This post offers the essential facts on the United States of America for kids, categorized into popular topics like states, history, and politics. We’d love to add any more facts you have, so please email us, and if we like them, we’ll add them.
Basic & Fun USA Facts
Table of Contents
Here are some basic facts about the USA:
- The Capital City in Washington, D.C.
- The leader of the USA is the President who is elected every four years
- The USA has 50 states plus various territories. Recently Puerto Rico voted to become a state too.
- The population is around 315 million, making it the 3rd biggest country by population.
- The area is 3.79 million square miles, which means it is either the 3rd or 4th biggest country depending on who you measure this.
- The income per capita is $49,601, making it the 15th most prosperous country per person in the world. Most of the 14 countries with richer citizens are tiny in comparison.
- The currency of the United States is the dollar, represented by the symbol $.
- Most people think that .com is the US top-level domain, but this is actually a global one – the US one is .us, although it also controls .mil, .gov and .edu
- The US has no official federal language, although more than half of its states have English as their official language and most Americans speak English. Spanish is another primary language, particularly in the South West.
- Citizens of the USA are called Americans.
- The USA is located in the continent of North America.
- The dialing code to call the USA internationally is 1.
- The USA declared independence on July 4th, 1776, from Britain. This was recognized on September 3rd, 1783.
- 52% of Americans are Protestant Christians of various denominations, 24% are Catholics. Many more religions have significant followings, and an increasing number of Americans don’t have a religion.
- The US has the largest military in the world by money spent on it, dwarfing the spending of the next countries combined.
- The US economy is diverse, from car manufacturing to internet technology, agriculture, and almost everything in between.
- Many Americans will give a second nationality when asked despite only ever living in America as the country is made up mostly of those who immigrated within the last 200 years. Perhaps the best-known group is the Irish Americans who celebrate St Patrick’s Day every year in style.
- The USA is bordered to the North by Canada and to the South by Mexico. It has a free trade agreement with these countries called NAFTA.
- The national motto of the USA is In God We Trust.
- The national bird is the Bald Eagle.
- The national flower is the Rose.
- The national anthem is entitled The Star-Spangled Banner.
USA History Facts
America’s history is comparatively short compared with most European countries. Despite this, it has one of the most vibrant and most interesting histories of all nations, below are some quick, fascinating facts about American history.
- Only one President didn’t marry, James Buchanan.
- The tallest president was Abraham Lincoln at 6’4”, the shortest was James Madison who was a foot shorter than Lincoln.
- The USA gained most of its current territory by purchasing it from other countries. It often got bargain prices too, the Louisiana Purchase of much of the middle of America cost just $15 million in 1803, equivalent of only $220 million today. The US spends more buying some military jets than this!
- The first permanent English settlement in America was at Jamestown, which was founded in 1607.
- A constitution established the US system of government, but this has been amended many times, usually to give additional rights to citizens.
- During the years of 1861 to 1865, the US was engaged in a bloody civil war between the North and South over issues such as slavery, states rights, and the economy.
- Another war that divided America was the Vietnam war. Many felt so strongly the US shouldn’t have been involved that they were engaged in violence against the government.
- The first black US President is Barack Obama.
- While the USA was a significant participant in both World War 1 and World War 2, it joined both later than most European countries involved.
- The USA amended its constitution to guarantee women the right to vote on August 18th, 1920.
- One American President, William McKinley, was assassinated by an anarchist.
- The USA was the first country to put a man on the moon, Neil Armstrong being that man.
- The only country to ever use a nuclear bomb in warfare was the USA. It dropped one on Nagasaki and one of Hiroshima in Japan in World War 2.
- In 1974 Richard Nixon resigned from his position as President of the United States due to the Watergate scandal.
- The USA had an aggressive year in 1898. It invaded Hawaii and in defeating Spain took Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
- The Wall Street Crash in 1929 caused the Great Depression, which saw 13 million people unemployed.
- The USA briefly banned alcohol from 1920, although the law proved unpopular and unworkable and was eventually withdrawn.
- Britain and the USA haven’t been at peace since the War of Independence. In 1812 they went to war again.
USA Geography Facts
The third-largest country in the world, the United States spans the North American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific, covering a vast range of ecosystems and some of the world’s most extreme geographic features.
- The lowest point of elevation in North America is Badwater Basin, in Death Valley, California, at 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. Death Valley also holds the record for the highest recorded air temperature on Earth, 134 °F (57°C), recorded on July 10, 1913.
