North America

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North America
Location North America.svg
Area24,709,000 km2 (9,540,000 sq mi) (3rd)
Population579,024,000 (2016; 4th)
Population density22.9/km2 (59.3/sq mi) [lower-alpha 1]
GDP (nominal)$24.43 trillion (2019; 2nd) [1]
GDP (PPP)$26.03 trillion (2019; 3rd) [2]
GDP per capita$49,240 (2019; 2nd) [3]
Demonym North American
Countries 23 sovereign states
Dependencies 23 non-sovereign territories
Languages English, Spanish, French, and many others
Time zones UTC-10 to UTC
Largest cities List of urban areas: [4]
UN M49 code 003 – North America

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. [5] [6] It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

Continent Very large landmass identified by convention

A continent is one of several very large landmasses. Generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest in area to smallest, they are: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.

Northern Hemisphere Half of Earth that is north of the equator

The Northern Hemisphere is the half of Earth that is north of the Equator. For other planets in the Solar System, north is defined as being in the same celestial hemisphere relative to the invariable plane of the solar system as Earth's North Pole.

Western Hemisphere half of the Earth that is west of the prime meridian and east of 180° longitude

The Western Hemisphere is a geographical term for the half of Earth which lies west of the prime meridian and east of the antimeridian. The other half is called the Eastern Hemisphere.


North America covers an area of about 24,709,000 square kilometers (9,540,000 square miles), about 16.5% of the earth's land area and about 4.8% of its total surface. North America is the third largest continent by area, following Asia and Africa, [7] and the fourth by population after Asia, Africa, and Europe. [8] In 2013, its population was estimated at nearly 579 million people in 23 independent states, or about 7.5% of the world's population, if nearby islands (most notably around the Caribbean) are included.

Earth Third planet from the Sun in the Solar System

Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. According to radiometric dating and other sources of evidence, Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Earth's gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, which is Earth's only natural satellite. Earth orbits around the Sun in 365.26 days, a period known as an Earth year. During this time, Earth rotates about its axis about 366.26 times.

Asia Earths largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres

Asia is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the continent of Europe and the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa. Asia covers an area of 44,579,000 square kilometres (17,212,000 sq mi), about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area. The continent, which has long been home to the majority of the human population, was the site of many of the first civilizations. Asia is notable for not only its overall large size and population, but also dense and large settlements, as well as vast barely populated regions. Its 4.5 billion people constitute roughly 60% of the world's population.

Africa The second largest and second most-populous continent, mostly in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres

Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent, being behind Asia in both categories. At about 30.3 million km2 including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

North America was reached by its first human populations during the last glacial period, via crossing the Bering land bridge approximately 40,000 to 17,000 years ago. The so-called Paleo-Indian period is taken to have lasted until about 10,000 years ago (the beginning of the Archaic or Meso-Indian period). The Classic stage spans roughly the 6th to 13th centuries. The Pre-Columbian era ended in 1492, with the beginning of the transatlantic migrations—the arrival of European settlers during the Age of Discovery and the Early Modern period. Present-day cultural and ethnic patterns reflect interactions between European colonists, indigenous peoples, African slaves and their descendants.

Paleo-Indians classification term given to the first peoples who entered the American continents

Paleo-Indians, Paleoindians or Paleoamericans were the first peoples who entered, and subsequently inhabited, the Americas during the final glacial episodes of the late Pleistocene period. The prefix "paleo-" comes from the Greek adjective palaios (παλαιός), meaning "old" or "ancient". The term "Paleo-Indians" applies specifically to the lithic period in the Western Hemisphere and is distinct from the term "Paleolithic".

Classic stage America

In archaeological cultures of North America, the classic stage is the theoretical North and Meso-American societies that existed between AD 500 and 1200. This stage is the fourth of five stages posited by Gordon Willey and Philip Phillips' 1958 book Method and Theory in American Archaeology.

The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continent, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the Early Modern period.

Owing to Europe's colonization of the Americas, most North Americans speak European languages such as English, Spanish or French, and their states' cultures commonly reflect Western traditions.

Western culture Norms, values and political systems originating in Europe

Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization, Occidental culture, the Western world, Western society, and European civilization, is the heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, artifacts and technologies that originated in or are associated with Europe. The term also applies beyond Europe to countries and cultures whose histories are strongly connected to Europe by immigration, colonization, or influence. For example, Western culture includes countries in the Americas and Australasia, whose language and demographic ethnicity majorities are of European descent. Western culture has its roots in Greco-Roman culture from classical antiquity.


Map of North America, from 1621 Historisch Nordamerika.jpg
Map of North America, from 1621

The Americas are usually accepted as having been named after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci by the German cartographers Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann. [9] Vespucci, who explored South America between 1497 and 1502, was the first European to suggest that the Americas were not the East Indies, but a different landmass previously unknown by Europeans. In 1507, Waldseemüller produced a world map, in which he placed the word "America" on the continent of South America, in the middle of what is today Brazil. He explained the rationale for the name in the accompanying book Cosmographiae Introductio: [10]

Amerigo Vespucci 15th and 16th-century Italian explorer, financier, navigator and cartographer

Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian explorer, financier, navigator, and cartographer who was born in the Republic of Florence. Sailing for Portugal around 1501–1502, Vespucci demonstrated that Brazil and the West Indies were not Asia's eastern outskirts but a separate, unexplored land mass colloquially known as the New World. In 1507, the new continent was named America after the Latin version of Vespucci's first name.

Martin Waldseemüller German cartographer

Martin Waldseemüller was a German cartographer.

Matthias Ringmann German cartographer

Matthias Ringmann was an Alsatian German cartographer and humanist poet. Along with fellow cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, he is credited with drafting the first world map that named America as a land mass.

