-third that of Britain. Despite continuing new arrivals, the rate of natural increase was such that by the 1770s only a small minority of Americans had been born overseas.[82] The colonies' distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-government, but their success motivated monarchs to periodically seek to reassert royal authority.[83]

Independence and expansion (1776–1865)

Further information: American Revolutionary War, United States Declaration of Independence, American Revolution, and Territorial evolution of the United States

The Declaration of Independence: the Committee of Five presenting their draft to the Second Continental Congress in 1776

The American Revolutionary War was the first successful colonial war of independence against a European power. Americans had developed an ideology of "republicanism" asserting that government rested on the will of the people as expressed in their local legislatures. They demanded their rights as Englishmen, "no taxation without representation". The British insisted on administering the empire through Parliament, and the conflict escalated into war.[84]

Following the passage of the Lee Resolution, on July 2, 1776, which was the actual vote for independence, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, which proclaimed, in a long preamble, that humanity is created equal in their unalienable rights and that those rights were not being protected by Great Britain, and declared, in the words of the resolution, that the Thirteen Colonies were independent states and had no allegiance to the British crown in the United States. The fourth day of July is celebrated annually as Independence Day. In 1777, the Articles of Confederation established a weak government that operated until 1789.[85]

Britain recognized the independence of the United States following their defeat at Yorktown.[86] In the peace treaty of 1783, American sovereignty was recognized from the Atlantic coast west to the Mississippi River. Nationalists led the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in writing the United States Constitution, ratified in state conventions in 1788. The federal government was reorganized into three branches, on the principle of creating salutary checks and balances, in 1789. George Washington, who had led the revolutionary army to victory, was the first president elected under the new constitution. The Bill of Rights, forbidding federal restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protections, was adopted in 1791.[87]

Although the federal government criminalized the international slave trade in 1808, after 1820, cultivation of the highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the Deep South, and along with it, the slave population.[88][89][90] The Second Great Awakening, beginning about 1800, converted millions to evangelical Protestantism. In the North, it energized multiple social reform movements, including abolitionism;[91] in the South, Methodists and Baptists proselytized among slave populations.[92]

Americans' eagerness to expand westward prompted a long series of American Indian Wars.[93] The Louisiana Purchase of French-claimed territory in 1803 almost doubled the nation's size.[94] The War of 1812, declared against Britain over various grievances and fought to a draw, strengthened U.S. nationalism.[95] A series of military incursions into Florida led Spain to cede it and other Gulf Coast territory in 1819.[96] Expansion was aided by steam power, when steamboats began traveling along America's large water systems, which were connected by new canals, such as the Erie and the I&M; then, even faster railroads began their stretch across the nation's land.[97]

U.S. territorial acquisitions–portions of each territory were granted statehood since the 18th century.

From 1820 to 1850, Jacksonian democracy began a set of reforms which included wider white male suffrage; it led to the rise of the Second Party System of Democrats and Whigs as the dominant parties from 1828 to 1854. The Trail of Tears in the 1830s exemplified the Indian removal policy that moved Indians into the west to their own reservations. The U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845 during a period of expansionist Manifest destiny.[98] The 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of the present-day American Northwest.[99] Victory in the Mexican–American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cession of California and much of the present-day American Southwest.[100]

The California Gold Rush of 1848–49 spurred western migration and the creation of additional western states.[101] After the American Civil War, new transcontinental railways made relocation easier for settlers, expanded internal trade and increased conflicts with Native Americans.[102] Over a half-century, the loss of the American bison (sometimes called "buffalo") was an existential blow to many Plains Indians cultures.[103] In 1869, a new Peace Policy sought to protect Native-Americans from abuses, avoid further war, and secure their eventual U.S. citizenship, although conflicts, including several of the largest Indian Wars, continued throughout the West into the 1900s.[104]

Civil War and Reconstruction Era

Further information: American Civil War and Reconstruction Era

The Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania during the Civil War

Differences of opinion and social order between northern and southern states in early United States society, particularly regarding Black slavery, ultimately led to the American Civil War.[105] Initially, states entering the Union alternated between slave and free states, keeping a sectional balance in the Senate, while free states outstripped slave states in population and in the House of Representatives. But with additional western territory and more free-soil states, tensions between slave and free states mounted with arguments over federalism and disposition of the territories, whether and how to expand or restrict slavery.[106]