- The highest point in the United States and the North American continent is Mount McKinley (Denali) at 20, 320 ft (6,190 m) in Alaska.
- The geographic center of all 50 states is 20 miles (32 km) north of Belle Fourche, South Dakota, while the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Lebanon, Kansas.
- The most remote part in the United States is the Ipnavik River in Alaska, located 120 miles (190 km) from the nearest settlement. The point further from the ocean (the continental pole of inaccessibility) is located in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, 1,025 (1,650 km) from the nearest coastline.
- The longest river is the Mississippi, flowing 2,530 miles (4,070 km) from northern Minnesota to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River is the fourth-longest river on Earth and the tenth-largest river by water flow.
- The largest lake is Lake Superior, bordering Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Canada. It is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area.
- The northernmost point in the 50 states is Point Barrow, Alaska; the southernmost, Ka Lae, Hawaii; the westernmost, Cape Wrangell, Alaska; and the easternmost, West Quoddy Head, Maine (although some of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands cross the 180th median and are technically further east, although they are west of the International Dateline).
- Mauna Kea in Hawaii reaches only 13, 796 ft (4,205 m) above sea level but when measures from the seafloor it is over 32,000 ft (10,000 m), making it taller than Mount Everest and the tallest mountain in the world.
- Yellowstone National Park sits on top of a vast volcanic caldera that last erupted 640,000 years ago. Geologists closely monitor the rise and fall of the Yellowstone Plateau to track changes in the Magna chamber pressure and don’t expect an explosion within the foreseeable future.
USA Climate Facts
The United States has climate zones ranging from the semi-arid steppe (the Great Plains) to frozen tundra (Alaska), humid subtropics (the Southeast) to deserts and highlands. With this much diversity, it’s little wonder that the US witnesses some of the world’s most dramatic weather and natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornados, wildfires, and floods.
- The lowest temperature ever recorded in the United States was -80 °F (-62 °C) on January 23, 1971, in Prospect Creek, Alaska. The highest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. –and the world—was 134 °F (56.7 °C) in Death Valley, California on July 10, 1913.
- The Pacific Northwest is the wettest place in the continental United States: Quinalt Ranger station in Washington receives an average of 137 inches of rainfall, but Hawaii well exceeds that, receiving a drenching average of 460 inches annually. The Mojave Desert is the driest place in the U.S. Yuma, Arizona averages only 2.63 inches of precipitation each year.
- Devastating hurricanes regularly batter the eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. Among them, Hurricane Katrina, striking the Gulf of Mexico and particularly New Orleans in 2005, and Hurricane Sandy, ravaging the Mid-Atlantic and New England in 2012, has been the costliest. Among other notorious storms are the Galveston Hurricane, demolishing an entire town and killing between 6,000 and 12,000 people in 1900 (still the deadliest natural disaster in North American history), and Hurricane Andrew, a 1992 storm that held the record for the costliest hurricane in U.S. history until being overtaken by a rush of superstorms in the past decade.
- Tornados are more common in the United States than in any other country. The Tri-State tornado, sweeping a path of destruction across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on March 18, 1925, was the deadliest single tornado, claiming 695 lives. The largest tornado outbreak (occurrence of multiple tornados spawned by the same weather system) occurred April 25-28, 2011, when as many as 358 tornados tore through 21 states, striking Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia hardest, causing 11 billion dollars in damage and killing 324 people.
- Notable floods in the United States include the Great Dayton Flood, which killed 360 people in Ohio in 1913, and the Great Mississippi Floor of 1927, the most destructive flood in the nation’s history, flooding 27,000 square miles to a depth of up to 30 ft (10 m).
- Blizzards have also wreaked significant destruction in the U.S. Notoriously, the Great Blizzard of 1888 blanketed the Eastern seaboard with 20-60 inches of snow, created snowdrifts over 50 ft high, and killed more than 400 people. The 1993 “Storm of the Century” devastated the entire Eastern United States, killing 310 people and causing $6.65 billion in damage.
USA Economic Facts
The United States has one of the strongest economies in the world, but it’s economy changes drastically from one state to the next. Some states make much of their income from agriculture, others from manufacturing, some from high tech and others from services. Here are some interesting facts highlighting the economic contrasts in the United States.
- The wealthiest state by median household income in 2011 was Maryland with a median income of $70,004. The poorest, Mississippi, has a median income of just $36,919, which is only slightly higher than half Maryland’s. Mississippi also has the lowest per capita income at just $19,997, while Connecticut takes the top spot with $36,775.
