United States of America

Authored by: J.E. King

Routledge Handbook of the History of Global Economic Thought

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  August  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415508490
eBook ISBN: 9781315761084
Adobe ISBN: 9781317644125


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In 2013 there were almost 317 million people living in the United States, or slightly less than 5 per cent of the world’s population. In 1700, more than two centuries after Columbus’s voyage of discovery, the population of the continental United States was approximately 1 million, or 0.17 per cent of the world total. By 1914 it had risen to almost 100 million (already 5.5 per cent of the world total), as a result of both a high rate of natural increase and mass immigration – over 20 million in the century beginning in 1820. Some of this was involuntary, although the 399,000 slaves imported from Africa were much less important than natural increase in the slave population (which had reached 4.5 million by 1860) and were dwarfed by the almost 9 million slaves transported to the rest of the Americas. The total US population continued to grow at least twice as fast as that of Western Europe, with a further net migration of more than 31 million between 1913 and 1998 (see Maddison, 2006 for details). At the start of the new millennium, 10.4 per cent of the population was foreign-born, up from a low of 4.8 per cent in 1970 but still well below the peak of 14.7 per cent in 1910. Three in every four Americans now lived in urban areas (Hughes and Cain, 2011, 358).

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