United States

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United States of America
United States of America
United States flag
Great Seal of the United States
flag seal
Motto :
E pluribus unum
(Latin for Out of Many One , always unofficial)
In God We Trust
(English for In God we trust , officially since 1956)
Official language de jure : none
de facto : English
Capital Washington, DC
State and form of government federal presidential republic
Head of state , also head of government President Joe Biden
surface 9,826,675 km²
population 328 million (2019)
Population density 33 inhabitants per km²
Population development   + 0.74% per year
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nominal)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 21,433 billion ( 1. )
  • $ 21,433 billion ( 2. )
  • 65,254 USD ( 7. )
  • 65,254 USD ( 8. )
Human Development Index   0.926 ( 17th ) (2019)
currency US dollar (USD)
founding 1787/89 ( constitution )
independence July 4, 1776 (by the Kingdom of Great Britain )
National anthem The Star-Spangled Banner
National holiday 4th of July ( Independence Day )
Time zone UTC −5 to UTC −10
(50 states and DC )
License Plate USA
ISO 3166 US , USA, 840
Internet TLD .us , .gov , .mil , .edu
Phone code +1 (see NANP )
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The United States of America ( English United States of America ; abbreviated USA ), short United States (English United States , abbreviated US , US ) and often colloquially shortened to America (English America ), is a federal republic . It consists of 50 states , a federal district (the capital Washington, DC ), five larger territories directly dependent on the Union and nine island territories . The 48 contiguous contiguous United States (often called Lower 48 ) and Alaska are in North America and together form the Continental United States , while the state of Hawaii and smaller outlying areas are in the Pacific and the Caribbean . The country has a very high geographic and climatic diversity with a large variety of animal and plant species.

The United States of America is the third largest country in the world, measured by the area of ​​9.83 million square kilometers (after Russia and Canada ) and measured by the population of about 328.2 million people (after China and India ). The largest city in terms of population is New York City , major metropolitan regions are Los Angeles , Chicago , Dallas , Houston , Philadelphia , Washington , Miami , Atlanta , Boston and San Francisco , each with over 5 million inhabitants. The degree of urbanization is 82.26 percent (as of 2018) .

The United States is one of the most ethnically multicultural countries due to immigration from a wide variety of countries . Unlike in 32 federal states, there is no legal official language at the federal level, but English is the de facto official language. In the southwest , as well as in Miami which is also Spanish language widely used. A total of more than 350 languages ​​were in domestic use in 2015, 150 of them indigenous alone. The largest of these were those of the Yupik in Alaska, the Dakota from the Sioux language family and the Apache language , then Keres , the language of the Pueblo Indians , and Cherokee .

Paleo-Indians immigrated from Asia to the North American mainland of what is now the United States ( Buttermilk Creek Complex ) more than 13,000 years ago , after colonizing Alaska, which is now part of the United States, several millennia earlier. The European colonization began around 1600 mainly from England , but in a protracted conflict with France . The United States emerged from the 13 colonies on the Atlantic coast. Dispute between Great Britain and the American colonies led to the American Revolution . On July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the United States' Declaration of Independence and thus the establishment of the United States of America. The American War of Independence , which ended with the recognition of independence , was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial power . The present constitution was passed on September 17, 1787. So far, 27 additional articles have been added. The first ten amendments, collectively known as the Bill of Rights , were ratified in 1791 and guarantee a multitude of inalienable rights .

Driven by the Manifest Destiny doctrine , the United States began an expansion across North America that spanned the 19th century. This included the forcible expulsion of indigenous Indian tribes, the acquisition of new territories and others. in the Mexican-American War and the founding of new states . The American Civil War ended legal slavery in the United States in 1865 . At the end of the 19th century, the state expanded to the Pacific , and its economy became the largest in the world. The Spanish-American War and World War I confirmed the United States' role as a global military power. The US emerged from World War II as a superpower and the first country to use nuclear weapons , and became one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council . After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union , the US is the only remaining superpower. You are a founding member of the United Nations , the Organization of American States (OAS) and many other international organizations. Their political and cultural influence is great worldwide.

The United States is an industrialized country and the largest economy with a gross domestic product of US $ 18.5 trillion in 2016, which was 25% of nominal and 17% of global economic output adjusted for purchasing power. The country had the eighth highest per capita income in 2016 . According to the World Bank , income inequality in the United States is one of the highest among OECD countries . The country's economic performance is favored by the wealth of natural resources, well-developed infrastructure and high average productivity. Although the economic structure is generally viewed as post-industrial , the country is still one of the world's largest producers of goods. In 2016, the country was responsible for 36% of global military spending, which puts it in first place, followed by China with 13% and Russia with 4.1%. The result of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 proclaimed a state of emergency since 2001.

Concept history

"United states of America" ​​on April 4, 1776
Alexis de Tocquevilles On Democracy in America (1835/1840) - one of the most widely received works in the social sciences

In 1507 the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller made a world map on which he named the land mass of the western hemisphere as "America" ​​after the Italian explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci . This term originally included the double continent of America , which Europeans came to know as the New World . Since the formation of the United States of America , the use of the term America has centered on the United States to varying degrees for various historical reasons and to varying degrees depending on the language area .

The first documented reference to the name United States of America is in a written anonymous essay that in the newspaper on April 6, 1776 The Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg was published. In June 1776 Thomas Jefferson added the designation "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" in capital letters to the title of his original draft Declaration of Independence . In the final version, the title was changed to The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America ("The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America").

The confederation articles published in 1777 proclaim: The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America' ("The name of this confederation shall be 'The United States of America' ").

The short form United States is common. Other frequently used forms are " US " or " US ", " USA " or " USA " and " America ". Other common names are "US of A." and - international - "the States" ( the States ). " Columbia ", a popular name in poetry and songs of the late 17th century, is derived from the name Christopher Columbus . It is part of the District of Columbia designation .

The official German name for citizens of the United States is "Bürger der USA (von Amerika)" or "American". " American " and "US-American" are used in German for the adjectival designation ("American values"), the prefix "US-" ("US armed forces") is also common. “American” is the recommended form in the guidelines on official language use in Germany , Austria and Switzerland . In the German guide, this is preceded by the alternative designation “the United States of America”. Only for the USA is there no clear name in the German guide. The proofreading of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung advises against the use of the new formation “US-American”, which was first recorded in the Duden in 1951 , as it is as unnecessary as it is artificial, and recommends replacing it with “American”.

In the English-speaking world , the American equivalent is rarely used to refer to topics that are not directly related to the United States. The term ' United States ' was originally treated as plural in the English-speaking world, a description for a collection of independent states, for example the United States are in the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution , ratified in 1865. It was after the end During their civil war in the United States, it was normal to treat the term as a singular, for example the United States is . The singular form is common today. However, the plural form is still used in speeches and literature, for example these United States ("these United States"). The difference is given more importance than just the freedom of choice of words, as it reflects the difference between a collection of states and a unit.

Outside of the English language, the name is often translated as a literal translation of either ' United States ' or ' United States of America '. In French, German, Italian, Japanese, Hebrew, Arabic, Portuguese and Russian, self-names have developed that distinguish the United States from America as part of the continent, for example as in the above-mentioned term US-American or in French étatsunien . However, these forms are not as common as the American or American polyseme . The US embassy in Spain calls itself the embassy of the “Estados Unidos” and also uses the initials “EE.UU.” Double letters indicate the use of the plural in Spanish . Elsewhere on the official website, “Estados Unidos de América” is used.


Limits and expansion

Satellite image of the 48 central states of the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) and adjacent areas

The United States shares a common border with Canada that is 8,895 kilometers long (with approximately 2,477 kilometers stretching between Alaska and Canada) and one with Mexico that is 3,326 kilometers long. The total length of the US land borders is 12,221 kilometers. The coastline on the Atlantic , Pacific and Gulf of Mexico covers a total of 19,924 kilometers.

The state covers a land area of 9,161,924 km², plus 664,706 km² of water , so that the national territory of 9,826,630 km² results.

The north-south extension between the Canadian and Mexican borders is around 2,500 kilometers, the extension between the Atlantic and Pacific around 4,500 kilometers. The main part of the country lies roughly between the 24th and the 49th northern latitude and between the 68th and 125th west longitude and is divided into four time zones divided (see time zones in the United States ).

The northernmost city in the USA is Utqiaġvik in Alaska, the southernmost town is Hawaiian Ocean View in Hawaii.

Geology and landscape structure

The area is clearly structured. Mountain ranges such as the volcanic cascade chain , the folded mountains of the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians stretch from north to south. While there are extensive forests on their weather side, huge arid areas with desert or grasslands ( prairies ) extend in their slipstream . The river systems of the United States, such as those of the Mississippi and Missouri, allowed for dense settlement early on, while the surrounding arid regions are sparsely populated to this day.

The highest mountain in the United States is Denali in Alaska with 6190  m , the lowest point is the Badwater depression in Death Valley with 85.5  m below sea level . Denali and Badwater are also the highest and lowest points on the North American continent.


United States

The most important influencing factor of the climate is the polar jet stream (polar front jet stream), which brings extensive low pressure areas from the North Pacific. When the lows combine with those of the Atlantic coast, they bring heavy snowfalls in winter as the Nor'easters . Since no mountain range runs west-east, winter storms often bring large amounts of snow far south, while in summer the heat extends far north as far as Canada.

The areas between the mountain ranges show correspondingly high temperature extremes, plus a more or less great drought that increases to the south and west. The Pacific coast, on the other hand, is a very rainy, often foggy area in the north. The area around the Gulf of Mexico is already subtropical with high temperatures in summer and often high humidity. In addition, the area is often reached by tropical cyclones.

Alaska has an arctic climate, and the mountains there are also the highest in the United States ( Denali , 6190 meters). Hawaii, whose Mauna Kea is 4,205 meters high, has a tropical climate.

Flora and fauna

The areas on the east coast up to the Great Lakes were heavily forested until the 19th century, the west coast in the temperate rainforest area of sometimes extremely tall trees with heights of over 100 meters. Only a few of these areas have remained, such as the Redwoods or the Hoh Rainforest . Large areas were converted into arable land or cultivated, the majority of which is now occupied by commercial forests. The biodiversity of the drier grasslands was also greatly reduced in the course of agricultural use. However, protected areas and measures meant that many of the more than 17,000 vascular plant species could be saved. Only Hawaii has 1,800 flowering plants ( angiosperms on), many of which are endemic are.

Around 400 mammal, 750 bird and 500 reptile and amphibian species as well as well over 90,000 insect species form part of the fauna, with a separate law protecting endangered species since 1973. 58 national parks in the still large remaining wilderness regions and several hundred other protected areas have predominantly a large biodiversity, which is in clear contrast to the widespread monocultures. Mainly due to the large number of endemic species, genera and families , the great diversity of species or biodiversity and the diverse ecosystems , the USA is one of the megadiversity countries on earth. Only the Mediterranean hard-leaf vegetation of the floral province of California is listed internationally as a biodiversity hotspot due to the high level of threat to nature .

Nature and environmental protection

Historically, some important developments in nature conservation stem from the history of the United States: The national park idea and with it Yellowstone National Park , the world's first large-scale reserve of its kind, emerged in the United States. As the national authority, the Senate established the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to oversee all national protected areas. On the one hand, US NGOs such as Conservation International are world leaders in nature and resource conservation . On the other hand, the United States is one of the few countries that has not yet signed the most important international agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity .

Metropolitan areas

Population density of the United States

82.26 percent of Americans lived in urban areas in 2018. In 2016, 307 towns had more than 100,000 inhabitants and there were 54  metropolitan regions with more than one million inhabitants (with only ten cities). The largest metropolitan areas in 2016 were New York City (20.1 million), Los Angeles (13.3 million), Chicago (9.5 million), Dallas (7.2 million), Houston (6.7 million), Washington, DC (6.1 million) and Philadelphia (6 million). The main metropolitan areas are between New York and the Great Lakes, California and Arizona, and Texas and, to a lesser extent, Florida. With 33 people per square kilometer, the US is a rather sparsely populated country. The east of the country is much more densely populated than the west.

Top 10 cities and metropolitan regions (as of 2016)
rank city Residents rank Metropolitan area Residents
01 New York City 08,537,673 01 New York City - Newark - Jersey City 20.153.634
02 los Angeles 03,976,322 02 Los Angeles - Long Beach - Anaheim 13.310.447
03 Chicago 02,704,958 03 Chicago - Naperville - Elgin 09,512,999
04th Houston 02,303,482 04th Dallas - Fort Worth - Arlington 07,233,323
05 Phoenix 01,615,017 05 Houston - The Woodlands - Sugar Land 06,772,470
06th Philadelphia 01,567,872 06th Washington, DC - Arlington - Alexandria 06,131,977
07th San Antonio 01,492,510 07th Philadelphia - Camden - Wilmington 06,070,500
08th San Diego 01,406,630 08th Miami - Fort Lauderdale - Palm Beach 06,066,387
09 Dallas 01,317,929 09 Atlanta - Sandy Springs - Roswell 05,789,700
10 San Jose 01,025,350 10 Boston - Cambridge - Newton 04,794,447


Ethnicities and immigrant groups

Ethnic groups with the highest proportion of the population in the counties
Population groups
(According to Census estimate from July 2019)
white 60.4%
Hispanics and Latinos 18.3%
African American 13.4%
Asian Americans 5.9%
Multiethnic Americans 2.7%
North American Indians and Native Americans 1.3%
Native Hawaiians and Americans from Oceania 0.2%

The original inhabitants of the country, the Indians ("Native Americans" or "American Indians"), now only make up around one percent of the population. Only in Alaska do they reach a double-digit percentage of the population. Other areas of focus are Oklahoma , California , Arizona , New Mexico and South Dakota . They do not form a unit; Culture, language and religion differ from people to people. Overall, there are 562 recognized tribes ( tribes ), added 245 groups that are not currently recognized as a tribe.

The first colonial immigrants to the continent settled by Indians were Europeans, initially primarily of Spanish , French and English origins. With them came slaves from the 17th century , mostly from West Africa . From the middle of the 18th century and increasingly towards the middle of the 19th century, Europeans of German-speaking and Irish origin followed . Later immigrants from other regions of Europe joined them, mainly Italians , Scandinavians and Eastern Europeans , including Eastern European Jews . In the second half of the 19th century there was immigration from East Asia and the Middle East . In addition to economic motives, religious or political persecution also played a role for many.

