The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic with fifty states and one federal district. It is almost entirely located on the North American continent with Washington D.C. as the capital. Due to its global influence, be it political, economic, military or cultural, the U.S. is often dubbed the world’s last remaining superpower since the demise of the Soviet Union.
With a total population of more than 320 million people, the United States is the third most populous country in the world behind India and China. Repeated waves of immigration have resulted in an ethnically-diverse population. As in many multi-ethnical societies, racial discrimination has been a problem in the United States. The election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the U.S. marked a historical milestone in the movement towards equality, but race and ethnicity still remain an issue.
The U.S. economy is by far the largest economy in the world according to a country-based GDP ranking. In 2016, U.S. GDP amounted to about 18.5 trillion U.S. dollars. This equals the combined GDPs of the second to fourth largest economies, China, Japan, and Germany. 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 ten to twenty years.
In 2008, the U.S. economy was hit by a financial crisis and is still affected by some of its consequences. Originating in the U.S. housing/mortgage market, the crisis resulted in a severe shortage of liquidity on financial markets, which brought several financial institutions to the verge of bankruptcy or one step further. The crisis affected economies worldwide and resulted in a global recession. After two years of stagnation and contraction, the U.S. economy bounced back to moderate growth in 2010 with a GDP growth rate of 2.53 percent. During and shortly after the crisis, the U.S. unemployment rate soared to the highest level since the early 1980s and has yet to return to its pre-recession level. In 2010, the unemployment rate peaked at 9.6 percent compared to 4.6 percent in 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2011, the economic recovery suffered a major setback when the U.S. government was forced to raise the debt ceiling and commit to considerable budget cuts in order to prevent defaulting on its debt. A deal was reached to avert the immediate danger of default, but the huge amount of national debt in the U.S. is still a major concern and will most likely stay on the agenda of policy-makers for years to come.
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