Introducing: The United States of America

Thanks to television, movies, music, international politics and cultural hegemony, we all know something about America and Americans.

They’re wealthy (except those who are poor), polite but loud, overwhelmingly Christian (except for those that are Jewish, Muslim, atheist, or in cults), very large or very skinny, they wear big hats, drive big cars and rule the world, for no particularly good reason, even though they don’t know that much about it. Right?

(Also, they eat a lot of pumpkin, which is the reason for doing the US this week.)

Hmm, I’m sure they’re more complicated than that, and much nicer than I just made them sound.

So, regardless of what you already ‘know’ about the US of A, read on, learn the basics, and maybe a few surprises.

Where is it?

The United States of America is between the Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans, and has borders with Canada and Mexico. The USA includes Alaska, which lies to the West of Canada, Hawaii, which is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, and Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico is actually an unincorporated territory of the USA, but as it is somewhat governed by the US (Military, postal service, citizenship and other aspects), and there are supposedly 4.1 million Puerto Rican people living in the 50 states, I’m going to include them here.

The USA is a democratic republic. They elect a Senate, Congress and directly elect a President, and they have universal suffrage (except Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico, who elect a governor, but not members of the US Government), although voting is voluntary.


Population: 310,232,863 approx.

Median Age: 36.8 yo

Ethnic Spread: white 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% (July 2007 estimate). This doesn’t include people considered Hispanic, for reasons the CIA fact book explained, but that I didn’t understand.

Religious spread: Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4%

Birth Rate: 2.06 (children born per woman)

Economics: The USA has the highest total GDP in the world (if you don’t include the EU, which I don, as it isn’t a country.) The GDP per capita is 11th in the world, at $46, 400.

Bits and bobs

The USA has the 9th highest number of people with HIV infection in the world, but is 68th in terms of percentage adult population living with HIV/AIDS.

As of 2008 they were the single biggest consumer of oil, electricity and natural gas. (Oil usage was more than double that of China, and more than six times that of India).

They have more airports than any other country.

They are the world’s primary consumer of Cocaine.

The first woman to run for  President in the US was Virginia Woodhull who ran in 1872,  before women had full suffrage.

There’s a (small) movement for creating a state out of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and calling it Superior Michigan. There’s also a movement to remove the North from North Dakota (its not just a thing from the West Wing!)

Where can you get info on the USA?

CIA Factbook

Awesome America (the name makes me giggle)



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