Americans with European ancestry now make up 72 percent of the total population. African Americans make up just over 13 percent. They live mainly in the south and in the large industrial cities of the north. Asian immigrants, largely from China , Japan , Korea , India and the Philippines , make up around five percent. During the last census, over 50 million people said they were of German origin. This makes the German-Americans the largest population group in the United States.

Especially in the southwest of the United States and in Florida there is a high proportion of the population with Latin American origins, who are generally referred to as "Hispanics" or "Latinos". Many of them hold tight to their culture and language . Their share in the US has grown steadily over the past few decades (to 17 percent by 2013) as many Latin Americans flee to the north from economic hardship. They often come as illegal immigrants.

There are great differences in the social structure between the white and black population . Blacks, on average, have lower incomes , a shorter life expectancy and a poorer education . They are both more likely to be victims and perpetrators of homicide and are more likely to be sentenced to death . The reasons for this and possible ways of resolving the problem are controversial. Not only in the southern states , residential areas and non-public institutions - such as churches or private organizations - are often factually separated according to ethnic group , even if the formal separation is now illegal and frowned upon.

Population development

Population development in the United States
U.S. population pyramid 2016

The population has grown continuously since 1610. Forecasts assume a further increase by 2050: By 2025, according to a forecast by the United Nations, the population will grow to 358 million people, and by 2050 over 408 million people will live in the country.

Since 1790 the constitution provides for a census that takes place every ten years , the so-called United States Census . Immigrants made a significant contribution to the population growth. For example, since the Immigration and Naturalization Services Act of 1965, the number of foreign-born people has increased five-fold, from 9.6 million in 1970 to around 49.8 million in 2017. The number of immigrants rose in the 1990s a million a year. In 2000, the proportion of people born abroad was 11.1 percent of the total population. By 2017 it had increased to 15.3%. At the same time, nearly 3 million Americans lived abroad. Most of them are in Mexico (900,000), Canada (310,000), the United Kingdom (190,000), Germany (140,000) and Australia (120,000).

The birth rate per woman was 1.87 children in 2016. The birth rate of Hispanics and Latinos is higher than that of the rest of the population. In 2016 there were 12.5 births and 8.2 deaths for every 1,000 inhabitants. In the same year, the median age was 37.9 years. In 2016 the population grew by 0.81%, or around 3 million. Of the countries in the industrialized world, the United States has one of the youngest and fastest growing populations.

year population

1770 2,148,100
1780 2,780,400
1790 3,929,214
1800 5,308,483
1810 7,239,881
1820 9,638,453
1830 12,866,020
1840 17,069,453
1850 23,191,876
year population

1860 31,443,321
1870 38,558,371
1880 50.189.209
1890 62,979,766
1900 76.212.168
1910 92.228.496
1920 106.021.537
1930 123.202.624
year population

1940 132.164.569
1950 151.325.798
1960 179.323.175
1970 203.211.926
1980 226.545.805
1990 248,709,873
2000 281.421.906
2010 308,745,538


English is the official language of 32 states, Hawaii also accepts Hawaiian, and since 2014 Alaska has also accepted the state's 20 indigenous languages. Louisiana also translates into French, New Mexico also into Spanish. Courts have yet to rule in several states.
Languages ​​spoken at home in the United States, by number of speakers (2013)
English ( only ) 231.1 million
Spanish , including Creole languages 37.4 million
Chinese 2.9 million
Tagalog ( Philippines ) 1.6 million
Vietnamese 1.4 Million
French , including Cajun 1.3 million
Korean 1.1 million
German 1.1 million

The most widely spoken language in the United States is American English . In addition, many languages ​​of the Indians or Hawaiians and the languages ​​of immigrants are spoken. The last census found a total of 382 languages, 169 of which are Indian. The latter, however, only have about 400,000 speakers, about half of them Navajo . In Apache County in Arizona alone there were 37,000, in McKinley County in New Mexico  33,000. 227 million inhabitants speak only English, all other languages ​​together make up more than 60 million speakers. The proportion of people who speak Spanish is particularly high , with many immigrants only speaking their native Spanish and sometimes living in their own neighborhoods in cities (e.g. East Los Angeles or Union City ). In California, their share is around 30%, but many, especially the younger ones, are bilingual. About 30 to 40 million live in the United States, not a few illegally under immigration law . While there were many newspapers in German in the 19th century, Spanish is the language in which newspapers appear second most frequently today.

In addition to German (→ German-American ), French , Chinese , Korean , Vietnamese and Tagalog are also common. Especially in cases where there is little mixing with the rest of the population, the language brought with them is retained in the following generations (for example, by the Amish in Pennsylvania , Ohio , Indiana and Illinois ).

Despite the merits of a common language, the United States has not established a single official language . However, all official documents are written in English. English is the official language of thirty-two states; individual states and territories define themselves as bilingual, trilingual or multilingual, such as Hawaii , Alaska , Guam or Puerto Rico . Documents and signage are increasingly being translated into Spanish, but this phenomenon is mostly regional. Almost 18% of Americans did not speak English at home in 2006, and 10% said Spanish was their mother tongue in the 2000 referendum.

In 1847 a law allowed French to be taught in Louisiana , and in 1849 the California Constitution recognized Spanish. With the Civil War the rights of the Francophones disappeared, in 1868 it was recommended that the Indians be taught in English, in 1896 this should also apply in Hawaii. From 1879, Californian laws were only published in English, and the use of German was restricted during World War I. Individual states, such as Virginia in 1981 and California in 1986, made English the official language.

On May 8, 2007, a resolution was submitted to the Senate according to which English should be declared the " national language ". This project was rejected.


Religious groups
(According to Pew Research Center , 2019)
Protestants 43%
Non-denominational 26%
Catholics 20%
Mormon 2%
Jews 2%
Muslims 1 %
Hindu 1 %
Buddhists 1 %
Other 3%
No information 2%

The government does not keep a register of the religious status of residents. The United States Census Bureau is not allowed to ask questions about religion itself, but publishes the results of other surveys. In a survey by the Pew Research Center about 25.4% of the population described themselves in 2014 as evangelical Protestants 20.8%, as a Roman Catholic 14.7%, as Mainline - Protestants , 6.5% belong to traditional Protestant black churches at. Of the smaller Christian churches, 1.6% are Mormons and 0.8% Jehovah's Witnesses , 0.5% were members of an Orthodox church . The non-Christian religious communities include 1.9% Jews , 0.9% Muslims and 0.7% Buddhists . 22.8% of the respondents stated no religious convictions, of which 3.1% were explicitly atheists and 4.0% agnostics .

In summary, around 70.6% Christians and 5.9% followers of non-Christian religions lived in the USA in 2014. In a 2008 survey, 82% of Americans said religion was important or very important to their lives (55% were very important). 65% of women said religion was very important for their lives compared to 44% of men. According to this survey, 54% of the US population pray at least once a day, a value that is 10% in France , 19% in Germany , 32% in Poland , 42% in Turkey and 69% in Brazil .

According to a study by the Gallup Institute , around 73% of the population were Christians in 2016 (48.9% Protestants of the various currents, 23% Catholics and 1.8% Mormons). Judaism remains the largest non-Christian religion in the United States, accounting for 2.1% of the population. 0.8% of the population are Muslims, 2.5% belong to other religions. 18.2% of those questioned belonged to the group of non-denominational / atheists / agnostics.

The regional distribution of denominations is different; while the majority of Catholics live in New England , the southern states are evangelical. The center of the Mormons is in Utah and the surrounding states ( Nevada , Idaho ); Especially in the south of the USA on the border with Mexico and due to Cuban emigration in the greater Miami area , mainly Catholic Latinos live. The centers of the Jewish population are metropolises such as New York and the surrounding area, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and southeast Florida.

Corporate structure

The distribution of the poorest households in the United States

According to sociologists like Dennis Gilbert of Hamilton College , society consisted of six social classes in 1998 Source? with a determinable proportion of the total population: an upper class (around 1%), which consists of the most prominent, wealthiest and most powerful citizens; an upper middle class (around 15%) made up of highly qualified professionals such as doctors, professors, lawyers; a lower middle class (about 32%) made up of well-educated professionals such as school teachers and craftsmen; a working class (around 32%), which consists of industrial workers and wage workers ( blue-collar ) as well as simple white -collar workers, and finally a lower class (around 20%), which is divided into two groups. The upper group consists of the “ working poor ”, the working poor who work in poorly paid jobs without insurance or only part-time . The lower group is not working and is on the - very minor in the United States - public welfare dependent ( unemployed poor ).

It is noticeable that members of these lower classes mostly live in certain districts of the big cities, while the middle class in the 1960s to 1980s moved to the suburbs , which lie outside the boundaries of the big cities but still within the metropolitan regions. The proportion of the poor among blacks and Hispanics is disproportionately high (around 30%).

Between 1977 and 1999, the income of the richest hundredth of the population after tax increased by 115%. The real wages for 60% of workers have fallen during this period by 20%. The number of Americans living in poverty rose by 1.7 million in 2002 to a total of 34.6 million. The number of those living in extreme poverty (less than half the official poverty line ) rose from 13.4 million in 2001 to 14.1 million in 2002. The poverty and child poverty rates vary greatly between ethnic groups. In 2009, 7.1 million (18.7 percent) of people over 65 years of age were affected by the NAS definition of poverty. In 2013, 47 million people in 23 million households in the USA, or 20% of US households, purchased state food stamps. 90% of Americans have an income of $ 30,000 ? , which corresponds to the level of 1965. An evaluation of the Census data from 2010 also showed that around 1.5 million households have to live practically without any money. They earn less than $ 2 per person per day, but some receive food vouchers or benefits in kind and some live in publicly paid apartments. However, a significant proportion is completely cut off from the money economy.

Even households with incomes well above the federal poverty line can often be addressed as working poor due to the high cost of living in their region if and to the extent that they are unable to build up reserves or savings. Around 25% of households with middle-class incomes between the ages of 40 and 55 had net worth less than $ 17,500 at the end of 2014 (excluding any owner-occupied home and pension entitlements).

Overall, it can be stated that the gap between the poorest and the top of society has widened dramatically in recent years: According to estimates by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (USA) , the upper class, i.e. the top 1% of the population, owned The United States has 37.1% of total wealth, up 3.7% from 2001. The bottom 80% of the population owns just 12.3% of total wealth, a 3.3% decrease over the same period .

In 2017, according to Forbes , the United States had 585 billionaires (27% of all billionaires in the world), making the United States the country with the most billionaires in the world. 7 of the 10 richest people in the world were Americans in 2018. The richest man in America and the world was Jeff Bezos , whose fortune of $ 112 billion was higher than Kenya's economic performance (as of February 2018). The richest percent of America's population had an income of $ 524 billion in 2005, 37 percent more than the poorest 20 percent of the population ($ 383 billion). The average wealth of all US families was $ 692,000; the more meaningful median net worth was $ 97,300.

Immigration policy

Naturalization ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center
Most frequent countries of origin of migrants by country of birth in 2015
rank country Number of migrants
1 MexicoMexico Mexico 12,050,031
2 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 2,103,551
3 IndiaIndia India 1,969,286
4th PhilippinesPhilippines Philippines 1,896,031
5 Puerto RicoPuerto Rico Puerto Rico 1,744,402
6th VietnamVietnam Vietnam 1,302,870
7th El SalvadorEl Salvador El Salvador 1,276,489
8th CubaCuba Cuba 1,131,284
9 Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea 1,119,578
10 Dominican RepublicDominican Republic Dominican Republic 940.874

From 1951 to 1960, 2.5 million people immigrated annually, between 1971 and 1980 a total of 4.5 million and in the 1990s a total of over 10 million. In 2003, 463,204 people received US citizenship , and from 1997 to 2003 the average was about 634,000. In 2015, there were 46,627,102 foreign-born residents who made up 14.5% of the population, making the United States the largest number of migrants in the world. A large proportion of the foreign-born residents were of Latin American descent, mostly from Mexico and Central America. In recent years, migration from Asian countries such as China, India, Vietnam, South Korea and the Philippines has increased.

As early as 1790, the United States regulated immigration with the Naturalization Act , a law that was intended to encourage immigration from Europe, but excluded blacks and "unfree" and required a "good moral character". In 1882 the Chinese were explicitly excluded with the Chinese Exclusion Act , a regulation that was repeated in 1943, slightly modified. In 1891 an immigration commission was set up which set national quotas every year.

In 1921, the Emergency Quota Act first regulated immigration so that Northern and Western Europeans were given preferential treatment by freezing their population according to the census - a trend that was cemented with the Immigration Act of 1924 . Immigration policy towards Asians was particularly restrictive at the beginning of the 20th century.

It was not until 1965 that the time of application and the world region were taken into account; there were also cases of family reunification. A single quota has been in place for immigration to the United States since 1978. In 1970, 62% of foreign-born Americans were Europeans , but that percentage had dropped to 15% by 2000.

The Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States. In 2000, there were 35.2 million Hispanics in the United States, compared to 54 million in 2013, which translates into a percentage increase of 54 percent. Of the 54 million, 34.5 million were of Mexican origin. Estimates of illegal immigrants vary between 7 and 20 million, with most estimating their number at around 12 million. Hundreds of thousands illegally cross the southern border every year , including tens of thousands, some of them unaccompanied minors. The State Commission on Human Rights in Mexico said that 500 illegals were killed trying to cross the border in 2007 alone - often from dying of thirst. Between 1995 and 2007 there were 4,700 Mexicans.

To combat illegal immigration from Mexico, President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act in October 2006 , which provided for the construction of a 1,100-kilometer-long border fortification. Support for illegal immigrants also became a criminal offense.

In 1954, the government had tried with the operation wetback deport 1.2 million Hispanics - with the epithet " wetback " (Engl .; "wet back") derived from the Mexicans, who had swum across the Rio Grande. Mexican immigration was restricted in 1965, and illegal immigrants were legalized for the first time with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).

In 2015, there were approximately 627,000 German-born people in the United States.

Crime and justice

Murder rate since 1950
Cases of violent crime since 1960. Translations: Aggravated Assault, Rape, Rape, Robbery, Murder and Manslaughter

According to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting the crime rate is in the United States since the early 1990s back . Violent crime peaked in 1991 with 758 cases per 100,000 population. There were 507 cases in 2000, 405 in 2010 and 381 cases in 2018.

