United States

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Context of United States


The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territories, nine Minor Outlying Islands, and 326 Indian reservations. It is the world's third-largest country by both land and total area. The United States shares land borders with Canada to its north and with Mexico to its south. It has maritime borders with the Bahamas, Cuba, Russia, and other nations. With a population of over 333 million, it is the most populous country in the Americas and the third most populous in the world. The national capital is Washington, D.C. and the most populous city and financial center is New York City.

Paleo-Americans migrated from Siberia to the North American mainland at least 1...Read more


The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territories, nine Minor Outlying Islands, and 326 Indian reservations. It is the world's third-largest country by both land and total area. The United States shares land borders with Canada to its north and with Mexico to its south. It has maritime borders with the Bahamas, Cuba, Russia, and other nations. With a population of over 333 million, it is the most populous country in the Americas and the third most populous in the world. The national capital is Washington, D.C. and the most populous city and financial center is New York City.

Paleo-Americans migrated from Siberia to the North American mainland at least 12,000 years ago, and advanced cultures began to appear later on. These advanced cultures had almost completely declined by the time Europeans arrived in North America and began to colonize the continent. The United States emerged from the Thirteen British Colonies when disputes with the British Crown over taxation and political representation led to the American Revolution (1765–1791), which established the nation's independence. In the late 18th century, the U.S. began expanding across North America, gradually obtaining new territories, sometimes through war, frequently displacing Native Americans, and admitting new states. By 1848, the United States spanned the continent from east to west. The controversy surrounding the practice of slavery culminated in the secession of the Confederate States of America, which fought the remaining states of the Union during the American Civil War (1861–1865). With the Union's victory and preservation, slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment.

By 1900, the United States had become the world's largest economy, and the Spanish–American War and World War I established the country as a world power. After Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. entered World War II on the Allied side. The aftermath of the war left the United States and the Soviet Union as the world's two superpowers. During the Cold War, both countries engaged in a struggle for ideological dominance but avoided direct military conflict. They also competed in the Space Race, which culminated in the 1969 American spaceflight that first landed humans on the Moon. Simultaneously, the civil rights movement (1954–1968) led to legislation abolishing state and local Jim Crow laws and other codified racial discrimination against African Americans. The Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991 ended the Cold War, leaving the United States as the world's sole superpower. The September 11 attacks in 2001 resulted in the United States launching the war on terror, which included the War in Afghanistan (2001–2021) and the Iraq War (2003–2011).

The United States is a federal republic with three separate branches of government, including a bicameral legislature. It is a liberal democracy and market economy; it ranks high in international measures of human rights, quality of life, income and wealth, economic competitiveness, and education; and it has low levels of perceived corruption. It has high levels of incarceration and inequality, allows capital punishment, and lacks universal health care. As a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, the U.S. has been shaped by centuries of immigration.

The United States is a highly developed country, and its economy accounts for approximately a quarter of global GDP and is the world's largest by GDP at market exchange rates. By value, the United States is the world's largest importer and second-largest exporter. Although it accounts for just over 4.2% of the world's total population, the U.S. holds over 30% of the total wealth in the world, the largest share held by any country. The United States is a founding member of the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of American States, NATO, and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The country makes up more than a third of global military spending and is the foremost military power in the world and a leading political, cultural, and scientific force.

More about United States

Basic information
  • Currency United States dollar
  • Native name United States
  • Calling code +1
  • Internet domain .us
  • Mains voltage 120V/60Hz
  • Democracy index 7.92
Population, Area & Driving side
  • Population 331449281
  • Area 9826675
  • Driving side right
    Indigenous peoples and pre-Columbian history
    Aerial view of the Cliff Palace 
    Cliff Palace, located in present-day Colorado, was built by the Ancestral Puebloans between AD 1190 and 1260.

    It is generally accepted that the first...Read more

    Indigenous peoples and pre-Columbian history
    Aerial view of the Cliff Palace 
    Cliff Palace, located in present-day Colorado, was built by the Ancestral Puebloans between AD 1190 and 1260.