With the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, the first president from the largely anti-slavery Republican Party, conventions in thirteen slave states ultimately declared secession and formed the Confederate States of America, while the federal government maintained that secession was illegal.[106] The ensuing war was at first for Union, then after 1863 as casualties mounted and Lincoln delivered his Emancipation Proclamation, a second war aim became abolition of slavery. The war remains the deadliest military conflict in American history, resulting in the deaths of approximately 618,000 soldiers as well as many civilians.[107]

Following the Union victory in 1865, three amendments were added to the U.S. Constitution: the Thirteenth Amendment prohibited slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment provided citizenship to the nearly four million African Americans who had been slaves,[108] and the Fifteenth Amendment ensured that they had the right to vote. The war and its resolution led to a substantial increase in federal power[109] aimed at reintegrating and rebuilding the Southern states while ensuring the rights of the newly freed slaves.[110] Following the Reconstruction Era, throughout the South Jim Crow laws soon effectively disenfranchised most blacks and some poor whites. Over the subsequent decades, in both the North and the South blacks and some whites faced systemic discrimination, including racial segregation and occasional vigilante violence, sparking national movements against these abuses.[110]


Main articles: Economic history of the United States and Technological and industrial history of the United States

Ellis Island in New York City was a major gateway for European immigration.

In the North, urbanization and an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe supplied a surplus of labor for the country's industrialization and transformed its culture.[111] National infrastructure including telegraph and transcontinental railroads spurred economic growth and greater settlement and development of the American Old West. The later invention of electric light and the telephone would also affect communication and urban life.[112]

The end of the Indian Wars further expanded acreage under mechanical cultivation, increasing surpluses for international markets.[113] Mainland expansion was completed by the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.[114] In 1893, pro-American elements in Hawaii overthrew the monarchy and formed the Republic of Hawaii, which the U.S. annexed in 1898. Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were ceded by Spain in the same year, following the Spanish–American War.[115]

Rapid economic development at the end of the 19th century produced many prominent industrialists, and the U.S. economy became the world's largest.[116] Dramatic changes were accompanied by social unrest and the rise of populist, socialist, and anarchist movements.[117] This period eventually ended with the advent of the Progressive Era, which saw significant reforms in many societal areas, including women's suffrage, alcohol prohibition, regulation of consumer goods, greater antitrust measures to ensure competition and attention to worker conditions.

World War I, Great Depression, and World War II

Further information: World War I, Great Depression, and World War II

U.S. troops approaching Omaha Beach in 1944

The United States remained neutral from the outbreak of World War I, in 1914, until 1917 when it joined the war as an "associated power", alongside the formal Allies of World War I, helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference and advocated strongly for the U.S. to join the League of Nations. However, the Senate refused to approve this, and did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles that established the League of Nations.[118]

In 1920, the women's rights movement won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage.[119] The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of radio for mass communication and the invention of early television.[120] The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal, which included the establishment of the Social Security system.[121] The Great Migration of millions of African Americans out of the American South began before World War I and extended through the 1960s;[122] whereas the Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and spurred a new wave of western migration.[123]

At first effectively neutral during World War II while Germany conquered much of continental Europe, the United States began supplying material to the 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.[124] During the war, the United States was referred as one of the "Four Policemen"[125] of Allies power who met to plan the postwar world, along with Britain, the Soviet Union and China.[126][127] Though the nation lost more than 400,000 soldiers,[128] it emerged relatively undamaged from the war with even greater economic and military influence.[129]

The United States played a leading role in the Bretton Woods and Yalta conferences with the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and other Allies, which signed agreements on new international financial institutions and Europe's postwar reorganization. As an Allied victory was won in Europe, a 1945 international conference held in San Francisco produced the United Nations Charter, which became active after the war.[130] The United States developed the first nuclear weapons and used them on Japan; the Japanese surrendered on September 2, ending World War II.[131]

Cold War and civil rights era

Main articles: History of the United States (1945–64), History of the United States (1964–80), and History of the United States (1980–91)

U.S. President Ronald Reagan at his Tear down this wall! speech in Berlin (Germany) on June 12, 1987. The Iron Curtain of Europe manifested the division of the world's superpowers during the Cold War.