The homicides rate is used as an index for comparisons of the propensity to violence over long periods of time and large spatial distances. The United States had 5.3 cases per 100,000 population in 2017. A high point was in 1991 with 9.7 cases. Today's rate of 5.3 is far higher than Germany's, which is one. The average in Europe is 3 cases per 100,000 population, the global average is 6.1. East Asian countries have an average of 0.6, Singapore only 0.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The United States has the largest prison population in the world, both in absolute terms and relative to population. In 2008, over 2.4% of the United States' population was either in prison (2.3 million) or on parole (4.3 million) or suspended (0.828 million). By 2011 the number of prisoners rose to over 2.4 million. This puts the United States at the top by far in the world in terms of prison population to population. In contrast, the crime rate initially remained constant and later even decreased.

During the 1960s, the proportion of prisoners had fallen by about one percent annually and reached its low of 380,000 in 1975. The number has increased significantly since around 1980, so that in 1985 there were already 740,000 and at the end of 1998 even two million. Two thirds of the prisoners come from households with less than half of the income defined as the poverty threshold .

In 2000, 133,610 people under the age of 18 were held in detention centers and juvenile detention centers in the United States. The age of criminal responsibility begins much earlier in the United States than in Germany. In many states , 7-year-olds can be held accountable for violating a criminal law, in most others this is the case from the age of 11. In 2005, 1,403,555 people under the age of 18 were arrested. In 2003, 33 states made it possible to detain mentally ill children and adolescents who had not violated criminal law.

African Americans make up about 13 percent of the total population, but make up 38 percent of the prison population. Half of all murders in the United States and about a third of all rapes are committed by African Americans. A disproportionate proportion of blacks and Latinos can be seen in the number of armed attackers. Between January and June 2008, 98 percent of all gun-armed attackers in New York City were either black or Hispanic. In March 2015, 16 percent of inmates in American prisons were Mexican citizens, and another 7.5 percent of inmates had citizenship other than American or Mexican citizenship.

In contrast to almost all other states in the western world, the death penalty is carried out in numerous states of the United States , which has been controversial for years, including in the United States itself. A total of 19 states have abolished the death penalty, most recently in Nebraska in May 2015. In the Other states continue to enforce death sentences, even against people with intellectual disabilities and those who were minors at the time of the crime charged. There are more than 3,200 men and women on death row, with nearly 42% African American.


Early history

The Cliff Palace , a cluster of rock dwellings in
Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park , was built by the Anasazi tribes in 1190 AD

In Alaska , the oldest known human traces go back 12,000 to 14,000 years. The Clovis Culture was long considered the oldest culture , but the finds in the Paisley Caves , which lie around a millennium before the Clovis finds, showed that North America was inhabited earlier. The oldest human remains are the relics of the Buhl woman from Idaho, who is over 10,500 years old . This early phase was followed by the Archaic Period .

Between 4000 and 1000 BC The use of ceramics, agriculture and various forms of gradual settlements developed. Hunting techniques were significantly improved by atlatl and later by bow and arrow . Population densities occurred in North America around the Great Lakes, on the Pacific coast around Vancouver Island (Canada), on the Mississippi and in many places on the Atlantic coast and in the southwest.

Complex communities emerged in the catchment area of ​​the Adena and Mississippi cultures , but they perished shortly before the arrival of the first Europeans. They radiated far to the north and west. In the southwest, earth building settlements with up to 500 rooms were built. This pueblo culture went back to the basketmakers who were already growing corn . Fortified large villages and permanent confederations developed around the Great Lakes. As in the west, these groups cultivated corn and pumpkin, as well as an extensive long-distance trade - for example in copper and certain types of rock that were important for hunting weapons and jewelry - which began in British Columbia (Canada) from 8000 BC. Can be proven.

Effects of colonization on the indigenous people

Indians pay taxes to the French in Florida . (Copper engraving, around 1600)

Imported diseases decimated the population to an extent that is difficult to measure. Many groups disappeared as a result of introduced epidemics without a European even having seen them. According to the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber , the population north of the Rio Grande was estimated at just one million people. These estimates were willingly taken as it perpetuated the myth that whites had conquered a largely deserted continent. The Smithsonian Institute , known to be rather cautious, has tripled its estimate for North America to three million people. How much the discussion has gotten into motion is shown by the thesis that the huge buffalo herds were grazing animals of the Indians, the size of the herds therefore did not represent a natural equilibrium , but was based on over-multiplication after the sharp decline in the human population.

Despite the impact of the epidemics, which should not be overestimated - Hernando de Soto brought devastating diseases to the area between Mississippi and Florida, and a smallpox epidemic devastated the Pacific coast in 1775 - the impact of the wars should not be underestimated. The wars with the greatest losses in the east are likely the Tarrantine War (1607–1615), the two Powhatan Wars (1608–1614 and 1644–1646), the Pequot (1637), the King Philips War (1675–1676), the French - and Indian Wars (1689–1697, 1702–1713, 1744–1748, 1754–1763) as well as the three Seminole Wars (1817–1818, 1835–1842 and 1855–1858). Then there were the cross-tribal uprisings led by the chiefs Pontiac (1763–1766) and the Tecumseh (approx. 1810–1813). The French were in the Beaver Wars from around 1640 to 1701 , then in four wars with the Natchez (1716–1729), the Dutch in the Wappinger War and the Esopus Wars (1659–1660 and 1663–1664), the Spaniards in 1680 against the Pueblos in the southwest and in numerous other fights. In the western United States, it was above all the battles under Cochise (1861–1874), the Sioux (1862) and the Lakota Wars (1866–1867), or that of the Apaches under Geronimo (until 1886) that became known. Individual battles, such as the one at Little Bighorn and the Wounded Knee massacre (1890), also became known.

The fur trade triggered completely different remote changes . This trade affected the tribes, who acted as hunters and suppliers, on the one hand, but also on their near and distant neighbors, be it through the acquisition of weapons and the associated shifts of power, or through the development of trade monopolies in the vicinity of the trade bases ( Forts) encamped tribes, be it through the initiation of extensive migrations, as by the Iroquois . The position of the leadership groups also became dependent on the fur trade.

From the first phase of colonization to independence

The Mayflower brought English pilgrims to New England in 1620 .
George Washington was the first President of the United States.

The first European settlement on what is now US territory was founded by the Spanish in 1565 in St. Augustine , Florida . The first permanent English colony was Jamestown , Virginia , which emerged in 1607 shortly after the French established a first colony in what was to be Canada . The arrival of the emigrant ship " Mayflower " in Plymouth Colony (later merged with Massachusetts Bay Colony to form Massachusetts ) in 1620 is considered an important symbolic date. Swedish colonies on Delaware and Dutch settlements around New York ( Nieuw Amsterdam ) were taken over by England.

Apart from the British, only the French and Spaniards were able to achieve lasting political significance. For Spain, its Florida colony had only a secondary function compared to its large possessions in Central and South America. France, on the other hand, restricted itself to settling in its colonial core area on the Saint Lawrence River ( New France ), although it still retained a strong economic interest in its remaining territories between the Mississippi and the thirteen British colonies. To cover the fur trade routes, these otherwise not populated areas were protected by a system of forts and alliances. The British colonies, on the other hand, were under high immigration pressure, which led to a constant shift of the settlement border to the west. This happened both according to a state plan (by a single colony) and in wild colonization against British and Indian resistance.

In the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763, opposing interests clashed. The conflict represented a sideline in the global dispute between Great Britain and France, the Seven Years' War . Most of the Indian tribes fought on the French side.

In the peace treaty of 1763, the British side fell to the entire French territories east of the Mississippi (except New Orleans ) as well as the French-populated areas around Québec and Montreal . Spain had sided with its French relatives during the war. After the war, Florida had to cede it to the British and received the previously French area west of the Mississippi as compensation.

One of the flags of the 1775 independence movement

The government in London demanded that the colonists should bear a higher share of the costs of the post-war order, at the same time, in order to avoid conflict, they tried to prevent the wild settlement to the west. The colonies resisted taxation, arguing that it violated English law, according to which there should be "no taxation without representation". In doing so, the settlers de facto declared the British Parliament not authorized to issue instructions (but not the Crown). In addition, although the mother country demanded higher taxation, it blocked the development of economic policy instruments such as its own currency issue, which would have been necessary to strengthen the colonies financially. Parliament acted in this way because it did not want to encourage the formation of an American state, but it did create a contradiction. In addition, various taxes that were perceived as unjust, such as the Stamp Act or on sugar and tea , embittered the colonists. There were boycotts and acts of resistance, such as the Boston Tea Party , which culminated in the Boston massacre . London eventually stationed more soldiers, which further fueled separatist tendencies in the thirteen colonies.

An attempt by British soldiers to dig up a colonial weapons cache ultimately triggered the War of Independence in 1775 . A continental congress convened, which transferred the military high command to George Washington . On July 4, 1776, the declaration of independence was proclaimed by 13 colonies . Not least through the military support of France, the Americans forced the British Empire to recognize their sovereignty in the Peace of Paris in 1783 .

The area of ​​the now independent colonies comprised the following 16 of the 50 states of the United States today : New Hampshire , Massachusetts , Maine , Rhode Island , Connecticut , New York , Vermont , New Jersey , Pennsylvania , Delaware , Maryland , Virginia , West Virginia , North Carolina , South Carolina, and Georgia .

From independence to civil war

Abraham Lincoln , 16th President of the United States

The articles of confederation adopted in 1777 and ratified in 1781 had proven to be inadequate to ensure the survival of the young confederation. Therefore, the second United States Constitution was signed in Philadelphia in 1787 . It is the second oldest republican state constitution still in force - only the constitution of the Republic of San Marino from 1600 is older. George Washington , General of the Revolutionary War, was elected unanimously by a large consensus in 1789 as the first President of the United States .

The thirteen colonies, independent since 1783, and the further territorial expansion of the United States westward

The development of the new state in the first decades was essentially determined by two factors: on the one hand by rapid territorial growth and further land grabbing at the expense of the Indians, on the other hand by the dispute over slavery , which later became the struggle for the civil rights of the descendants of the former Slaves determined. At the time of the War of Independence, there were approximately two million whites and 500,000 enslaved blacks in the thirteen colonies.

During the European coalition wars , the Louisiana Territory (not to be confused with the current state of Louisiana ) fell from Spain back to France. For financial reasons, Napoléon refrained from re-establishing the French overseas empire. Instead, in 1803 he sold the entire area between Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains for $ 15 million to the USA, which doubled their national territory in one fell swoop. That same year, the first states emerged from the between Ohio and the Great Lakes located Northwest Territory in the Union, from 1813 followed parts of the Louisiana territory.

The United States initially pursued a course of neutrality vis-à-vis France and Great Britain. In 1812, however, the British-American War broke out over Canada, which was still British. The conflict ended with a compromise, so that from then on the demarcation between the United States and Canada in the east was completed. The early American foreign policy was otherwise shaped by the Monroe Doctrine of President James Monroe , promulgated in 1823 . This stated that the European powers should stay away from the American continent, while the United States should not interfere in the affairs of other states.

The Indian policy was aggressive from 1820: With the Indian Removal Act and the subsequent Trail of Tears began a-decade violent conquest and colonization, which led to renewed fighting. The Indians were in reserves deported (reservations). One of the few victories for the Indians was the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, but it remained politically insignificant. The Indian Wars ended with the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890 . In 1900 there were less than a quarter of a million Indians, a result of which not only war but also epidemics had contributed. It was not until 1924 that the Indians received full civil rights.

The Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 during the Civil War

The second central theme of American politics until 1865 was the slave question. The importation of further slaves from overseas was forbidden by law in 1808. However, due to the extensive circumvention of this prohibition by the slave traders and natural population growth, the number of slaves had increased to around four million by 1860. The slave question increasingly divided the southern from the northern states, as industrialization began in the northern states and the number of slaves slowly declined, while the owners of the huge rice and cotton plantations in the southern states continued to practice slavery on an ever-increasing scale. New states from the acquired territories were only accepted in pairs so as not to endanger the unstable equilibrium. Slavery contradicted the Declaration of Independence, according to which “all people are created equal”. As a result, movements such as abolitionism , which called for the abolition of slavery, gained great popularity in the north . The war against Mexico (1846–1848) brought the United States a further increase in land area, which makes up today's Southwest. But it also intensified domestic political tensions, as the northern states saw it in part as a land grab in favor of the expansion of the slave states.

After Abraham Lincoln was elected US president for the newly formed Republican Party in 1860 , eleven southern states left the union. That meant the beginning of the Civil War (1861-1865). The constitutional question was initially in the foreground, whether the federal government even had the right to decide on elementary issues in the federal states. The northern states emerged victorious from the civil war and slavery was legally abolished. Blacks were formally given full civil rights with the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 14th Amendment of 1868.

From the civil war to the global economic crisis

Crowd in front of Wall Street on Black Thursday A broken down car belonging to a family from Missouri who is fleeing from the Dust Bowl and to California because of the global economic crisis
Crowd in front of Wall Street on Black Thursday
A broken-down car of a family from Missouri, which before the Dust Bowl and because of the world economic crisis gen California flees

In 1890 the Frontier was declared closed. This ended the era of the " Wild West ". Immigration did not decrease, so that between 1880 and 1910 a total of 18 million people were accepted. The industrialization since the Civil War led to the formation of large trusts that could influence politics through their economic power. Therefore, the Antitrust Act was passed in 1890 , as a result of which several large corporations such as Standard Oil and the American Tobacco Company were unbundled from 1911 .

As a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States expanded its sphere of influence to include the Philippines , Puerto Rico , Hawaii, and Cuba . An interventionist policy operated by President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), who claimed a hegemonic position of power over the Latin American states ( Big Stick ). In 1903 the United States removed Panama from Colombia in order to allow the newly formed state to cede its sovereignty over the Panama Canal .

During the First World War , the United States remained formally neutral until 1917, but supported the Entente primarily with supplies. On February 1, 1917, Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare as a countermeasure , whereupon the United States declared war on Germany on April 6 and introduced conscription on June 5 . The German Reich sent after his victory over Russia the freed troops to the Western Front and organized a last futile offensive in the spring 1918th The American troops arriving in France finally shifted the balance of power in favor of the Allies. After the military victory, President Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921) tried to establish a stable post-war order in Europe by making the right of self-determination of peoples and the formation of a League of Nations a maxim on the basis of his 14-point program . This plan failed: on the one hand, the British and French refused to implement Wilson's plan in favor of a victory peace against the German Reich, and on the other hand, the US Senate refused to join the League of Nations, so that the now largest political power in the world was missing in this body and returned to isolationism.