    It is generally accepted that the first inhabitants of North America migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge and arrived at least 12,000 years ago; however, some evidence suggests an even earlier date of arrival.[1][2][3] The Clovis culture, which appeared around 11,000 BC, is believed to represent the first wave of human settlement of the Americas.[4][5] This was likely the first of three major waves of migration into North America; later waves brought the ancestors of present-day Athabaskans, Aleuts, and Eskimos.[6]

    Over time, indigenous cultures in North America grew increasingly sophisticated, and some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture in the southeast, developed advanced agriculture, architecture, and complex societies.[7] The city-state of Cahokia is the largest, most complex pre-Columbian archaeological site in the modern-day United States.[8] In the Four Corners region, Ancestral Puebloan culture developed from centuries of agricultural experimentation.[9] The Algonquian are one of the most populous and widespread North American native language groups. Historically, the peoples were prominent along the Atlantic Coast and into the interior along the Saint Lawrence River and around the Great Lakes. This grouping consists of the peoples who speak Algonquian languages.[10] Before Europeans came into contact, most Algonquian settlements lived by hunting and fishing, although quite a few supplemented their diet by cultivating corn, beans and squash (the "Three Sisters"). The Ojibwe cultivated wild rice.[11] The Haudenosaunee of the Iroquois, located in the southern Great Lakes region, was established at some point between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.[12]

    Estimating the native population of North America during European contact is difficult.[13][14] Douglas H. Ubelaker of the Smithsonian Institution estimated a population of 93,000 in the South Atlantic states and a population of 473,000 in the Gulf states,[15] but most academics regard this figure as too low.[13] Anthropologist Henry F. Dobyns believed the populations were much higher, suggesting around 1.1 million along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, 2.2 million people living between Florida and Massachusetts, 5.2 million in the Mississippi Valley and tributaries, and around 700,000 people in the Florida peninsula.[13][14]

    European settlements
    The landing of the first Africans in Virginia in 1619 (left) is considered the start of African slavery in the colonial history of the United States. The Mayflower Compact signed on the Mayflower (right) in 1620 set an early precedent for self-government and constitutionalism.

    Claims of very early colonization of coastal New England by the Norse are disputed and controversial. The first documented arrival of Europeans in the continental United States is that of Spanish conquistadors such as Juan Ponce de León, who made his first expedition to Florida in 1513.[citation needed] The Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, sent by France to the New World in 1525, encountered native inhabitants of what is now New York Bay.[16] Even earlier, Christopher Columbus had landed in Puerto Rico on his 1493 voyage, and San Juan was settled by the Spanish a decade later.[17] The Spanish set up the first settlements in Florida and New Mexico, such as Saint Augustine, often considered the nation's oldest city,[18] and Santa Fe. The French established their own settlements along the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico, notably New Orleans and Mobile.[19]

    Successful English settlement of the eastern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown and with the Pilgrims' colony at Plymouth in 1620.[20][21] The continent's first elected legislative assembly, Virginia's House of Burgesses, was founded in 1619. Harvard College was established in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636 as the first institution of higher education. The Mayflower Compact and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut established precedents for representative self-government and constitutionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.[22][23] Many English settlers were dissenting Christians who came seeking religious freedom. In 1784, the Russians were the first Europeans to establish a settlement in Alaska, at Three Saints Bay.[24] The native population of America declined after European arrival for various reasons,[25][26][27] primarily from diseases such as smallpox and measles.[28][29]

    Map of the U.S. showing the original Thirteen Colonies along the eastern seaboard 
    The original Thirteen Colonies (shown in red) in 1775

    In the early days of colonization, many European settlers experienced food shortages, disease, and conflicts with Native Americans, such as in King Philip's War. Native Americans were also often fighting neighboring tribes and European settlers. In many cases, however, the natives and settlers came to depend on each other. Settlers traded for food and animal pelts; natives for guns, tools and other European goods.[30] Natives taught many settlers to cultivate corn, beans, and other foodstuffs. European missionaries and others felt it was important to "civilize" the Native Americans and urged them to adopt European agricultural practices and lifestyles.[31][32] However, with the increased European colonization of North America, Native Americans were displaced and often killed during conflicts.[33]

