Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 December 2009
A HISTORICAL OUTLINE OF THE UNITED STATES
Compared to most nations of the world, the United States is a relatively young nation. The British colonies in America declared independence from Great Britain in 1776. The United States of America was established as an independent nation following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The rest of the 50 states joined the first 13 in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. When the United States declared independence from Great Britain, that declaration of independence stated that all men have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Consequently, these values have become central in the philosophy of American individualism. Currently, the country's population is a little over 278 million people, of which 69.1 percent are Caucasian, 12.5 percent are Hispanic, 12.3 percent are black, 3.6 percent are Asian, 0.9 percent are Native American, and 7.9 percent reported other racial backgrounds (US Census Bureau, 2000). Thirty-three million adults in America live in households where at least one other adult family member has a different religious identity. American families often have ties to the cultures from which they originated. The degree to which each family identifies with the culture of origin varies, but the diversity in American families is partially due to the diversity in the cultural backgrounds of the population.
The United States is located in North America and stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.