The costly war and subsequent reconstruction had made Europeans debtors to the United States. The outstanding economic role of the United States was particularly evident when the stock market crash in October 1929 ( Black Thursday with price losses on the Dow Jones of up to 12.8% in one day) was followed by the Great Depression. This led to a long internal crisis ( Great Depression ) in the United States with around 15 million unemployed and around 125 million inhabitants in 1932. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt , far-reaching economic and social reforms were implemented with the New Deal . Among other things, the financial markets were regulated ( Glass-Steagall Act ) and the foundations of an American welfare state were created with the Social Security Act of 1935. In addition, numerous public construction projects such as roads, bridges, airports and dams were realized.

From the Second World War to the end of the "Cold War"

Berlin observe the landing of a raisin bomber on the Tempelhof airport (1948). Photograph by Henry Ries .

When the Second World War broke out , the United States initially remained neutral, but supported Great Britain and the Soviet Union with massive deliveries of capital and arms under the Lending and Lease Act . Following the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941, they declared war on Japan and shortly afterwards received declarations of war from Germany and Italy . As in World War I, the industrial potential of the United States was crucial to the victory of the Allies. The capitulation of the German Reich in May and the capitulation of Japan in August 1945 ended the Second World War.

The United States had made large profits with few casualties in World War II. Their total casualties were 300,000 dead and 670,000 wounded, less than 0.5% of the population. The country was the only one to emerge economically stronger from the war and at the end of the war it had only one nuclear weapon of mass destruction . The US had grown into a superpower with a worldwide presence.

The Bretton Woods system , which was founded in 1944, established the dollar as the international reserve currency with the gold standard . It corresponded to the American ideas of free world trade and open markets.

The United States played a key role in founding the United Nations on June 26, 1945 in San Francisco , which took place in agreement with the Soviet Union. Soon, however, a confrontation with the former war ally Stalin became apparent, which culminated in the Cold War . President Harry S. Truman pursued an anti-communist containment policy that found expression in the Truman Doctrine . In a departure from the isolationist Monroe doctrine , this granted all countries military and economic aid in order to maintain their independence. The United States supported Greece and Turkey and launched the Marshall Plan , which was supposed to stabilize Western Europe economically. The Cold War reached its first climax with the Berlin blockade in 1948/49, to which the United States responded with the Berlin Airlift . In 1949, NATO was founded as a military alliance between the United States, Canada and Western Europe.

Senator Joseph McCarthy

The now beginning nuclear arms race between NATO and the Warsaw Pact , which from the 1960s onwards gave both sides a multiple " overkill capacity" and which was also viewed as a race between social systems, led to confrontations and proxy wars, such as the Korean War ( 1950–1953), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), in which the world barely escaped a Third World War , or the Vietnam War . Attempts were made to defuse the dangerous situation through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the SALT negotiations (1968 and 1969).

The Cold War, which was not openly fought only in the industrialized countries, led many Americans to view communism as an enemy. Domestically, this created a climate of suspicion and scrutiny known as the “ McCarthy era ”. The Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy distinguished himself in the Senate Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) by suspecting filmmakers, politicians and the military as communists and expecting denunciations. Anyone who refused to testify had to face a professional ban . The hearings were often in the television broadcast. When McCarthy finally suspected President Eisenhower , he was ousted by the Senate in 1954.

Burning Vietcong camp in My Tho, Vietnam

The Vietnam War , in which the United States intervened in 1964 after the Tonkin incident , after having previously dispatched military advisers, turned into a military and moral fiasco that ended with the withdrawal of US troops in 1973. The credibility as a propagator of democratic values ​​suffered here and also in other trouble spots with the support of numerous military dictators or the support of military coups, such as those Mobutus in the Congo, which was then called "Zaire", or the military coups against the democratically elected governments of Guatemala (1954), Brazil (1964 ) and Chiles (1973)

In addition to social and political movements, three assassinations in particular rocked the nation and with it the world in the 1960s: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1963), the assassination of the preacher and civil rights activist Martin Luther King , who was the figurehead of nonviolent struggle for black rights was (1968) - and in the same year the assassination of the Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy , a younger brother of the murdered president.

The blacks had indeed been formally freed from slavery in 1865, but already in the course of reconstruction ( Reconstruction ) of the South destroyed in the war, the Confederate laws had adopted that restricted their civil rights back ( Jim Crow laws ). Although they emphasized the same rights, they also provided for racial segregation . It was not until the Civil Rights Movement ( Civil Rights Movement ) could eliminate the last formal discrimination. A very important step was the desegregation in public institutions by the Supreme Court in 1954. However, school attendance of blacks had to be partially enforced with the help of the National Guard , as the governors of the southern states (especially George Wallace from Alabama ) until the late 1960s For years they insisted on their state rights , including segregation .

President Johnson signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act

In 1964, under President Lyndon B. Johnson , who succeeded Kennedy after his assassination in 1963, was elected in 1964 and remained in office until 1969, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, making racial segregation illegal in the United States . In 1965, Johnson passed another law, the Voting Rights Act , which outlawed all discrimination against African Americans in elections. Finally, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 , which outlawed discrimination of any kind. Even though President Johnson had seen his approval decline as a result of the war in Vietnam, he was able to initiate other important reforms as part of his Great Society program , particularly those relating to the fight against poverty, the intensification of the education system and consumer protection. In fact, the number of US citizens living in poverty fell by around half. In addition, a new immigration law was passed in 1965, which significantly relaxed the restrictions introduced in 1924 and led to increased immigration from Latin America and Asia, which in the long term initiated significant demographic change.

In addition to the movement against the Vietnam War, those who were directed against discrimination within society were of great influence . That was first the women's rights movement , then the gay movement , which, however, was confronted with the laws of the respective states. So-called "sodomy laws" , which had banned the practice of male homosexuality and "deviant sexual practices" by heterosexual couples in many states by 1962, were partially repealed. When the Supreme Court upheld these laws in 1987, they still existed in the majority of states and were not overturned by the Supreme Court until the Lawrence vs. Texas decision of June 26, 2003.

The Watergate affair of a break-in and eavesdropping on Democratic Party offices in the Watergate complex , which President Richard Nixon probably knew about and attempted to interfere with the FBI investigation, turned into the biggest scandal in post-war American history. To avoid impeachment , Nixon resigned in 1974.

The 1974 oil crisis and the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, as well as the consequences of the Vietnam War, caused a lack of foreign policy orientation. An economic crisis hit the heavy industry in the states of Pennsylvania , Ohio , West Virginia , Indiana and Michigan , the so-called Rust Belt . This led to ethnically motivated unrest in the southern states, which favored the electoral success of Republican Ronald Reagan .

In 1987
Ronald Reagan gave a speech in Berlin with an appeal to Mikhail Gorbachev : “ Tear down this wall! "; four years before the end of the Cold War .

The inauguration of the Reagan administration marked a paradigm shift in American politics, both at home and abroad. The society was polarized economically. His eight years in government up to 1989 were marked by a liberal economic policy ( Reaganomics ), the reduction of state subsidies and social benefits, savings in public administration and tax cuts in the upper income groups. Christian faith and strict anti-communism made him a model for conservative circles. His opponents saw in him a lobbyist for corporations and armaments companies.

The contradicting domestic and foreign policy towards states that disregard human rights, the lack of understanding for other cultures and the resulting misjudgments were evident in foreign policy up to the Iraq war . If after the outbreak of the First Gulf War between Iran and Iraq (1980–1988) the dictator Saddam Hussein was supported out of fear of the fundamentalist circles in Tehran , mistakes such as in the Iran-Contra affair in the United States increased 1986 at the mediation of security advisor Robert McFarlane and Colonel Oliver North had delivered weapons to Iran in order to support the opponents of the Sandinista in Nicaragua with these proceeds . The money and arms deliveries to the mujahideen in Afghanistan also turned out to be double-edged: the Soviet Union had to withdraw its troops after ten years, but radical Islamic groups were strengthened at the same time.

Reagan described the Soviet Union repeated on the basis of religious terminology as " evil empire " ( evil empire ). The armaments expenditure was increased and a so-called “Star Wars program” ( SDI project, “ Star Wars ”) was launched. At the Geneva summit conference (1985) and 1986 he met with his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev for disarmament negotiations under the name START ( Strategic Arms Reduction Talks ). In 1991 the “Cold War” ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union .

After the end of the Cold War

Bill Clinton (third from left) joins international leaders at the signing of the Dayton Treaty

Under the Democratic President Bill Clinton (1993–2001) there was a sustained economic upswing. The end of the Cold War and the " New Economy ", which had its starting point in the USA, fostered economic consolidation. The neglect of the cities was stopped - crime-prone districts in metropolitan areas such as New York, Miami and Los Angeles recovered.

In 1996, however, the receipt of social assistance was shortened to two consecutive years for a total of five years, which reduced the number of recipients.

President Clinton's foreign policy was led by Secretary of State Warren Christopher during his first term and Madeleine Albright during his second. She was the first woman in this office.

The unsuccessful engagement in Somalia , under George Bush sen. began, had the disempowerment of the "War Lords" , especially Mohammed Aidids as the goal. After the devastating battle of Mogadishu , the special forces withdrew from the country. The 1994 invasion of Haiti brought the democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to power and the military dictator Raoul Cédras was ousted, but it did not solve the state's social problems.

Once it was the European countries failed to pacify the region after the collapse of Yugoslavia, US forces attacked in 1995 ( Operation Deliberate Force ) and 1999 ( Operation Allied Force ) as part of the NATO in the war in Bosnia and Kosovo war against Serb units of the autocrat Slobodan Milosevic a . Attempts to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine in the Middle East suffered a serious setback with the attack on Yitzchak Rabin .

Clinton responded to provocations by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with sporadic air strikes, as well as in Sudan and Afghanistan after terrorist attacks on the US embassy in Nairobi and a US warship in Yemen . These attacks have already been blamed on the Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network .

Since the turn of the millennium

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, President George W. Bush proclaimed a global war on terrorism , which initially met with approval from large sections of the population. Bush identified, similar to that already Reagan, an " axis of evil " ( axis of evil ) which he called rogue states ( rogue states imputing). These included Iran , Iraq , Cuba and North Korea .

In October 2001 the radical Islamic Taliban regime that had hosted Osama bin Laden was overthrown by a campaign in Afghanistan . Also in the name of the war on terrorism , the Third Gulf War began against Iraq in March 2003 with the aim of overthrowing the dictator Saddam Hussein . The United States attacked without a UN mandate on the pretext that he had weapons of mass destruction and had contacts with bin Laden.

Despite a quick victory, Iraq could not be pacified. Some states of the “ Coalition of the Willing ” withdrew their comparatively small contingents in the spring of 2004. In June 2004, power was transferred to an Iraqi interim government.

George W. Bush's turn to a strategic concept of preemption was seen as a departure from the previously pursued American foreign and security policy, which was based on deterrence, containment and the action of "soft power" which means the attractiveness of economic and cultural influence over military influence.

From 2007 onwards a financial crisis loomed, mainly due to a credit and housing bubble , which created the greatest economic problems since the Great Depression . Barack Obama , a Democratic Senator from Illinois and the first African-American and multi-ethnic president, was elected during the crisis in November 2008 and ordered measures and reforms to stimulate the economy and mitigate the negative effects of the crisis. Among other things, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, which includes tax cuts as well as investments and expenditures. for health care, infrastructure or unemployment insurance. Unemployment fell again after the height of the crisis. The Dodd – Frank Act , the largest financial market reform of the last few decades, was also passed. A greater focus was also placed on environmental policy during Obama's tenure . Although Obama intended to keep the increase in debt below the level of the previous administration, the national debt also increased significantly in the following years.

In 2010 the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was passed to reform the health system. The number of citizens without health insurance fell significantly in the following years; the reform remained controversial in terms of effectiveness and affordability.

At the end of 2011, the US troop withdrawal in Iraq was completed and the occupation of Iraq officially ended. On December 31, 2014, the combat mission of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan under NATO leadership was ended and US troops, with the exception of a small unit that remained in the follow-up mission, Resolute Support , withdrew. At the end of 2014, Obama surprisingly announced the restoration of diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba . In 2015, the Obama administration participated in a nuclear deal with Iran .

The Republican Donald Trump , the first president without military or political experience before taking office, was established in November elected 2016 .

The USA was hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. By the end of May 2020, over 1,000,000 Americans had been infected and more than 100,000 had died. Over 30 million Americans lost their jobs as a result of the economic impact of measures to reduce the spread of the virus.

After the death of the African American George Floyd during a police operation on May 25, 2020, demonstrations against racism and police violence took place under the motto " Black Lives Matter " . There were riots in numerous cities in the United States - night curfews were imposed in more than 40 cities. In many cities, the National Guard was also used to support the police.


The United States is a two-chamber presidential state . The form of government is based on a representative democracy .

In the so-called democracy index of the British magazine " The Economist ", the United States ranks 25th out of 167 countries and is considered an "incomplete democracy". You get 7.96 out of 10 points. After the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International , the United States in 2019 were from 180 countries, along with France on the 23rd place, with 69 out of a maximum 100 points.

Federal violence

The United States has had its second constitution after the Articles of Confederation since its inception . It provides for a presidential, federal and republican political system that horizontal legislative, executive and judicial branches, as well as vertically , the federal level of the states relatively strictly separated .

legislative branch

44th President of the United States, Barack Obama , speaks in Congress (September 9, 2009)

According to the constitution, the strongest state organ at the federal level is the Congress , which exercises the legislature . It is made up of elected representatives from all 50 states. The Congress, which consists of two chambers, has budget sovereignty and the right to initiate legislation. One of the reasons that Congress has significant influence over American politics is due to its right to budget. Only Congress has the right to pass federal laws and make declarations of war. Treaties with foreign countries are signed by the President, but must be ratified by the second chamber of the Congress, the Senate . In the case of important appointments (for example to cabinet positions or federal judicial offices, especially at the Supreme Court), the Senate has the right, after hearing the candidates, to confirm or reject the President's proposal.

The members of the House of Representatives , the first chamber of Congress, are elected for two years. Each representative represents a constituency in their state. The number of constituencies is determined by a census every ten years . Senators are elected for six years. Their election is staggered , which means that a third of the Senate is re-elected every two years. The constitution provides that the vice president presides over the senate. He has no right to vote , except in the event of a tie.

Before a bill becomes federal law , it must have passed through both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The proposal is first presented in one of the two chambers, examined by one or more committees, amended, rejected or accepted in the committee and then discussed in one of the two chambers. As soon as it is accepted in this chamber, it is forwarded to the other chamber. Only when both chambers have adopted the same version of the bill will it be submitted to the President for approval. The President then has the option to postpone the entry into force of the law. After such a veto, Congress can pass a new bill or finally overrule the President with two-thirds approval.