- Despite being relatively prosperous otherwise, the state with the highest unemployment in Rhode Island with 9.9%. The lowest rate of unemployment at just 3.2% is in North Dakota.
- The state with most billionaires is California with a grand total of 85. Eleven states have none at all. The state with the most billionaires as a percentage of the population in Montana.
- The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but many states have higher rates. The highest is Washington, with a $9.19 minimum wage. Some states have minimum wages below the federal level, but these don’t apply. Some cities set minimum wages too, the highest in San Francisco with $10.55 since 2013.
- Each state sets its own sales tax, sometimes having different rates for different items. The highest general tax is in California with 7.5%, the lowest in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon who all don’t have any general sales tax.
- The highest state taxes per capita are in Alaska at $7662.30, although none of this comes from income tax. The lowest is Georgia with just $1630.45.
- The state with most poverty is Mississippi, with a poverty rate of 20.1%. The lowest rate is in New Hampshire with 5.6%.
- The highest percentage of union members in any state is New York with 24.9%. The lowest is North Carolina, with just 3.5%.
- The wealthiest state is California, making up 13.34% of the US GDP and amounting to $1.936 trillion. The poorest is Vermont with just 0.18% of the total GDP at only $26.4 billion. The reason for both is mainly due to their respectively large and small populations.
- The state with most income equality in the United States in Utah, which has a Gini coefficient of 0.419. The least balanced state is New York with a Gini Coefficient of 0.499.
USA Politics Facts
The USA is regarded by many to be the best example of a working democracy in the world. It has survived since independence from Britain, which makes it older than the French Revolution which began the process of democratization in Europe. Here are some facts about the American political system:
- While the US Capital and government is now in Washington DC, it wasn’t until the third president Thomas Jefferson that inaugurations took place here.
- The shortest term as President record is held by William Henry Harrison who only served for 32 days.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt has the longest term at 12 years, which would have been longer if he hadn’t died in office.
- Being Vice President is a good way of getting the top job later, 14 of the first 45 vice presidents have gone on to be president.
- The most votes for a President ever was Ronald Reagan who received 54,455,075 votes in 1984. Reagan was also the oldest president to take office.
- The youngest President was Kennedy.
- 4 Presidents have died in office of natural causes.
- 4 Presidents have been assassinated in office, the most recent being John F. Kennedy.
- Barack Obama is the 44th President but the 43rd person to hold the position. This is because Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th President.
- Some argue that George Washington wasn’t the first President. John Hanson was the “President of the US Congress assembled” before the constitution was signed.
- The US has two legislatures, the Senate of 2 members from each state and the House of Representatives, which is much larger, 435 members, and based on population size. Collectively they are known as the Congress.
- There are 53 Representatives for California as it is the biggest state. Wyoming, Vermont, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Delaware, and Alaska only have one because their populations are so small.
- As well as the President and the Congress, the US also has a sturdy judicial branch of government called the Supreme Court.
- Each state has its government, which looks very similar to the federal level. They also have the power to raise taxes like the federal government.
- US citizens abroad have the right to vote in Presidential elections, with large numbers of Americans in Britain taking part.
- Committing certain crimes in the USA can lead you to lose your right to vote for life.
- The US has two major political parties, Democrats and Republicans. Very few people ever get elected who aren’t part of one of these two parties, although Bernie Sanders is elected to Congress as an independent Socialist in Vermont.
USA Legal Facts
The USA has many sensible laws and some wacky ones. It has many highly controversial laws and some that have been changed many times depending on which party is in power. Here are some essential facts about the law in the United States:
- One of the recent controversies in US politics has been over same-sex marriage. This has led to an odd situation where many states ban outright, many have legalized, and more still have laws going either way. 10 states currently recognize same-sex marriage while 32 have constitutional bans on it.
- Another controversial law in the United States is on abortion. Federal law makes abortion legal under certain circumstances. Despite this fact,b6 states have trigger laws which strongly restrict abortion.
- The US had a complete ban on alcohol in the past called prohibition. This was repealed, but many states make it hard to buy booze even today. The minimum age to purchase alcohol is 21, although 40 states have exemptions allowing some form of underage drinking. In Pennsylvania and Idaho spirits can only be sold in state-controlled stores dedicated to selling hard liquor.
- The Age of Consent for sex is set at the state level, all states currently being in the range of 16 to 18. This is very different from 1880 when most states had ten as their age of consent, Delaware being particularly creepy, setting it at just 7.
- Public smoking bans have become popular in many places in the US, with many states banning smoking in restaurants, bars, and workplaces. The first state to enact a smoking ban was California in 1995.