After World War II the United States and the Soviet Union jockeyed for power during what is known as the Cold War, driven by an ideological divide between capitalism and communism[132] and, according to the school of geopolitics, a divide between the maritime Atlantic and the continental Eurasian camps. They dominated the military affairs of Europe, with the U.S. and its NATO allies on one side and the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies on the other. The U.S. developed a policy of containment towards the expansion of communist influence. While the U.S. and Soviet Union engaged in proxy wars and developed powerful nuclear arsenals, the two countries avoided direct military conflict.

The U.S. often opposed Third World movements that it viewed as Soviet-sponsored. American troops fought communist Chinese and North Korean forces in the Korean War of 1950–53.[133] The Soviet Union's 1957 launch of the first artificial satellite and its 1961 launch of the first manned spaceflight initiated a "Space Race" in which the United States became the first nation to land a man on the moon in 1969.[133] A proxy war in Southeast Asia eventually evolved into full American participation, as the Vietnam War.

At home, the U.S. experienced sustained economic expansion and a rapid growth of its population and middle class. Construction of an Interstate Highway System transformed the nation's infrastructure over the following decades. Millions moved from farms and inner cities to large suburban housing developments.[134][135] In 1959 Hawaii became the 50th and last U.S. state added to the country.[136] A growing civil rights movement used nonviolence to confront segregation and discrimination, with Martin Luther King Jr. becoming a prominent leader and figurehead. A combination of court decisions and legislation, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sought to end racial discrimination.[137][138][139] Meanwhile, a counterculture movement grew which was fueled by opposition to the Vietnam war, black nationalism, and the sexual revolution. The launch of a "War on Poverty" expanded entitlements and welfare spending.[140]

The 1970s and early 1980s saw the onset of stagflation. After his election in 1980, President Ronald Reagan responded to economic stagnation with free-market oriented reforms. Following the collapse of détente, he abandoned "containment" and initiated the more aggressive "rollback" strategy towards the USSR.[141][142][143][144][145] After a surge in female labor participation over the previous decade, by 1985 the majority of women aged 16 and over were employed.[146]

The late 1980s brought a "thaw" in relations with the USSR, and its collapse in 1991 finally ended the Cold War.[147][148][149][150] This brought about unipolarity[151] with the U.S. unchallenged as the world's dominant superpower. The concept of Pax Americana, which had appeared in the post-World War II period, gained wide popularity as a term for the post-Cold War new world order.

Contemporary history

Main article: History of the United States (1991–present)

The former World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan during September 11 attacks in 2001

One World Trade Center, built in its place

After the Cold War, the 1990s saw the longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history, ending in 2001.[152] Originating in U.S. defense networks, the Internet spread to international academic networks, and then to the public in the 1990s, greatly affecting the global economy, society, and culture.[153] On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people.[154] In response, the United States launched the War on Terror, which included war in Afghanistan and the 2003–11 Iraq War.[155][156]

Beginning in 1994, the U.S. entered into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), linking 450 million people producing $17 trillion worth of goods and services. The goal of the agreement was to eliminate trade and investment barriers among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico by January 1, 2008; trade among the partners has soared since the agreement went into force.[157]

Barack Obama, the first African American,[158] and multiracial[159] president, was elected in 2008 amid the Great Recession,[160] which began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.[161]

Geography, climate, and environment

Main articles: Geography of the United States, Climate of the United States, and Environment of the United States

A composite satellite image of the contiguous United States and surrounding areas

Köppen climate types of the US

The land area of the contiguous United States is 2,959,064 square miles (7.7 Mm2). Alaska, separated from the contiguous United States by Canada, is the largest state at 663,268 square miles (1.7 Mm2). Hawaii, occupying an archipelago in the central Pacific, southwest of North America, is 10,931 square miles (28,311 km2) in area. The populated territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands together cover 9,185 square miles (23,789 km2).[162]

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 (9.5 Mm2)[163] to 3,717,813 square miles (9.6 Mm2)[164] to 3,796,742 square miles (9.8 Mm2)[5] to 3,805,927 square miles (9.9 Mm2).[18] Measured by only land area, the United States is third in size behind Russia and China, just ahead of Canada.[165]

The coastal plain of the Atlantic seaboard gives way further inland to deciduous forests and the rolling hills of the Piedmont.[166] The Appalachian Mountains divide the eastern seaboard from the Great Lakes and the grasslands of the Midwest.[167] The MississippiMissouri River, the world's fourth longest river system, runs mainly north–south through the heart of the country. The flat, fertile prairie of the Great Plains stretches to the west, interrupted by a highland region in the southeast.[167]