The White House , a building in Washington, DC, is the official residence and official residence of the President of the United States

The head of state and government in personal union is the president , who heads the executive branch . He is also Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces and, together with the Secretary of Defense, forms the National Command Authority (NCA), which is solely responsible for making decisions on a nuclear attack by the United States . To do this, both persons must independently consent to the nuclear strike . The 46th  incumbent since January 20, 2021 is Democrat Joe Biden, who was elected on November 3, 2020 . The President is represented by the Vice-President elected with him . In the event of an early discharge of the president's office, the latter completely replaces him until the end of the term of office; he also chairs the Senate. The current Vice President is the Democrat Kamala Harris .

In the event that the Vice President is prevented or absent, the Senate appoints a “ Pro-Tempore Chair ”, a temporary chair. The members of the first chamber, the House of Representatives elect their own chairman, " Speaker of the House (Speaker) ". Speaker and Pro-Tempore-Chairman are members of the strongest party in their chamber. The speaker has been Democrat Nancy Pelosi since 2019, and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has held the office of Pro-Tempore chairman since 2019 .


Supreme Court in Washington, DC

At the head of the judiciary , which is also federally organized, is the Supreme Court . The constitution, which came into force in 1787 and whose provisions are enforceable, is of great importance in the political system of the United States. It speaks for the success and stability of this constitution that it has so far only received 27 amendments .

Parties and elections

In the United States , a two-party system has emerged, benefiting from relative majority voting . These parties have been the Democrats and Republicans since the mid-19th century . The Democrats are currently the largest party with 72 million registered supporters (42.6%), followed by the Republicans with 55 million supporters (32.5%) and 42 million voters who are registered without party preference (24.9%). In doing so, both parties, to which no constitutional role is assigned, can at most rudimentarily be subjected to a schematic, since they already represent inner-party coalitions of different currents.

Topic-specific political currents and interest groups are more likely to try to influence the MPs and other executives of both major parties than to found independent parties. Examples are the American Civil Liberties Union , the fundamental Christian Moral Majority and the Tea Party movement .

Smaller parties like the Greens , the Libertarian Party or the Communist Party of the USA are insignificant, even if in presidential elections the votes cast for the Green candidate can sometimes be perceived as a - possibly decisive - disadvantage for the Democratic candidate. A temporary main exponent of the United States Green Party in the 1990s was Ralph Nader , who was a candidate for the party in the presidential election in 1996 and is well known at home and abroad as a “consumer advocate”.

At the state level, women's suffrage was achieved at different times. In New Jersey , wealthy women had had the right to vote since 1776 and began voting in 1787. When universal male suffrage was introduced there, women lost the right to vote. In 1918, Oklahoma , Michigan , South Dakota and Texas (women suffrage in primary elections) were at the bottom. In some states, restrictions such as reading and writing tests and voting taxes were still used after 1920 to prevent blacks from voting. At the federal level, the constitution of September 13, 1788 did not provide for any gender restrictions for the two chambers of the right to vote. However, it was not until 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States came into force in the United States that all restrictions on the right to vote based on sex were explicitly prohibited, giving women full suffrage at all levels. The American presidential election of 1920 was the first to give women the right to vote .

Federal divisions


The United States is made up of 50  states .

Alaska Hawaii Rhode Island Washington, D.C. Maine New Hampshire Vermont Massachusetts Connecticut New York Pennsylvania Delaware New Jersey Maryland Virginia West Virginia Ohio Indiana North Carolina Kentucky Tennessee South Carolina Georgia Florida Alabama Mississippi Michigan Wisconsin Illinois Louisiana Arkansas Missouri Iowa Minnesota North Dakota South Dakota Nebraska Kansas Oklahoma Texas New Mexico Colorado Wyoming Montana Idaho Utah Arizona Nevada Washington Oregon Kalifornien Kuba Kanada Bahamas Turks- und Caicosinseln MexikoUnited States, administrative divisions - de - colored.svg
About this picture
States by year of accession to the federal constitution

The heartland includes 48 of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia ( federal district with the capital Washington DC), which lie within a common border (so-called "Lower 48" ), while Alaska and Hawaii are outside the heartland ( Continental United States ).

When the United States was founded, there were thirteen states, which were gradually joined by other territories in the course of western expansion to the Mississippi. After Texas, the connecting wave jumped over the sparsely populated mountain ranges and continued with California and Oregon in particular after the middle of the 19th century. This development was only completed during the First World War. In 1959, the Pacific islands of Hawaii and the North westernmost Alaska were that about 100 km wide Bering Strait to Russia borders than states of the United States.

Administrative division

Map of the United States with state and county borders

In 2002, there were 87,900 local government units in the United States, including towns, counties, settlements, school districts, and other counties, according to the Census and Census Bureau. More than three-quarters of the citizens of the United States live in large cities or their suburbs ( List of Cities in the United States ).

A county is a sub-unit of most states and is roughly comparable to a county. In Louisiana they are called "Parish"; in Alaska there are no such administrative units, only statistical subdivisions. In Virginia and Missouri there are also cities that are not assigned to a county. In the case of large cities (e.g. Philadelphia), the boundaries of the city and county may be the same; the city of New York even occupies five counties, each referred to as a "borough". It is not uncommon for cities and even villages to cross a county line. The forms of government of the counties and their powers vary greatly from state to state, sometimes even within a state, if the parliament of the respective state has given different forms to choose from. Almost all of them take out loans and collect taxes. They have employees, are very often responsible for overseeing elections, and building and maintaining roads and bridges (sometimes on behalf of the federal or state authorities). Social assistance programs are partly run by them, partly also by the townships , which, especially in the Midwest, are not congruent with the municipalities, which were determined with an area of ​​36 square miles in the national survey from the 18th century.

A special aspect of some smaller cities, which occurs rarely and predominantly in the New England states, is the “town meeting”. Once a year - more often if necessary - all registered voters of a city come to a public meeting and elect officials, discuss local politics and pass laws for the functioning of the government. As a group they decide on road construction and repair, construction of public buildings and facilities, taxes and the city budget. The “town meeting”, which has existed for two centuries, is often the purest form of democracy, in which government power is not delegated, but exercised directly and regularly by all citizens. However, the vast majority of citizens only know representative democracy .

Outdoor areas

In addition to the states and the District of Columbia (area of ​​the capital Washington, DC ) there are outer areas with differently regulated autonomy . The largest outside areas are Puerto Rico in the Caribbean and Guam in the Pacific.

Domestic politics

The Capitol is the seat of the United States Congress .

Moral-ethical questions such as the limits of freedom of expression , the right to abortion , the justification of the death penalty , the political recognition of homosexuality , the rights of minorities or the question of the role of religious values ​​in public play an important role in American domestic politics Life should play.

Gun Law

Most states have gun laws that are extremely liberal by international standards. The right to own arms is traditionally valued in the United States as it is protected by the second amendment to the constitution ("[...] right to bear arms [...]"). Private individuals can therefore acquire firearms and ammunition without major difficulties and carry the weapons openly. In total, there are more than 200 million privately owned pistols and rifles in the United States.

The existing legal situation is controversial in the United States. Your critics see this as one of the reasons for the high number of 350,000 armed crimes and 11,000 murder victims annually, as well as the numerous rampages, primarily in schools and universities, because criminals could arm themselves more easily. Proponents of liberal gun laws such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) deny this connection and point to low murder rates in countries like Switzerland, Canada and New Zealand, which also have a disproportionately large number of privately owned weapons. Furthermore, they argue that criminals predominantly gain possession of weapons illegally, which is why private individuals should at least be given the opportunity to defend themselves.

Health policy

Life expectancy by county 2018
Development of life expectancy
Period Life expectancy in
Period Life expectancy in
1950-1955 68.7 1985-1990 74.9
1955-1960 69.7 1990-1995 75.7
1960-1965 70.1 1995-2000 76.5
1965-1970 70.4 2000-2005 77.2
1970-1975 71.4 2005-2010 78.2
1975-1980 73.3 2010-2015 78.9
1980-1985 74.4
The Texas Medical Center , the largest medical complex on earth
Signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The health system of the United States is - especially in research - partly world class, in other areas, however - especially in general patient and insurance care - partly in a desolate state. About $ 1.8 trillion is spent on the health system every year. This is around 17 percent of total US economic output. Compared to Germany, that is almost double that per capita. Around 47 million Americans, about 16% of the total population, have no health insurance. - But not exclusively for income reasons (around a third of the non-insured have a household income of 50,000 dollars or more) or because of old age and the associated risk of illness (around 40 percent of the non-insured are between 18 and 35 years old ). There is also a high number of unreported illegal immigrants who also have no health insurance. Many of those who are insured have to pay extra for all medical services, others who are in health insurance ( HMO ) have to endure bureaucratic paper wars and long waiting times when the choice of doctor is restricted. In 1993, President Clinton failed when attempting to introduce uniform compulsory health insurance . In 2010, President Obama passed laws designed to gradually reform the health system by 2018. The new President Donald Trump, elected at the end of 2016, announced that he would completely or partially abolish and replace the healthcare reform.

The high level of obesity in the 21st century has taken on the character of a national health crisis. According to data from the World Health Organization , 67.8 percent of American adults were overweight in 2014 and 33.7% of the population of over 300 million were seriously overweight. This is one of the highest rates in the world and costs hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Life expectancy in the United States in 2016 was 79.8 years, 43rd in the world. This is 20 places down on 1984 and one of the worst in the developed world. The reasons given are a lack of health insurance and obesity. The life expectancy of the black population is 73.3 years. Then there are the risks of poverty. In December 2009, 38.97 million people were dependent on food stamps. In 2013, there were 47 million people in 23 million households, or 20% of all US households.

Social policy

The United States is a welfare state in which transfers are often jointly funded and organized by the federal and state governments. Statutory regulations can have a significant impact on social policy. The public pension insurance Social Security provides basic social security in old age at the federal level .

Energy and environmental policy

The first commercial nuclear power plant in Shippingport
Power County Wind Farm in Idaho

The United States has the second largest CO 2 emissions in the world after China . The share of global CO 2 - emissions is 17.7 percent (2011).

In the 2020 Climate Protection Index (as of December 2019), the USA was in 61st place and thus in last place of all the countries examined. They performed very poorly in all of the categories assessed. In particular, the lack of a national climate protection strategy and the withdrawal from the international climate protection agreement under President Trump were criticized.

In the United States, the share of renewable energies is increasing slightly. In 2017 they achieved a share of 11 percent in energy consumption and 17 percent in energy production.

In 2002 the government published a strategy to reduce greenhouse gases in the US economy by 18 percent (by 2012). This should lead to a reduction in CO 2 emissions of 160 million tons. Internationally, the measures are criticized as completely inadequate. Bill Clinton had the Kyoto Protocol signed towards the end of his term of office, which is not binding because it has not been ratified by Congress . The emerging economies were not obliged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the treaty, and a strong sense of sovereignty , especially in the Senate, plays an important role.

Environmental disasters and actions by environmentalists, including former presidential candidate Al Gore , have triggered a shift in awareness. Barack Obama initiated a change of course in climate policy. In December 2012 he declared the fight against climate change to be one of the three most important topics for the new term of office. In his inauguration speech in January 2013, he highlighted the fight against climate change and the expansion of renewable energies as a priority for the coming years and announced a focus on renewable energies, in which the US should lead instead of ignoring global developments .

In the United States, climate change and oil import dependency are discussed above all from the perspective of international security.

So far, climate protection policy has primarily focused on voluntary measures and research funding. Some states (California in particular) enforced stricter rules. The most important environmental agency at the federal level is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which environmentalists criticize for their low level of activity.

Foreign and Security Policy

The foreign policy of the United States is an attitude based on the great matches to the political realism has. This is countered by an unusually strong idealism that has remained unbroken since the independence movement, the origin of which lies in the anti-European affects of the revolution and which in some foreign policy schools of thought establishes the belief in a historically unique mission from the United States ( American Exceptionalism ). Despite frequent tensions between claim and practice, this bipolarity of American foreign policy persists because of many similarities. For example, the ideal of the greatest possible freedom of contract in a liberal social and world order converges with the United States' economic dependence on overseas trade in advocating free trade .

The realpolitical interests for which the official foreign policy of the United States advocates, in addition to guaranteeing the global security of its citizens and their dependents, includes securing the United States against external attacks and the constant availability of resources that are of central importance for the country's economy Meaning are. The ideal interests that should guide and justify the long-term action of the United States consist in advocating human rights , in the democratic-plebiscitarian political shaping of sovereign states by their national peoples and a global market economy system.

In its concrete implementation, foreign policy has increasingly developed from a passive to a formative role. From its founding until the Second World War, isolationism , i.e. the conscious neglect of foreign policy in favor of internal development and cultivation, predominated . While this attitude was most strongly expressed in the consolidation phase of the country through the Monroe Doctrine , it increasingly relaxed in the age of imperialism up to the First World War, only to be completely discredited by the attack on Pearl Harbor. American-style internationalism immediately gained in importance through the confrontation with the Soviet Union in the Cold War. This was supported by an institutionalist practice, i.e. the establishment of transnational bodies for long-term cooperation with states. This was done either in conjunction with states that represented similar interests in order to strengthen them, or to bridge political differences with states that had opposing interests. The United States is therefore the initiator and co-founder of numerous multinational bodies and organizations, such as the United Nations , the World Trade Organization (formerly GATT ), the World Bank and NATO or the CSCE . At the same time, the policy of the United States has been guarding against a possible curtailment of its own sovereignty through international agreements. For example, the United States rejects the signing of international climate protection agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol , the support of the International Criminal Court and the Ottawa Convention against the proliferation of anti-personnel mines. Bilateral trade and defense agreements therefore play a much greater role than, for example, most members of the European Union, despite their universal claim .

Protest against the war in Yemen , New York City, 2017

Depending on the domestic global focus, the United States gives priority to individual foreign policy efforts and adds them to morally reinforced terms. These include the " War on Terror " ( War on Terrorism ), the war on drugs ( War on Drugs ) and the fight against poverty ( War on Poverty ).

Due to the dominant political, economic and military position of the United States and its increasingly aggressive influence on the politics and economy of the entire international community, the country's foreign policy polarizes like no other. Above all, the numerous military interventions abroad , the worldwide social upheavals caused by globalization and human rights violations in dealing with suspected terrorists and prisoners of war are criticized .