    European settlers also began trafficking African slaves into Colonial America via the transatlantic slave trade.[34] Because of a lower prevalence of tropical diseases and relatively better treatment, slaves had a much higher life expectancy in North America than in South America, leading to a rapid increase in their numbers.[35][36] Colonial society was largely divided over the religious and moral implications of slavery, and several colonies passed acts for or against the practice.[37][38] However, by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves had supplanted European indentured servants as cash crop labor, especially in the American South.[39]

    The Thirteen Colonies[a] that would become the United States of America were administered by the British as overseas dependencies.[40] All nonetheless had local governments with elections open to most free men.[41] With very high birth rates, low death rates, and steady settlement, the colonial population grew rapidly, eclipsing Native American populations.[42] The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and 1740s known as the Great Awakening fueled interest both in religion and in religious liberty.[43]

    During the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), known in the U.S. as the French and Indian War, British forces captured Canada from the French. With the creation of the Province of Quebec, Canada's francophone population would remain isolated from the English-speaking colonial dependencies of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Thirteen Colonies. Excluding the Native Americans who lived there, the Thirteen Colonies had a population of over 2.1 million in 1770, about a third that of Britain. Despite continuing new arrivals, the rate of natural increase was such that by the 1770s only a small minority of Americans had been born overseas.[44] The colonies' distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-government, but their unprecedented success motivated British monarchs to periodically seek to reassert royal authority.[45]

    Independence and early expansion
    See caption 
    Declaration of Independence, a painting by John Trumbull, depicts the Committee of Five[b] presenting the draft of the Declaration to the Continental Congress, June 28, 1776, in Philadelphia.

    The American Revolution separated the Thirteen Colonies from the British Empire, and was the first successful war of independence by a non-European entity against a European power in modern history. By the 18th century the American Enlightenment and the political philosophies of liberalism were pervasive among leaders. Americans began to develop an ideology of "republicanism", asserting that government rested on the consent of the governed. They demanded their "rights as Englishmen" and "no taxation without representation".[46][47] The British insisted on administering the colonies through a Parliament that did not have a single representative responsible for any American constituency, and the conflict escalated into war.[48]

    In 1774, the First Continental Congress passed the Continental Association, which mandated a colonies-wide boycott of British goods. The American Revolutionary War began the following year, catalyzed by events like the Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party that were rooted in colonial disagreement with British governance.[citation needed] The Second Continental Congress, an assembly representing the United Colonies, unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 (annually celebrated as Independence Day).[49] In 1781, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union established a decentralized government that operated until 1789.[49] A celebrated early turn in the war for the Americans was George Washington leading the Americans to cross the frozen Delaware River in a surprise attack the night of December 25–26, 1776. Another victory, in 1777, at the Battle of Saratoga resulted in the capture of a British army, and led to France and Spain joining in the war against them. After the surrender of a second British army at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, Britain signed a peace treaty. American sovereignty became internationally recognized, and the new nation took possession of substantial territory east of the Mississippi River, from what is today Canada in the north and Florida in the south.[50]

    As it became increasingly apparent that the Confederation was insufficient to govern the new country, nationalists advocated for and led the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in writing the United States Constitution to replace it, ratified in state conventions in 1788. Going into force in 1789, this constitution reorganized the government into a federation administered by three equal branches (executive, judicial and legislative), on the principle of creating salutary checks and balances. George Washington, who had led the Continental Army to victory and then willingly relinquished power, was the first president elected under the new constitution. The Bill of Rights, forbidding federal restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protections, was adopted in 1791.[51] Tensions with Britain remained, however, leading to the War of 1812, which was fought to a draw.[52]

    Although the federal government outlawed American participation in the Atlantic slave trade in 1807, after 1820, cultivation of the highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the Deep South, and along with it, the use of slave labor.[53][54][55] The Second Great Awakening, especially in the period 1800–1840, converted millions to evangelical Protestantism. In the North, it energized multiple social reform movements, including abolitionism;[56] in the South, Methodists and Baptists proselytized among slave populations.[57]

    Map of the U.S. depicting its westward expansion 
    Territorial acquisitions of the United States between 1783 and 1917

