The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic with fifty states, one federal district, and 16 overseas territories (five of which are permanently inhabited). It is almost entirely located on the North American continent, and is the third largest country in the world in terms of landmass. Washington D.C. is the national capital, although New York is the largest city, and California is the most populous state (Alaska is the largest by mass). Due to its global influence, be it political, economic, military, or cultural, the U.S. is often considered the world’s foremost superpower; however China has gradually been exerting more international influence over the past two decades.
With a total population of more than 330 million people, the United States is also the third most populous country in the world, behind India and China. Fertility rates have remained below replacement level in recent years, however the population has continued to grow due to migration and rising life expectancy (although life expectancy did fall in the late 2010s as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices). Consistent immigration has also resulted in an ethnically-diverse population. As in other multi-ethnic societies, racial discrimination has been a consistent problem in the United States, with its roots tracing back to the colonization of the Americas and transatlantic slavery. Inequalities in income and criminal justice disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic communities, and the average Black household income has been roughly 60 percent of white household income since the 1960s.
The U.S. economy is by far the a largest economy in the world. In 2021, U.S. GDP amounted to about 22.7 trillion U.S. dollars. This is more than the combined GDPs of the second and third largest economies, China and Japan. However, it is widely expected that due to its sheer size and rapid growth, China is going to become the world’s largest economy within the next 10 to 20 years. The total volume of U.S. exports has vastly grown in the last two decades and amounted to 1.6 trillion U.S. dollars in 2019, before falling to 1.4 trillion in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The most important export partners of the U.S. are Canada, Mexico, and China who accounted for more 40 percent of U.S. exports in 2019. The same three countries top the list of the U.S.’s most important import partners, with more 18 percent of U.S. imports coming from China alone.
Following the 2008 financial crisis, and now due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, recessions and economic recovery have been a major challenge for U.S. policy makers in the past 15 years. While GDP fell by 3.5 percent in 2020, it is expected to grow by 6.4 percent in 2021. Unemployment had reached its lowest point in decades in 2019, before it more than doubled to 8.1 percent in 2020. These fluctuations have led to economic instability and financial insecurity in the past year, and the government's borrowing to limit economic damage has seen the national debt rise above 28 trillion U.S. dollars in 2021; more than double what it was in 2010.
2020 and 2021 have marked a tumultuous period in U.S. history. Not only has the U.S. suffered the highest number of covid deaths during the pandemic, but persistent lockdowns exacerbated the already-high tensions surrounding socioeconomic or political issues, especially online. Racial inequality and criminal justice reform took the spotlight during the summer of 2020, in the wake of the George Floyd protests; and this spilled over into the presidential election cycle at the end of the year, the outcome of which continues to cause division across the country. Some suggest that divisions within U.S. society and politics have not been this strong since the 1960s. As the U.S. moves into 2022, it remains to be seen how the U.S. will adapt to the challenges ahead. How long will it take for the economy to recover from the pandemic, and what impact will this have on national debt? Will there be a balance between conservatism and progressivism, and how will it affect women and minority groups? How will the U.S. deal with foreign policy, and react to its waning international influence? What is the future of healthcare, education, and welfare systems? How will climate change be dealt with? These are just some of the many questions that remain to be answered in the coming years.
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