Allies of the United States can be found in NATO, among others. In addition, they maintain close diplomatic and strategic relationships with nations outside NATO (see Major non-NATO ally ). Some of these are democratic and market-oriented countries that see themselves as existentially threatened by neighboring political actors, such as Israel , South Korea or Taiwan , some are closely allied countries such as Japan , the Philippines and Australia and others before especially strategically important partners such as Pakistan , Jordan and Kuwait . By far the strongest ties the United States has with the United Kingdom , the only country with which it works even in areas as sensitive as nuclear technology. According to its own information, the United States operates 766 military bases of various sizes in 40 countries (293 of them in Germany, 111 in Japan and 105 in South Korea; as of 2006).


The Pentagon near Washington is the headquarters of the US Department of Defense .
The US Army and the US Marine Corps together hold 5,970  M1 Abrams - battle tanks .
Worldwide military relations and United States presence
The aircraft carrier combat formations of the Kitty Hawk , Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln with fighter jets of the Marine Corps, the Navy and the Air Force

The United States Armed Forces are the most costly and second largest military in the world (after the Chinese People's Liberation Army ). You are positioned globally; the current army doctrine states that the United States must be able to victoriously wage two regional wars worldwide at the same time. The armed forces are increasingly exposed to asymmetrical warfare . In its history , this development has mainly occurred since the Vietnam War .

In the United States, the president is the commander in chief of the national armed forces and appoints their chairman, the secretary of defense and the joint chiefs of staff . The Department of Defense administers the armed forces, which are divided into Heer ( Army , about 561,000 soldiers), Air Force ( Air Force , about 336,000 soldiers), Navy ( Navy ; about 330,000 soldiers) and Marines ( Marine Corps ; about 202,000 soldiers), total 1,430,000 soldiers as of April 30, 2011.

The Coast Guard ( Coast Guard , about 44,000 men) is a civilian agency that the peace in the Department of Homeland Security is assumed and in case of war the United States Department of the Navy can be assumed. It has relatively limited military capabilities. In addition, each state maintains units of the National Guard ( National Guard ). These are militia groups that are normally subordinate to the governor of the respective state , but can be deployed abroad as part of the army on the direction of the president. Military service is voluntary, although wartime drafting may be done through the Selective Service System .

Furthermore, authorized the states to set up their own military units, called State Garden , depending on the state as State Guard , State Military , State Defense Force , State Militia or State Military Reserve called. These differ from the National Guards in that they cannot be placed under federal command and the states are not required to set them up. As a result, only 22 states and the Puerto Rico Territory currently have such military units.

The United States was the first nuclear power in the world and, with the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was the only state so far to use nuclear weapons in a war . American arms companies are world leaders, especially in the aviation industry. With regard to army weapons, the US arms companies are becoming less important. The United States' military spending in 2015 was approximately $ 596 billion. This made the United States the country with the highest military spending in the world in 2015. The United States' military spending is almost three times that of China, which ranks second in the world.

Military developments, especially technological developments, are groundbreaking for the allies of the United States in NATO. The tendency to criticize the state, which resulted in the United States military being small in its history until the United States entered World War II , was increasingly overshadowed by many Americans' fear of communism during the Cold War . As a result, the original idea that the military, as the ultimate instrument of state violence, poses a threat to citizens is on the wane.

Since the Second World War , the support of friendly nations through larger arms deliveries has proven to be an effective means of passive support in times of crisis for the United States. During World War II, the Lending and Lease Act made it possible to deliver heavy equipment first to Great Britain and the Commonwealth , and later to the Soviet Union , which shifted the military balance to the detriment of the Axis powers . After the Second World War, for example, Persia was given supremacy in the Middle East through the delivery of modern aircraft, tanks and missiles . When friendship with the United States turned into enmity through the overthrow of the Shah regime, the United States began supplying Iraq in the 1980s under Saddam Hussein , who offered himself to the West as an opponent of Iran and led the First Gulf War against Iran .


See also: United States Prison System , Death Penalty in the United States

Human rights

The United States has assumed certain obligations in ratifying various conventions, including the review of the human rights situation in the United States by the UN Human Rights Council. Nonetheless, criticism of the human rights situation in the United States is often voiced, especially by private non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch : Human Rights Watch, for example, particularly criticizes the death penalty , which is still practiced today, and abuse by the police, the judiciary or the military , the overcrowded prisons and in some cases inhumane conditions. Some of these violate the UN Convention against Torture and other international standards of humane treatment. For example, prisoners often have to spend 23 hours in solitary confinement, the lights are on 24 hours a day, and physical activity is only allowed four hours a week in a small cell.

Black Lives Matter protest police brutality in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

This is where aspects of the criticism of racial discrimination as a violation of human rights also come into play: With a population of 13 percent, a rate of 43 percent Afro-American among those convicted is very high. One in ten African American people is incarcerated in some states in the United States. The number of prisoners in the United States is generally high: 2.1 million Americans were in prison in 2001, one in 146 adults. By 2011 that number had increased to 2.4 million. In addition, in 2009 at least 47 people died in police attacks from the use of electroshock weapons (see Amnesty International Report 2010, USA).

Arrests and actions by the police or the secret service in connection with September 11, 2001 have also attracted international attention. After the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 1,200 foreigners were arrested in the United States and detained for various reasons. The Ministry of Justice has not made public information about the identity of those arrested, the location of their detention and whether they received legal assistance. The principle of the presumption of innocence was not applied in these cases. This was made possible by the USA PATRIOT Act of October 25, 2001, which brought about a major restriction on American civil rights . Not only does the law allow the police to eavesdrop and monitor people without a judicial authority, it also allows house searches, deportations and the collection of private data without evidence of a crime. The most far-reaching change, however, is the authorization of the foreign intelligence service CIA to be allowed to operate domestically from now on - this has so far been strictly separated and was previously only allowed to the Federal Police FBI . The Military Commissions Act also makes it possible to declare hostile persons as so-called “ unlawfully hostile combatants ”, whereby these persons can be convicted by military courts (including on the basis of confessions obtained under torture) without the possibility of relying on the for To summon combatants to the Geneva Conventions or to sue them against their treatment.

The situation of the prisoners in the American prison camp at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba has also been sharply criticized from many quarters. Over 600 people from 42 nations are held there, mostly illegally , including a number of children under 16 years of age. Their status remains unclear, they are neither prisoners of war nor criminals and are - according to the United States - in an area free from law, which means that the laws in force in the United States are not applicable there. However, this is not recognized internationally and is viewed as contrary to international law. However, this made it possible for the military to conduct illegal activities such as torture or trial without a right to defense. A legal review of the torture practices such as simulated drowning (" waterboarding ") of people who were illegally kidnapped from other countries under the former Bush administration in secret detention centers of the CIA ( Black Sites ) has not yet been carried out. The conditions of detention in such military prison camps are often inhumane: there have been reports of physical abuse, use of force and torture (e.g. dislocation of limbs, beatings on the testicles, or total sleep and food deprivation), as well as humiliation of dignity and religion of the prisoners (e.g. by smearing the person with excrement or desecrating the Koran).

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions expressed concern that between 2003 and May 2009 there were “far more than the officially reported 74 deaths of migrants in immigration and customs custody”.

American soldiers carried out a series of massacres of civilians in the wake of the Iraq war. Well-known examples are the Haditha massacre , the Maqarr adh-Dhib massacre , the air strikes in Baghdad on July 12, 2007 , the Mahmudiyya massacre and the Abu Ghuraib torture scandal . In Afghanistan, too, there have been repeated massacres of civilians by members of the US armed forces since 2001 (including the kill team murders in Afghanistan ). In its war on terror, the United States is increasingly relying on the use of combat drones in other countries (e.g. Yemen, Pakistan), thereby violating international law and the human right to integrity. Between 2004 and 2009 the “ Bureau for Investigative Journalism ” registered 52 drone attacks. There have been 264 since President Obama's inauguration. According to research by the “Bureau for Investigative Journalism”, between 2,440 and 3,113 deaths have occurred between the start of the attacks and May 2012. The number of civilians among them is given as 479 to 821, including 174 children. There are also around 1200 injured.


Economic situation

The New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street is the world's largest stock exchange measured by the market capitalization of the companies listed on it.
Economic indicators
Nominal GDP $ 20.891 trillion (Q4 2018)
Real GDP growth 2.6% (Q4 2018)
2.9% (2018)
Consumer price index inflation 2.5% (April 2018)
Employment rate 60.7% (Feb. 2019)
Unemployment rate 3.8% (Feb. 2019)
Labor force potential 63.2% (Feb. 2019)
Poverty rate 12.3% (2017)
National debt $ 21.516 trillion (Q3 2018)
Household wealth $ 104.3 trillion (Q4 2018)

The United States was the largest economy in the world based on its gross domestic product (GDP) of $ 18.5 trillion in 2016 and had the eighth highest GDP per capita in the world at $ 57,324. The service sector generated around 77.6% of real GDP in 2012, around a third of which in banking , insurance and real estate . Manufacturing contributed around 20.8%, agriculture 1.6%. The structure of the economy is heavily geared towards consumption and services. In 2015 just under a third of global consumer spending was made in the USA. The heavy consumption leads to a low saving rate in the public sector.

The economy grew by 2.3% in 2017, the inflation rate was 2.1%. The unemployment rate averaged around 5.3% in 2015 and fell further to 4.1% in October 2017. The "hidden unemployment rate", which includes employees who have given up looking for a job or are underemployed, was 8 in June 2017, 6%, at the height of the financial crisis it was up to 17%.

Since the Ronald Reagan presidency, state interference in economic processes has been drastically reduced (see Reaganomics ). Some sectors of the economy are subject to supervision by a regulatory authority ; for example, the states oversee the electricity supply through a public utility commission .

Control by the Federal Reserve System (“Fed”), which has existed since 1913 and assumed the role of a state central bank , has increased considerably since the financial crisis in 2007 . Until then, it only intervened in economic activity by controlling the amount of money or the level of key interest rates; since then it has acted as a guarantor and as a lender outside the banking system. It bought $ 55 billion in government bonds a month in 2014 and holds 32.5% of all ten-year US government bonds. Alan Greenspan was the Fed's long-time chairman from 1987 onwards , followed by Ben Bernanke in 2006 , Janet Yellen in 2014 and Jerome Powell on February 5, 2018 .

In 2016, the USA was the world's largest sales market for imported goods and the world's second largest export nation after China . The trade balance of the USA showed a deficit of 505 billion US dollars in 2014: the export volume for goods and services amounted to 2,345.4 billion US dollars in 2014, while goods and services were imported in the same period to 2,850.5 billion US dollars -Dollar. Both the export and the import volume grew compared to the previous year. The main buyer countries for US goods in 2014 were Canada , Mexico , China, Japan , Great Britain and Germany .

Percentage of households in the respective income groups.
Per capita income by county (2016)

The median gross annual income of American households was $ 43,389; approximately 16% of all households had a gross income of more than $ 100,000. The top 20 percent of all households earned more than USD 88,030 gross per year, the bottom fifth less than 18,500.

Education and ethnicity had a strong influence on income. While the median gross household income in 2006 for Asian households was $ 57,518, it was $ 30,134 for black households. The same median was $ 25,900 for a high school graduate and 81,400 for a graduate student.

The poverty line was set in 2006 at an annual income of 20,614 US dollars (15,860 euros) for a family of four and 10,294 US dollars (7920 euros) for a single person. 36.46 million (≈ 15% of the population) lived below this limit in 2005.

The minimum wage was $ 7.25 an hour through 2014, with numerous variations across states. By decree on January 1, 2015, President Obama raised the minimum wage from $ 7.25 to $ 10.10 for employees whose employers work for the government on a contract basis.

According to a study by Credit Suisse , total household wealth (owning less debt) in 2017 was $ 93.6 trillion. American households thus own almost a third of the world's wealth. A total of 6.4% of American adults were wealth millionaires. In the first quarter of 2018, household wealth topped the $ 100 trillion mark for the first time.

Key figures

In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, the USA occupies second place out of a total of 137 (as of 2017–2018). In 2017, the country ranks 17th out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom .

Change in gross domestic product (GDP), real World Bank
year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Change in% yoy 2.9 1.9 −0.1 −2.5 2.6 1.6 2.3 1.8 2.5 2.9 1.6 2.2 2.9
Development of GDP (nominal), World Bank
absolute (in billion USD) per inhabitant (in thousands of USD)
year 2015 2016 2017 2018 year 2015 2016 2017 2018
GDP in billions of dollars 18,219 18,707 19,485 20,494 GDP per inhabitant (in thousands of dollars) 56.4 57.6 59.5 62.6
Development of foreign trade
in billion US dollars and its percentage change from the previous year
2016 2017 2018
Billion USD % yoy Billion USD % yoy Billion USD % year-on-year
import 2,187.6 −2.7 2,342.0 7.7 2,542.7 8.6
export 1,451.0 −3.5 1,546.3 6.6 1,664.1 7.6
balance −736.6 −795.7 −878.7
Main trading partner of the United States (2018)
Export (in percent) to Import (in percent) of
CanadaCanada Canada 18.0 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 21.2
MexicoMexico Mexico 15.9 MexicoMexico Mexico 13.6
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 7.2 CanadaCanada Canada 12.5
JapanJapan Japan 4.5 JapanJapan Japan 5.6
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 4.0 GermanyGermany Germany 5.0
GermanyGermany Germany 3.5 Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea 2.9
Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea 3.4 United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 2.4
other countries 43.5 other countries 36.8

State budget

Federal budget expenditure for the 2015 fiscal year

The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditures of 3.89 trillion US dollars , compared to income of 3.36 trillion US dollars. This results in a budget deficit of 2.8% of GDP . The deficit was $ 530 billion. The USA has thus made significant progress in fiscal consolidation in recent years. An annual deficit of around 2.9 percent of GDP is expected for 2017 to 2019.

The national debt of the United States in early January 2015 was $ 18.08 trillion, or 104% of GDP. According to the US Debt Clock in January 2015, local debts amounted to 1.87 trillion US dollars, and the total debt of the 50 states to 1.19 trillion US dollars. In August 2014, 34.4% of the national debt was allotted to foreign creditors, 65.6% to domestic creditors. According to the US Treasury Department, China owned US Treasuries worth $ 1.27 trillion at the end of 2013, making it the largest foreign creditor in the United States, followed by Japan with $ 1.18 trillion and Belgium with $ 256 billion.