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.[168] Farther west are the rocky Great Basin and deserts such as the Chihuahua and Mojave.[169] The Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges run close to the Pacific coast, both ranges reaching altitudes higher than 14,000 feet (4,300 m). The lowest and highest points in the contiguous United States are in the state of California,[170] and only about 84 miles (135 km) apart.[171] At an elevation of 20,310 feet (6,190.5 m), Alaska's Denali (Mount McKinley) is the highest peak in the country and North America.[172] Active volcanoes are common throughout Alaska's Alexander and Aleutian Islands, and Hawaii consists of volcanic islands. The supervolcano underlying Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies is the continent's largest volcanic feature.[173]

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.[174] The Great Plains west of the 100th meridian are semi-arid. Much of the Western mountains have an alpine climate. The climate is arid in the Great Basin, desert in the Southwest, Mediterranean in coastal California, and oceanic in coastal Oregon and Washington and southern Alaska. Most of Alaska is subarctic or polar. Hawaii and the southern tip of Florida are tropical, as are the populated territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific.[175] Extreme weather is not uncommon—the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico are prone to hurricanes, and most of the world's tornadoes occur within the country, mainly in Tornado Alley areas in the Midwest and South.[176]


Main articles: Fauna of the United States and Flora of the United States

See also: Category:Biota of the United States

The bald eagle has been the national bird of the United States since 1782.[177]

The U.S. ecology is 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 mainland.[178] The United States is home to 428 mammal species, 784 bird species, 311 reptile species, and 295 amphibian species.[179] About 91,000 insect species have been described.[180] The bald eagle is both the national bird and national animal of the United States, and is an enduring symbol of the country itself.[181]

There are 58 national parks and hundreds of other federally managed parks, forests, and wilderness areas.[182] Altogether, the government owns about 28% of the country's land area.[183] Most of this is protected, though some is leased for oil and gas drilling, mining, logging, or cattle ranching; about .86% is used for military purposes.[184][185]

Environmental issues have been on the national agenda since 1970. Environmental controversies include debates on oil and nuclear energy, dealing with air and water pollution, the economic costs of protecting wildlife, logging and deforestation,[186][187] and international responses to global warming.[188][189] Many federal and state agencies are involved. The most prominent is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), created by presidential order in 1970.[190] The idea of wilderness has shaped the management of public lands since 1964, with the Wilderness Act.[191] The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is intended to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats, which are monitored by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.[192]


Main articles: Demography of the United States, Americans, List of U.S. states by population density, and List of United States cities by population


Race/Ethnicity (2015 estimates)[193]

By race:[193]







Two or More Races


American Indian and Alaska Native


Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander


By ethnicity:[193]

Hispanic/Latino (of any race)


Non-Hispanic/Latino (of any race)


Largest ancestry groups by county (2000), led by German Americans

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.[194] The U.S. population almost quadrupled during the 20th century, from about 76 million in 1900.[195] 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.[196] In the 1800s the average woman had 7.04 children, by the 1900s this number had decreased to 3.56.[197] 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.[198] The foreign born population reached 45 million in 2015.[199][fn 3]

The United States has a birth rate of 13 per 1,000, which is 5 births below the world average.[203] Its population growth rate is positive at 0.7%, higher than that of many developed nations.[204] In fiscal year 2012, over one million immigrants (most of whom entered through family reunification) were granted legal residence.[205] 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.[206] As of 2012[update], approximately 11.4 million residents are illegal immigrants.[207] 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.[199]

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.[208][209] 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%.[210] 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.[211]

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).[212] 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.[212]

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[212] are identified as sharing a distinct "ethnicity" by the Census Bureau; 64% of Hispanic Americans are of Mexican descent.[213] Between 2000 and 2010, the country's Hispanic population increased 43% while the non-Hispanic population rose just 4.9%.[214] 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.[215][fn 4]

U.S. population density in 2005

About 82% of Americans live in urban areas (including suburbs);[5] about half of those reside in cities with populations over 50,000.[221] 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 places had populations over 100,000, nine cities had more than one million residents, and four global cities had over two million (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston).[222] There are 52 metropolitan areas with populations greater than one million.[223] Of the 50 fastest-growing metro areas, 47 are in the West or South.[224] The metro areas of San Bernardino, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Phoenix all grew by more than a million people between 2000 and 2008.[223]