- The USA is famously a country of gun owners, and the constitution protects the right to bear arms. Many states have restrictions on the types of guns that can be sold, with limits on ‘long guns’ and handguns such as licenses or permits in many states.
- Many states in the US allow an Alford Plea. An Alford Plea means you submit a guilty plea in court while maintaining your innocence. Only Indiana, Michigan, and New Jersey don’t allow this.
- The most recent state constitution to be adopted was by Georgia from July 1st, 1983, which is its 9th constitution. The earliest still in use in Massachusetts dating from October 25th, 1780.
- The United States is on its second constitution. The first was the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union dating from March 1st, 1781.
USA Cities Facts
The USA has one of the largest numbers of big cities in the world. While other countries such as Britain and France can claim only one truly big city, the USA has dozens. Cities in the United States all have fascinating histories whether they were founded in colonial times or more recently. Here are some facts about them:
- The largest city in the United States is New York. The population within the city limits amounts to 8,244,910 people – not that much bigger than London in the UK. However most people consider the true size of a city to be its metro area, New York’s metro area is also the biggest in the country with 18,897,109 people which is far bigger than London or any European city.
- The USA has 715 cities with more than 50,000 people living in them.
- Of the fifteen fastest-growing cities by percentage in the United States since 2010, eight of them are locating in Texas. It didn’t take the top spot with any of its cities though, as this was taken by New Orleans which is regrowing fast after the population loss it suffered in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
- The fastest-growing city in pure numbers was New York which grew by 70,000 people in the 2010 census which despite seeming large represented less than 1% growth.
- 3 out of 5 American live in Cities, and 37% of all Americans live in cities with a population over 50,000.
- Cities in the South and West are growing much faster than cities in the Midwest and Northeast, but across the country, cities are seeing growth.
- The first traffic light system installed in a US city was in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 5th, 1914.
- The first parking meter in a US city came later, installed on July 16th, 1935 in Oklahoma City.
- The first US city to get its dedicated TV station was Houston, Texas on May 25th, 1953 – before many countries had any TV channels at all.
- The cheapest city to live in in the USA is Brownsville TX where rent on an apartment averages just $660.
- The city with the least automobiles per household was New York, with 28% not owning vehicles. In Manhattan in New York, over 60% are car-less.
- The city with the most murders per capita was Gary, Indiana with 4.83 per 10,000 residents, closely followed by Detroit with 4.73.
- In Byron, California, 5.3% of residents were born in the UK, making it the most British city in the USA.
USA Health Facts
The United States has a private healthcare system with government legislation mandating that everyone have some form of insurance. Access to healthcare changes from state to state and on factors such as income and occupation. Here are some facts about health and healthcare in the United States:
- Human Development Index is one of the main ways of seeing how healthy a society is. It includes factors such as life expectancy and well being but also factors not directly related to health like literacy rates. The state with the highest human development index is Connecticut with 0.962. The lowest is Mississippi with just 0.867. Despite being much lower, even Mississippi is in the UN calculated Very High category.
- The highest life expectancy of any state is in Hawaii where you can be expected to live until 81 and a half. In the mainland 48 states, the highest is in Minnesota with a life expectancy of 80.9. The lowest life expectancy is in Mississippi at just 74.8 years.
- The most obese state is Mississippi, where 34.4% of adults are obese. The least obese is Hawaii, with 20.7%. Notice this matches precisely with life expectancy. The least overweight state is Colorado, yet still, 55% of adults are obese. The most overweight state is Mississippi again with 67.4%. In children Mississippi isn’t doing as badly as other states, the worst is Delaware, where 22.8% of kids are obese. The healthiest children are in Utah, where only 8.5% are overweight.
- The state with the highest fertility rate is Utah, where each woman can be expected to give birth to 2.449 babies in her lifetime. The least fertile is Rhode Island, where the average is just 1.63 children.
- The most common cause of death in the United States was health disease at 25% of all deaths. The second most common was cancer, at 23%.
- A fifth of Americans now meet the federal guidelines on working out, which is 2 and a half-hour of aerobic activity a week.
- About 20% of the US smokes, which hasn’t been affected by smoking bans and tax hikes on cigarettes. Smoking is more common among American men than women.
- Safe sex campaigns in schools appear to be having an impact: In 2009, 61% of high school students who were sexually active said they were having safe sex, compared with 46% in 1991.
- 11% of American adults have diabetes, and 30% of those aged 65 or older.