In 2018, the United States ranked 14th out of 160 countries in the Logistics Performance Index , which is compiled by the World Bank and measures the quality of infrastructure. The United States therefore has an efficient and state-of-the-art infrastructure. In some areas, however, there is now a considerable need for investment.

power supply

The electricity consumption of the United States was around 3,913 terawatt hours per year in 2014, with 12,950 kWh per year the United States has the 10th highest per capita consumption worldwide. In 2015, 36% of energy consumption was generated from petroleum , 16% from coal and 29% from natural gas , 10% from renewable energy sources and 9% from nuclear energy . In 2019 it was 35% from natural gas, 31% from petroleum, 14% from coal, 12% from renewable sources and 8% from nuclear power. The United States has been by far the world's largest consumer of oil for decades and will continue to do so in 2020. In 2015, 91% of the energy requirement was covered by in-house production.

For decades, oil, natural gas, and coal have been the primary sources of energy in the United States. In 2008 coal production peaked, but then fell again, so that in 2015 production was at the same level as in 1981. In 2015 natural gas production peaked, primarily through the development of new production areas and the use of more effective production methods such as fracking . Oil production has decreased steadily since 1970. Starting in 2009, this process was reversed parallel to natural gas production by opening up new areas, such as in Texas or North Dakota, and using new production methods. In 2015 oil production was almost at the same level as in 1972. Owing to leaps in productivity, oil and gas production in the USA is competitive even at comparatively low prices. The USA is the world's largest producer of natural gas and, along with Russia and Saudi Arabia, are among the world's largest oil producers. In 2016, when the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana went into operation, liquefied natural gas (LNG) was exported from the US mainland for the first time. Further terminals are already under construction. The legal export ban on crude oil was lifted at the end of 2015.

The generation of energy through renewable energies has increased significantly in the USA since 2001, with new highs being regularly reached. The total installed capacity of the solar power plants reached 42.3 GW in the 2nd quarter of 2020, that of the wind power plants 109.6 GW.

The job balance has also shifted in the direction of renewable energies. For example, in 2016, the coal industry employed approximately 53,000 people, while the US solar and wind industries had approximately 475,000 jobs.

Water supply

In a global comparison, the USA has a relatively well-developed and safe water and drinking water system . The vast majority of American households get their drinking water from the municipal supply systems. The water supply systems can be in public or private hands. There are around 155,000 independent water suppliers. Although most of the water supply systems draw on groundwater, 68% of the population receives surface water, especially in large cities.

For several years, studies have shown that bottlenecks in the supply of drinking water could increase due to various factors, such as a changing climate and increasing population numbers. At the same time, authorities and institutes of the individual states and the federal government are investigating ways of improving the water supply and management.


The United States has an extensive and technologically advanced communications system. In 2015 there were around 122 million private landline connections and 328 million cell phone connections. The cellular network is constantly being expanded. The Internet , which originated in the United States, has become a major means of communication. In 2000, just over half of American households had their own fixed Internet access and 98% of all schools. There were 286 million internet connections in 2016, making 88.5% of Americans have internet access.


The Interstate Highway System, which extends for 75,440 km.

The transport network has a polycentric structure: roads, rails and air connections run mainly in a star shape to the metropolitan areas of New York , Philadelphia , Atlanta , Chicago , Houston , Charlotte , Dallas , Denver , Los Angeles and Seattle . With a total length of 6,586,610 kilometers, the United States has the longest road system in the world (as of 2012).

The freight transport is mainly by rail and trucks made. With the exception of air traffic, which dominates long-distance traffic, passenger transport takes place almost exclusively on the road (individual transport or intercity buses). The railway only takes over a fraction of the passenger traffic. 87.2% (-1.7% compared to 2000) of the passenger transport performance in 2010 was handled by motor vehicles, 11.6% (+1.5%) of the passenger kilometers were covered by airplanes. Only 0.9% (+0.2%) was achieved by regular service and 0.4% (+0.1%) by rail.

The intercity bus service is particularly important for traffic within the federal states, but also for long distances .

Road traffic

The United States has an extensive road network. There is a network of national and interstate highways for long and medium-haul traffic.

The Interstate Highways are multi-lane highways that lie between the individual states and connect the east and west coasts. The Interstate Highway System, built in the 1950s, is over 75,000 km long and handles a fifth of all motorized traffic. The new construction and maintenance are mainly financed by the federal government. The United States Highways and States Highways are federal highways that also lie between the different states. However, many US highways also run through towns and cities and usually have fewer lanes than the interstates. The United States Highways are financed by the respective state. The State Routes, also called State or Provincial Highways, are subordinate main and secondary roads. Each state has its own system of street numbering and designation, as well as its own signs. The state and expansion of the state routes can vary depending on the state and route section. In some states, certain road sections of all road types, bridges, or tunnels may incur tolls.

There were more fatal accidents in road traffic than in most other developed countries. In 2013, there were a total of 10.6 road deaths for every 100,000 people in the United States. For comparison: In Germany there were 4.3 deaths in the same year. A total of 34,000 people were killed in traffic. However, the country's high rate of motorization must be taken into account. In 2017 there were 910 motor vehicles for every 1,000 inhabitants in the USA. In Germany there were only 562 vehicles. With over 255 million units, the US has the largest fleet of any country.


Route network of the seven largest railway companies

For the mass transport of goods over long distances which operated in freight transport by various private companies plays Railway today a major role. With a total length of 293,564 kilometers in 2014, the United States has the longest rail network in the world. Seven large national railway companies dominate the market. There are also several hundred other smaller companies. The importance of rail transport can no longer be compared with the decades since the transcontinental railways opened up transport up to the middle of the 20th century. Nonetheless, the importance of the railroad has been increasing again in recent years; Between 2000 and 2012, Amtrak nearly doubled the number of people carried . Large parts of the route network are not electrified and are served by diesel locomotives. A large part of the branch lines is poorly developed and in need of renovation. Compared to other countries, freight transport is much more productive, the main freight transported by rail is coal (45% of the freight volume).

In the urban agglomerations of the east coast, California and the Chicago area, rail passenger transport has retained a certain role, which it was even able to expand in some cases, for example with the Acela Express between Washington DC and Boston, which has an average speed of 140 km / h reached. The long distances between the urban agglomerations are served according to schedule, but the main importance here is more in the tourist area - comparable to rail cruises in Europe, also due to the mostly very long journey times and low speeds. Overall, rail transport accounts for a very small percentage of total passenger transport in the United States, far less than in other states. Passenger traffic is mainly operated by the Amtrak company.

The US government planned to build a high-speed network on ten corridors between different major metropolitan areas, including on the west coast in California and on the east coast, distributed until 2017. This makes sense in the long term, especially due to the congested road and air traffic. In total, the project was expected to cost $ 53 billion, funded primarily from the United States' stimulus package. However, the Obama administration has failed to have Congress approve the necessary budget appropriations.

Air traffic

The Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport ; in terms of passenger volume, it is the largest international airport in the world.

Air traffic is an important mode of transport in passenger transport for long, medium and short distances . The United States has the largest and most developed civil aviation system in the world. There are a total of 19,000 runways of various categories, 389 of which are larger. 88% of all passengers take off from the 62 largest airports in the country. The largest American airlines are American Airlines , Delta Air Lines , Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines . Five American airlines are represented among the ten largest airlines in the world in terms of passenger numbers. In 2017, more than 849 million people were transported by airlines registered in the country.

The world's largest airport in terms of passenger volume is located in Atlanta . Other important hubs are in Los Angeles , Chicago , Dallas-Fort Worth , New York , Denver , San Francisco , Charlotte , Las Vegas and Miami . There are small airports with regular operations in almost every small town.

Maritime shipping

Shipping routes are primarily used for freight and goods transport. Inland, the network of waterways covers 40,000 kilometers, half of which is navigable for all larger ships. There are around 230 berths. A total of 41 of the 50 states are connected by water. Important inland waterways include: the Mississippi , which stretches from New Orleans to Minneapolis, and the Ohio River basin. In 2014 around 600 million tons of goods were transported by inland waterway vessels , which made up 5% of commercial freight traffic. On the coast, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the Pacific canals matter. The largest cargo ports are located in Boston, Chicago (via the St. Lawrence Shipping Route ), New York, Houston, Los Angeles and Louisiana , among others .

Great importance has the cruise industry ; Half of the world's cruise passengers come from the United States, with the Caribbean being by far the most important destination.


The Hollywood Sign above the Hollywood Hills symbolizes the American film industry, one of the oldest in the world

American culture is shaped by the variety of ethnic influences and traditions that numerous immigrant groups brought with them. It was not until the 1930s that the mass media gave rise to a uniform American popular culture. Various cultural scientists have dealt with the typical American mentality , compared self-image and external images and formulated so-called cultural standards of behavior from this .

The early cultural production in the United States was mainly shaped by the English “leading culture”, which, however, quickly gained independence due to the new, unique conditions. The African slaves were forbidden to exercise their cultural traditions and to produce their own culture, so that they had to orientate themselves strongly to European models. However, elements of their original cultures could be secretly maintained.

In the 20th century, American artists broke away from the models of the Old World . The different cultural disciplines were expanded in new directions.

The Times Square , the center of the Broadway theater district

The contemporary art and entertainment scene in the United States included the rejuvenation of music, new developments in modern dance, the use of original American themes in the theater, film production in its full range, and the globalization of the visual arts.

View of part of the Las Vegas Strip at night.

In the United States - similar to Germany , but different from France  - there is no central ministry of culture that controls a nationwide cultural policy . This fact reflects the belief that there are areas in social life where government should play little or no role. The two national foundations for the arts and humanities - " National Endowment for the Arts " (NEA) and " National Endowment for the Humanities " (NEH) - support individual artists and scientists as well as institutions working in the arts and humanities with grants are active. Since the "Republican Revolution" in 1994, in which the Republicans gained a majority in Congress, both foundations and the public broadcasters PBS and NPR have repeatedly been threatened with funding cuts, often accompanied by accusations that they pursued a "left" policy in favor of one "Elite". In particular, art that is viewed critically by Christian fundamentalist or strongly Roman Catholic circles becomes a target of these threats.

While the NEA's budget, which amounted to US $ 115 million in 2003, was modest compared to the cultural funding in other countries, private donations have always made up the majority of cultural funding . These private donations were estimated to be approximately $ 12.1 billion in 2002.

Indigenous culture

The culture of the 350 as tribes ( tribes ) considered Indian groups whose members themselves as American Indians or Native Americans call and live in the main part of the United States, are not uniform, even those living in Alaska 225 recognized tribes of Alaska Natives are significantly different, especially the groups in Hawaii. Within the country, between town and country, and between ethnic groups, the differences are extremely large. They developed their own identities and cultural structures that can be assigned to cultural areas, the number of languages ​​was very high, but many of them are threatened with extinction. The largest language with around 150,000 speakers is the Navajo .

On the Pacific coast, the culture was dominated by fishing, or by whaling, as with the Makah in northwest Washington . There are huge totem poles , the largest of which is in Washington. Mounted hunting, gathering and river fishing dominated inland. In the Great Plains, the Plains , which was bison hunting at the center, while in others the moose. With the arrival of the horse, from the 17th century onwards, a nomadism of equestrians developed, which set in motion large-scale movements of peoples. The east, on the other hand, was largely depopulated from 1830 ( Path of Tears ), so that the Indian cultural influence was felt less here for a long time.

Similar to literature, the Native American art scene not only pursues traditional elements, but combines them with European-inspired means of American culture. Other Indian artists produce detached from these traditions in their genres and with their means. Most of the time, ecological problems, poverty and violence, dehumanized technology or spirituality are in the foreground in literature. The written tradition dates back to the early 19th century, but kept breaking off: William Apes: The Experience of William Apes, a Native of the Forest (1831), a Pequot , George Copway , an Anishinabe and Elias Johnson, a tuscarora are early examples. The novella Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge (1929) was not revived until the 1960s. The Kiowa N. Scott Momaday received the Pulitzer Prize for House Made of Dawn in 1969 , and Vine Deloria published Custer Died For Your Sins. To Indian Manifesto . Dee Brown's Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee from 1970 went beyond the national framework .


Louis Armstrong , one of the most important hot jazz musicians with a great influence on the further development of jazz

A major contribution of the United States to world culture is the development of jazz , which is considered to be the first independent form of music in the United States, as well as blues and country , the merging of which resulted in rock 'n' roll in the 1950s . This musical culture is unique due to the confluence of African American and European folklore and today forms a central basis of popular culture in the western world.

Since 1959 are Grammy Awards from the Recording Academy in Los Angeles a year in currently 78 categories of artists such as singers , composers , musicians and production and sound engineering awarded. The Grammy is considered the highest international award for artists and recording teams.




John Smith's General History of Virginia (1624)
One of the most important American authors of the 20th century was John Steinbeck (photo 1962)
Gertrude Stein , one of the most important writers of American modernism.
Photograph by Carl van Vechten , 1935.

The production of literature was in no way linked to the traditions of the Indians, but began with travelogues and historiography, as well as diaries and theological literature. The first printed book was the Bay Psalm Book of 1640. The main Puritan poets were Edward Taylor and Anne Bradstreet ( The Tenth Muse Lately Jump Up in America , London 1650).

In 1704, Sarah Kemble Knight wrote the report of a trip from Boston to New York (The Journal of Madam Knight) , with which the landscape forced an argument for the first time. With the captivity reports among Indians, intercultural contacts and foreignness penetrated into literature, such as in Mary Rowlandson or John Smith's report about his alleged rescue by Pocahontas . The most important work of Puritan historiography is the Magnalia Christi Americana (1702) by Cotton Mather .

Numerous political essays and satires read in England as in the United States were written by Benjamin Franklin . Patriotism shaped the literature of the founding years. Philip Freneau became the "poet of the American Revolution" and painted a benevolent picture of the Indians . Webster compiled his An American Dictionary of the English Language from 1806 to 1828 . Many differences between American and British English are due to its spelling.

Charles Brockden Brown took up the English tradition of the Gothic Novel and is considered a pioneer of the psychological novel. Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper were influenced by Sir Walter Scott's historical novels . Irving is often referred to as the founder of the short story . Cooper recorded the Frontier experience in “ Leatherstocking ” (1823–1841) and presented Indians as “noble savages”.

American Romanticism , often referred to as the American Renaissance , peaked over 30 years after the European one. By Ralph Waldo Emerson who went transcendentalism from. He referred to Immanuel Kant's transcendental philosophy, but combined it with Far Eastern and Indian philosophy. His The American Scholar of 1837 has been referred to as the United States' "Declaration of Cultural Independence".

Henry David Thoreau lived in a log cabin for two years. His striving for an alternative way of life made his Walden reporting on these two years into a cult book of the hippie movement in the 1960s . Thoreau's political essay Civil Disobedience (1849) influenced Martin Luther King as well as the environmental movement .