    In the late 18th century, American settlers began to expand further westward, some of them with a sense of manifest destiny.[58][59] The 1803 Louisiana Purchase almost doubled the nation's area,[60] Spain ceded Florida and other Gulf Coast territory in 1819,[61] the Republic of Texas was annexed in 1845 during a period of expansionism,[59] and the 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of the present-day American Northwest.[62] Additionally, the Trail of Tears in the 1830s exemplified the Indian removal policy that forcibly resettled Indians. This further expanded acreage under mechanical cultivation, increasing surpluses for international markets. This prompted a long series of American Indian Wars west of the Mississippi River from 1810 to at least 1890.[63] and eventually, conflict with Mexico.[64] Most of these conflicts ended with the cession of Native American territory and their confinement to Indian reservations. Victory in the Mexican–American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cession of California and much of the present-day American Southwest, and the U.S. spanned the continent.[58][65] The California Gold Rush of 1848–1849 spurred migration to the Pacific coast, which led to the California Genocide[66] and the creation of additional western states.[67] Economic development was spurred by giving vast quantities of land, nearly 10% of the total area of the United States, to white European settlers as part of the Homestead Acts, as well as making land grants to private railroad companies and colleges.[68] Prior to the Civil War, the prohibition or expansion of slavery into these territories exacerbated tensions over the debate around abolitionism.

    Civil War and Reconstruction era
    Map of U.S. showing two kinds of Union states, two phases of secession and territories 
    Status of the states, 1861
       Slave states that seceded before April 15, 1861
       Slave states that seceded after April 15, 1861
       Union states that permitted slavery (border states)
       Union states that banned slavery

    Irreconcilable sectional conflict regarding the enslavement of Africans and African Americans ultimately led to the American Civil War.[69] With the 1860 election of Republican Abraham Lincoln, conventions in eleven slave states declared secession and formed the Confederate States of America, while the federal government (the "Union") maintained that secession was unconstitutional and illegal.[70] On April 12, 1861, the Confederacy initiated military conflict by bombarding Fort Sumter, a federal garrison in Charleston harbor, South Carolina. This would be the spark of the Civil War, which lasted for four years (1861–1865) and became the deadliest military conflict in American history. The war would result in the deaths of approximately 620,000 soldiers from both sides and upwards of 50,000 civilians, almost all of them in the South.[71]

    Reconstruction began in earnest following the war. While President Lincoln attempted to foster friendship and forgiveness between the Union and the former Confederacy, his assassination on April 14, 1865 drove a wedge between North and South again. Republicans in the federal government made it their goal to oversee the rebuilding of the South and to ensure the rights of African Americans. They persisted until the Compromise of 1877, when the Republicans agreed to cease protecting the rights of African Americans in the South in order for Democrats to concede the presidential election of 1876. Southern white Democrats, calling themselves "Redeemers", took control of the South after the end of Reconstruction, beginning the nadir of American race relations. From 1890 to 1910, the Redeemers established so-called Jim Crow laws, disenfranchising most blacks and some impoverished whites throughout the region. Blacks would face racial segregation nationwide, especially in the South.[72] They also occasionally experienced vigilante violence, including lynching.[73]

    Further immigration, expansion, and industrialization
    Film by Edison Studios showing immigrants disembarking at Ellis Island in New York Harbor, which served as a major entry point for European immigration into the U.S.[74]

    In the North, urbanization and an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe supplied a surplus of labor for the country's industrialization and transformed its culture.[75] National infrastructure, including telegraph and transcontinental railroads, spurred economic growth and greater settlement and development of the American Old West. After the American Civil War, new transcontinental railways made relocation easier for settlers, expanded internal trade, and increased conflicts with Native Americans.[76] The later inventions of electric light and the telephone would also affect communication and urban life.[77]

    Mainland expansion also included the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.[78] In 1893, pro-American elements in Hawaii overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy and formed the Republic of Hawaii, which the U.S. annexed in 1898. Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were ceded by Spain in the same year, following the Spanish–American War.[79] American Samoa was acquired by the United States in 1900 after the end of the Second Samoan Civil War.[80] The U.S. Virgin Islands were purchased from Denmark in 1917.[81]

    Rapid economic development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries fostered the rise of many prominent industrialists. Tycoons like Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie led the nation's progress in the railroad, petroleum, and steel industries. Banking became a major part of the economy, with J. P. Morgan playing a notable role. The American economy boomed, becoming the world's largest.[82] These dramatic changes were accompanied by growing inequality and social unrest, which prompted the rise of organized labor along with populist, socialist, and anarchist movements.[83] This period eventually ended with the advent of the Progressive Era, which saw significant reforms including health and safety regulation of consumer goods, the rise of labor unions, and greater antitrust measures to ensure competition among businesses and attention to worker conditions.