Walt Whitman placed the physicality in the foreground in free verse, while Nathaniel Hawthorne was characterized by a deep skepticism . His subjects were guilt, punishment and intolerance, for example in the company of his Puritan ancestors. In The Blithedale Masquerade in 1841, he described the failure of a utopian commune.

Herman Melville's Moby Dick (1851) was a reflection on the questions of existence, on good and bad, the limitations of human knowledge. This and his later works, such as Bartleby the scribe , were not recognized until long after his death.

Edgar Allan Poe's short stories influenced the development of fantastic and horror literature , with The Double Murder on Rue Morgue he invented the detective story . By means of a poetry theory ( The Philosophy of Composition , The Poetic Principle ), Poe succeeded in developing the poetry into the field of symbolist and phonetic language art.

The conflict between northern and southern states over slavery was also carried out through literary means. The autobiography Olaudah Equianos appeared in 1789 , Harriet Beecher Stowes Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) became a bestseller in the north.

Outstanding are Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha novels (1930s), Stephen Vincent Benét's John Brown's Body (1928) and, last but not least, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind (1936). The southern states wavered between nostalgia and sharp criticism. The poet and musician Sidney Lanier wrote dark odes, Kate Chopin wrote about the Creole society of Louisiana. Mark Twains - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) - or Frank Norris ' local color literature exposed regional peculiarities and dialects.

The mass misery in the cities became the topic. Jack London moved to the far north ( Call of the Wild ) during the Klondike Gold Rush . Like London, Frank Norris belonged to San Francisco's radical literary scene. His novels dealt with the hard life in California, the supposed Promised Land ( Greed for Gold , 1899). Upton Sinclair uncovered the abuses in Chicago's slaughterhouses in The Swamp (1906).

TS Eliot or WH Auden , Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle (H. D.) are considered representatives of the modern age. Many American writers spent time in Europe; Stein created the term ("lost generation") for them. With Manhattan Transfer, John Dos Passos wrote the most famous big city novel . When the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in 1927, vigil stood in front of the prison gates, John Dos Passos, Langston Hughes and Edna St. Vincent Millay . Many writers turned to socialism. “Proletarian literature” reached its climax with works such as Dos Passos' USA trilogy (1930–1936) and John Steinbeck's The Fruits of Wrath (1939).

The twelve authors of the I'll Take My Stand pamphlet and their successors came to be known as the Southern Agrarians ; they turned against rationality, industrialization and urbanization. In 1922 Eliot published what is probably the most famous poem of the English-language modern age: The desert land .

Gertrude Stein's poems are often more committed to sound than to meaning. The terse style of Ernest Hemingway represents one extreme of prose, while the rampant sentences of William Faulkner represent the opposite . His work ( Nobel Prize for Literature 1950) was celebrated in France in particular by Jean-Paul Sartre and other existentialists, in Germany by Gottfried Benn . But he probably had the greatest influence on Latin American literature, especially magical realism . Sherwood Anderson and Thomas Wolfe were Faulkner's role models. F. Scott Fitzgerald's works observed the high society of New York or the exile bohemians, and so he became a chronicler of the "Roaring Twenties". In The Great Gatsby (1925) he took up the American myth of success.

Ralph Ellison (photo 1961) was an American author and literary critic. He received the
National Book Award in 1953

With the Harlem Renaissance a heyday of Afro-American literature began around 1920 , strongly influenced by Alain LeRoy Locke's anthology The New Negro (1925). Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison belonged to the generation that followed the Harlem Renaissance and found role models in it, but whose optimism had given way to resignation. Wright's Native Son (1940) and Ellison's The Invisible Man (1951) are considered to be the central works.

After World War II, Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead and Gore Vidal's Williwaw , James Jones ' Doomed and Herman Wouk's The Caine Was Her Destiny appeared after World War II . Mailer processed his involvement in the anti-war movement in armies from the night , for which he invented "faction" (new formation from fact and fiction ) as a new genre of literature. Vidal sparked a scandal in 1948 with Closed Circle, one of the first gay novels.

Henry Miller cultivated a negative attitude: The air-conditioned nightmare (1945) is one of his titles and at the same time his nickname for the United States. With the Tropic of Cancer (1934) and Tropic of Capricorn (1939) he gained a reputation as a scandal writer. His works are - like the trilogy Nexus , Plexus , Sexus (1948–1960) - more interesting as a spiritual biography and evidence of mystical inclinations.

In the late 1940s, a new literary bohemian called the Beat Generation formed around Allen Ginsberg , Jack Kerouac , Gregory Corso and William S. Burroughs . The cultural influence of the beat poets can be seen in the fact that the non-conformist youth movement around 1960 was named after them as beatniks . Ginsberg's poems are in their free form, with radical individualism and visionary urge in the tradition of Whitman, but are at the same time ironic, desperate comments on the state of society. He became a symbol of the hippies in the 1960s .

Jack Kerouac's best-known novel On the Road describes a journey of two young men on the run from compulsion and in search of sensual pleasures and spiritual fulfillment as an alternative to materialism and the compulsion to conform. A central figure in the hippie movement was also Ken Kesey with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest .

In the 1960s and 1970s, experimental authors such as Vladimir Nabokov , Thomas Pynchon and John Barth were described as "postmodern" in the narrower sense . Today, the entire production of literature from around 1960 is often grouped under the term postmodernism, because it is understood as the product of a postmodern society. Systems like NaNoWriMo try out ways of collaborative literary creation .

Fine arts and architecture

Mass media

The United States has always played a pioneering role in the process of the 20th century in which the media penetrated every aspect of everyday life. The emergence of a tabloid press can already be observed in the first half of the 19th century . The massive spread of radio, television, computers and the Internet began earlier here than in the rest of the world. In 1998, 53% of households already had their own personal computer .

History and understanding of the constitution

Newspapers developed quickly in the founding colonies. The first newspaper, however, immediately banned by the British, called Publick Occurences, Both Foreign and Domestik , appeared in 1690. At the beginning of the 18th century, newspapers were published regularly, including many in German. The first German-language newspaper in what is now the United States was the Philadelphische Zeitung, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1732 . During the revolutionary years, immigrants, who were mainly English and German-born, enjoyed publication. When the Declaration of Independence was passed in 1776, it first appeared in the German-speaking Pennsylvania State Messenger . The declaration was not published in the English-language press until later.

The freedom of the press was given a prominent place in the first amendment to the constitution in 1791. In the United States, there was an early belief that the common good would best be achieved through what Oliver W. Holmes put it in 1919, “free trade of ideas”. The Supreme Court confirmed this function of the first supplementary article in 1969: “It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount. It is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, rather than to countenance monopolization of that market "

In the 2019 press freedom ranking published by Reporters Without Borders , the US was ranked 48th out of 180 countries. The US occupied one of the worst positions in the western world. Reporters Without Borders criticizes President Donald Trump for raising the mood against the media and journalists and even declaring them the "enemy of the American people". In addition, the White House tries again and again to deny journalists entry.

Media groups

Time Warner is a media company with a wide range of businesses. Time Warner includes the film and television studio Warner Bros. , the pay-TV channel Home Box Office (HBO) and Time Inc. book and magazine publishers. Viacom is an American media group with interests in MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures . NBC Universal is the third largest media company in the world, after Time Warner and Viacom. NBC Universal includes the American broadcasters National Broadcasting Company (NBC), USA Network and MSNBC , as well as the film company Universal Studios . The News Corporation is a media group of the majority shareholder Rupert Murdoch . News Corporation has numerous interests in film and television companies, newspaper and book publishers. The investments include the company 20th Century Fox , Fox Broadcasting Company , New York Post and Dow Jones ( Wall Street Journal ).




Buzz Aldrin on the moon with the Apollo 11 mission. To date, the USA is the only country that has sent people to the moon.
The central part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Since its inception as an independent nation, the United States has promoted science and invention by enabling the free exchange of ideas, the diffusion of knowledge, and by welcoming creative people from around the world . The constitution reflects the desire for scientific activity. It gives Congress the power to "[...] promote the advancement of science and useful arts by giving authors and inventors exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries for a limited time [...]". This provision forms the basis of the United States' patent and trademark system.

Two of the founding fathers of the United States were distinguished scientists themselves. Benjamin Franklin conducted a series of experiments to prove that lightning is a type of electricity and invented the lightning rod . Thomas Jefferson studied agriculture and introduced new varieties of rice, olive trees, and grass to the New World .

In the 19th century, the leading new ideas in science and mathematics came from Great Britain , France and Germany , but in many cases they went unnoticed. Because of the great distance between the United States and the countries of origin of Western science and production, it was often necessary to develop own approaches. While researchers and inventors from the United States lagged behind in developing theories, they excelled in applied science. Against this background, a number of important inventions were made. Great American inventors are Robert Fulton (steamboat), Samuel F. B. Morse (telegraph), Eli Whitney ( egrenier for cotton ginning), Cyrus McCormick (mower), the Wright brothers (powered airplane) and Thomas Alva Edison , the most productive inventor with more than a thousand inventions .

In the second half of the 20th century, American scientists were increasingly recognized for their contributions to science, the formulation of concepts and theories. This change can also be seen in the winners of the Nobel Prize in physics and chemistry . Americans were only a small minority among the Nobel Prize winners in the first half of the century - 1901 to 1950 - in the natural sciences. Since 1950, scientists working in the United States have received approximately half of the Nobel Prizes awarded in the natural sciences. The processing of non-Anglo-Saxon research was restricted from the start by the fact that the only common language was English.

While higher education was viewed as a public good and research as a national resource in the post-war years , this changed in the 1980s. Education lost its intrinsic value, it was increasingly subject to capitalist market rules, was viewed more as a personal investment and thus a private good and a means of market success. While a high academic degree was equated with social success until well into the 1970s, the changed mentality created an oversupply of doctoral candidates and, in view of the increasing costs, a declining willingness to get involved in social sciences and humanities.

The United States has had an active space program , NASA , since 1958 .


American apple pie

Traditional American cuisine uses indigenous ingredients such as turkey , venison , potatoes , sweet potatoes , corn , pumpkin, and maple syrup , which were used by Native Americans and early European settlers. Wheat is the most widely used type of grain.

Soul food , the cuisine of the former African slaves, is particularly popular in the southern United States and among African Americans. Syncretic cuisines like Creole , Cajun, and Tex-Mex are also popular. Dishes like apple pie , fried chicken , hamburgers, and hot dogs come from recipes made by various immigrants. French fries , Mexican dishes such as burritos and tacos, and pizza and pasta dishes borrowed from Italian cuisine are common. Americans mostly prefer coffee to tea. Orange juice and breakfast drinks containing milk are also consumed.

The fast food industry was the first to introduce drive-in operation in the 1930s . During the 1980s and 1990s, American dietary energy intake increased by 24 percent. Eating frequently in fast food restaurants has been linked to being overweight in the United States. Sweetened soft drinks are popular and make up nine percent of Americans' caloric intake.


Michael Phelps (here with former US President George W. Bush ) has won more Olympic medals, including 23 gold medals, than any other athlete.
All cities in the US and Canada with at least one team in MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL or NHL, 2018
American football
Baseball. Here Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox in 2006
Basketball. Here Dirk Nowitzki and John Wall in 2011 in the game.

The United States has a strong sports culture in the de facto national sports of American football , baseball, and basketball . Professional leagues that are played at an international level are the NFL (American football), the MLB (baseball), the NBA (basketball) and the NHL (ice hockey). American sport is in the interplay between isolationism and internationalism .

So far, there have been eight Olympic Games in the United States. With a total of 2803 medals (1119 gold medals) (as of March 6, 2017), the country took first place in the all-time medal table of the Olympic Games .

A division into competitive and popular sport does not exist as in the German understanding. Rather, a group of certain secondary sports has developed, the importance of which is measured not by the (incidentally rather low) commercialization and processing in the national media, but by the dissemination in schools and the mass of regional disputes. These sports is next to the football (American English: soccer ) the widespread Lacrosse .

Typical of the American sport scene is a high emphasis on the entertainment effect and the integrative character of sport. In addition to the extensive use of show and choreographic elements (lighting, cheerleaders ) in some sports, a mostly harmless staging of action and violence, for example wrestling, is characteristic of the great demand for the entertainment value of sport .

The United States is also the initiator of a further subjective division of various sports, which are practiced primarily as casual leisure activities with the conscious creation of a lifestyle. In addition to tennis and bodybuilding, this includes various trend sports .

The great hopes that American society places in the integrating effect of sport become clear in view of the opportunities for advancement in it. A significant part of the scholarships for the universities are given to athletic talents. The accusation often made at home and abroad that such scholarship holders would not pass a university intellectually without their athletic abilities is seldom true, as great value is placed on academic performance and sport is curtailed in the event of poor academic performance. In a mode developed over time for the national sports, the so-called drafting system , the first access rights to the best talents of a year are given to the weakest clubs, interspersed with certain coincidences.

In contrast to lacrosse, the leadership of football in the United States is trying to catch up with the much more popular sports American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey. The top division, Major League Soccer , tries to bridge the differences between the North American and European understanding of sport. In the 1970s, top international players moved to American clubs. For example, New York Cosmos signed Pelé in 1975 and Franz Beckenbauer in 1977 . Also committed Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, David Beckham and 2010 was Thierry Henry from New York Red Bulls contracted. From 2011 to 2016 Jürgen Klinsmann was the head coach of the US national soccer team . The women's soccer in the United States is internationally much more successful than the men's soccer.

Motorsport is also very popular in the United States. The most popular racing series are NASCAR and INDYCAR . The 500 miles from Indianapolis and the Speedweek in Daytona Beach are famous . Every year the Formula 1 and MotoGP motorcycle world championships are held in the United States. The dirt track races with the Grand National Championships are also very popular in motorcycle racing . A successful speedway scene has been established in California since the early 1970s and the United States has five world champions with its speedway pros Bruce Penhall , Shawn Moran , Sam Ermolenko , Billy Hamill and Greg Hancock , who together have won six individual speedway world championships bestows. Shawn Moran became world champion in long distance in 1983.

public holidays

The United States also has a different understanding of holidays than Europe does. In principle, public holidays established by the government only apply to its civil servants and employees, including post office employees. However, many holidays have also become customary in the economy because of their cultural roots. With the exception of Christmas and New Year, the holidays in the United States are non-religious, i.e. primarily patriotic, due to the strict separation of church and state.

See also

Portal: United States  - Pictures, articles, and more about the United States


Web links

Wiktionary: USA  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : USA  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikimedia Atlas: United States  geographical and historical maps


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Coordinates: 40 °  N , 100 °  W