    World War I, Great Depression, and World War II
    Worker during construction of the Empire State Building in New York City in 1930; it replaced the Chrysler Building (in background) as the world's tallest building, a status it held up until the 1973 opening of the World Trade Center.
    Mushroom cloud formed by the Trinity Experiment in July 1945, part of the Manhattan Project, the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in history

    The United States remained neutral from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 until 1917 when it joined the war as an "associated power" alongside the Allies of World War I, helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference and advocated strongly for the U.S. to join the League of Nations. However, the Senate refused to approve this and did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles that established the League of Nations.[84]

    Around this time, millions of rural African Americans began a mass migration from the South to northern urban centers; it would continue until about 1970.[85] The last vestiges of the Progressive Era resulted in women's suffrage and alcohol prohibition.[86][87][88] In 1920, the women's rights movement won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage.[89] The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of radio for mass communication and the invention of early television.[90] The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal.[91] The Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and spurred a new wave of western migration.[92]

    At first neutral during World War II, the United States in March 1941 began supplying materiel to the Allies. On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting the United States to join the Allies against the Axis powers, and in the following year, to intern about 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans.[93][94] The U.S. pursued a "Europe first" defense policy,[95] leaving the Philippines, an American colony, isolated and alone to fight Japan's invasion and occupation until the U.S.-led Philippines campaign (1944–1945). During the war, the United States was one of the "Four Powers"[96] who met to plan the postwar world, along with Britain, the Soviet Union, and China.[97][98] The United States emerged relatively unscathed from the war, and with even greater economic and military influence.[99]

    The United States played a leading role in the Bretton Woods and Yalta conferences, which signed agreements on new international financial institutions and Europe's postwar reorganization. As an Allied victory was won in Europe, a 1945 international conference held in San Francisco produced the United Nations Charter, which became active after the war.[100] The United States and Japan then fought each other in the largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.[101][102] The United States developed the first nuclear weapons and used them on Japan in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945; the Japanese surrendered on September 2, ending World War II.[103][104]

    Cold War and late 20th century
    U.S. president Ronald Reagan (left) and Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev at the Geneva Summit in 1985

    After World War II, the United States financed and implemented the Marshall Plan to help rebuild western Europe; disbursements paid between 1948 and 1952 would total $13 billion ($115 billion in 2021).[105] Also at this time, geopolitical tensions between the United States and Russia led to the Cold War, driven by an ideological divide between capitalism and communism.[106] They dominated the military affairs of Europe, with the U.S. and its NATO allies on one side and the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies on the other.[107] The U.S. often opposed Third World movements that it viewed as Soviet-sponsored, sometimes pursuing direct action for regime change against left-wing governments.[108] American troops fought the communist forces in the Korean War of 1950–1953,[109] and the U.S. became increasingly involved in the Vietnam War (1955–1975), introducing combat forces in 1965.[110] Their competition to achieve superior spaceflight capability led to the Space Race, which culminated in the U.S. becoming the first nation to land people on the Moon in 1969.[109] While both countries engaged in proxy wars and developed powerful nuclear weapons, they avoided direct military conflict.[107]

    At home, the United States experienced sustained economic expansion, urbanization, and a rapid growth of its population and middle class following World War II. Construction of an Interstate Highway System transformed the nation's transportation infrastructure in decades to come.[111][112] In 1959, the United States admitted Alaska and Hawaii to become the 49th and 50th states, formally expanding beyond the contiguous United States.[113]

    See caption 
    Martin Luther King Jr. gives his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, 1963

    The growing civil rights movement used nonviolence to confront racism, with Martin Luther King Jr. becoming a prominent leader and figurehead.[114] President Lyndon B. Johnson initiated legislation that led to a series of policies addressing poverty and racial inequalities, in what he termed the "Great Society". The launch of a "War on Poverty" expanded entitlements and welfare spending, leading to the creation of the Food Stamp Program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, along with national health insurance programs Medicare and Medicaid.[115] A combination of court decisions and legislation, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1968, made significant improvements.[116][117][118] Meanwhile, a counterculture movement grew, which was fueled by opposition to the Vietnam War, the Black Power movement, and the sexual revolution.[119] The women's movement in the U.S. broadened the debate on women's rights and made gender equality a major social goal. The 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City marked the beginning of the fledgling gay rights movement.[120][121]

    The United States supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War; in response, the country faced an oil embargo from OPEC nations, sparking the 1973 oil crisis. After a surge in female labor participation around the 1970s, by 1985, the majority of women aged 16 and over were employed.[122] The 1970s and early 1980s also saw the onset of stagflation. The presidency of Richard Nixon saw the American withdrawal from Vietnam but also the Watergate scandal which led to a decline in public trust of government. After his election in 1980 President Ronald Reagan responded to economic stagnation with Neoliberal reforms and initiated the more aggressive rollback strategy towards the Soviet Union.[123][124] During Reagan's presidency, the federal debt held by the public nearly tripled in nominal terms, from $738 billion to $2.1 trillion.[125] This led to the United States moving from the world's largest international creditor to the world's largest debtor nation.[126] The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 ended the Cold War,[127][128][129] ensuring a global unipolarity[130] in which the U.S. was unchallenged as the world's dominant superpower.[131]

    Fearing the spread of regional international instability from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in August 1991, President George H. W. Bush launched and led the Gulf War against Iraq, expelling Iraqi forces and restoring the Kuwaiti monarchy.[132] Beginning in 1994, the U.S. signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), causing trade among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to soar.[133] Due to the dot-com boom, stable monetary policy, and reduced social welfare spending, the 1990s saw the longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history.[134]

    21st century
    Dark smoke billows from the Twin Towers over Manhattan 
    The World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan during the September 11 attacks by the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda in 2001

    On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorist hijackers flew passenger planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people.[135] In response, President George W. Bush launched the War on Terror, which included a nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021 and the 2003–2011 Iraq War.[136][137] Government policy designed to promote affordable housing,[138] widespread failures in corporate and regulatory governance,[139] and historically low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve[140] led to a housing bubble in 2006. This culminated in the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and the Great Recession, the nation's largest economic contraction since the Great Depression.[141]

    Barack Obama, the first multiracial[142] president with African-American ancestry, was elected in 2008 amid the financial crisis.[143] By the end of his second term, the stock market, median household income and net worth, and the number of persons with jobs were all at record levels, while the unemployment rate was well below the historical average.[144][145][146][147][148] His signature legislative accomplishment was the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as "Obamacare". It represented the U.S. healthcare system's most significant regulatory overhaul and expansion of coverage since Medicare in 1965. As a result, the uninsured share of the population was cut in half, while the number of newly insured Americans was estimated to be between 20 and 24 million.[149] After Obama served two terms, Republican Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president in 2016. His election is viewed as one of the biggest political upsets in American history.[150] Trump held office through the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting COVID-19 recession starting in 2020 that exceeded even the Great Recession earlier in the century.[151]

    The early 2020s saw the country become more divided, with various social issues sparking debate and protest. The murder of George Floyd in 2020 led to widespread civil unrest in urban centers and a national debate about police brutality and lingering institutional racism.[152] The nationwide increase in the frequency of instances and number of deaths related to mass shootings added to the societal tensions.[153] On January 6, 2021, supporters of the outgoing president, Trump, stormed the U.S. Capitol in an unsuccessful effort to disrupt the Electoral College vote count that would confirm Democrat Joe Biden as the 46th president.[154] In 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to an abortion, causing another wave of protests across the country and stoking international reactions as well.[155] Despite these divisions, the country has remained unified against Russia after Vladimir Putin's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, with politicians and individuals across the political spectrum supporting arms shipments to Ukraine and many large American corporations pulling out of Russia and Belarus altogether.[156]

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    ^ Halliday, Fred (April 1991). "The Gulf War and Its Aftermath: First Reflections". International Affairs. Oxford University Press. 67 (2): 223–234. doi:10.2307/2620827. JSTOR 2620827. S2CID 154565052. ^ "North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) | United States Trade Representative". www.ustr.gov. Archived from the original on March 17, 2013. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
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