... ab Americo inventore ... quasi Americi terram sive Americam (from Americus the discoverer ... as if it were the land of Americus, thus America).

For Waldseemüller, no one should object to the naming of the land after its discoverer. He used the Latinized version of Vespucci's name (Americus Vespucius), but in its feminine form "America", following the examples of "Europa", "Asia" and "Africa". Later, other mapmakers extended the name America to the northern continent, In 1538, Gerard Mercator used America on his map of the world for all the Western Hemisphere. [11]

Some argue that because the convention is to use the surname for naming discoveries (except in the case of royalty), the derivation from "Amerigo Vespucci" could be put in question. [12] In 1874, Thomas Belt proposed a derivation from the Amerrique mountains of Central America; the next year, Jules Marcou suggested that the name of the mountain range stemmed from indigenous American languages. [13] Marcou corresponded with Augustus Le Plongeon, who wrote: "The name AMERICA or AMERRIQUE in the Mayan language means, a country of perpetually strong wind, or the Land of the Wind, and ... the [suffixes] can mean ... a spirit that breathes, life itself." [11]


The United Nations formally recognizes "North America" as comprising three areas: Northern America, Central America, and The Caribbean. This has been formally defined by the UN Statistics Division. [14] [15] [16]

"Northern America", as a term distinct from "North America", excludes Central America, which itself may or may not include Mexico (see Central America § Different definitions). In the limited context of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the term covers Canada, the United States, and Mexico, which are the three signatories of that treaty.

France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Greece, and the countries of Latin America use a six-continent model, with the Americas viewed as a single continent and North America designating a subcontinent comprising Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and often Greenland, Saint Pierre et Miquelon, and Bermuda. [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]

North America has been historically referred to by other names. Spanish North America (New Spain) was often referred to as Northern America , and this was the first official name given to Mexico. [22]


Geographically the North American continent has many regions and subregions. These include cultural, economic, and geographic regions. Economic regions included those formed by trade blocs, such as the North American Trade Agreement bloc and Central American Trade Agreement. Linguistically and culturally, the continent could be divided into Anglo-America and Latin America. Anglo-America includes most of Northern America, Belize, and Caribbean islands with English-speaking populations (though sub-national entities, such as Louisiana and Quebec, have large Francophone populations; in Quebec, French is the sole official language [23] ).

The southern North American continent is composed of two regions. These are Central America and the Caribbean. [24] [25] The north of the continent maintains recognized regions as well. In contrast to the common definition of "North America", which encompasses the whole continent, the term "North America" is sometimes used to refer only to Mexico, Canada, the United States, and Greenland. [26] [27] [28] [29] [30]

The term Northern America refers to the northern-most countries and territories of North America: the United States, Bermuda, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Canada and Greenland. [31] [32] Although the term does not refer to a unified region, [33] Middle America—not to be confused with the Midwestern United States—groups the regions of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. [34]

The largest countries of the continent, Canada and the United States, also contain well-defined and recognized regions. In the case of Canada these are (from east to west) Atlantic Canada, Central Canada, Canadian Prairies, the British Columbia Coast, and Northern Canada. These regions also contain many subregions. In the case of the United States – and in accordance with the US Census Bureau definitions – these regions are: New England, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic States, East North Central States, West North Central States, East South Central States, West South Central States, Mountain States, and Pacific States. Regions shared between both nations included the Great Lakes Region. Megalopolises have formed between both nations in the case of the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes Megaregion.

Countries, territories, and dependencies

Arms FlagCountry or territory [35] [36] [37] Capital Area [38] Population
(2016) [39]
Coat of arms of Anguilla.svg Flag of Anguilla.svg Anguilla
(United Kingdom)
The Valley 91 km2
(35 sq mi)
(427/sq mi)
Insigne Antiquae et Barbudae.svg Flag of Antigua and Barbuda.svg Antigua and Barbuda St. John's 442 km2
(171 sq mi)
(516/sq mi)
Insigne Arubae.svg Flag of Aruba.svg Aruba
(Kingdom of the Netherlands) [lower-alpha 2]
Oranjestad 180 km2
(69 sq mi)
(1,539/sq mi)
Insigne Bahamarum.svg Flag of the Bahamas.svg The Bahamas [lower-alpha 3] Nassau 13,943 km2
(5,383 sq mi)
(63/sq mi)
Insigne Barbatae.svg Flag of Barbados.svg Barbados Bridgetown 430 km2
(170 sq mi)
(1,542/sq mi)
Insigne Belizae.svg Flag of Belize.svg Belize Belmopan 22,966 km2
(8,867 sq mi)
(35/sq mi)
Insigne Bermudae.svg Flag of Bermuda.svg Bermuda
(United Kingdom)
Hamilton 54 km2
(21 sq mi)
(3,118/sq mi)
Insigne Insulae Boni Aeris.svg Flag of Bonaire.svg Bonaire
(Kingdom of the Netherlands) [lower-alpha 2] [40]
Kralendijk 294 km2
(114 sq mi)
(106/sq mi)
Insigne Insularum Virginis Britannicae.svg Flag of the British Virgin Islands.svg British Virgin Islands
(United Kingdom)
Road Town 151 km2
(58 sq mi)
(394/sq mi)
Arms of Canada.svg Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Canada Ottawa 9,984,670 km2
(3,855,100 sq mi)
(9.6/sq mi)
Insigne Insularum Caimanenses.svg Flag of the Cayman Islands.svg Cayman Islands
(United Kingdom)
George Town 264 km2
(102 sq mi)
(549/sq mi)
None Flag of France.svg Clipperton Island (France)6 km2
(2.3 sq mi)
(0/sq mi)
Insigne Costaricum.svg Flag of Costa Rica.svg Costa Rica San José 51,100 km2
(19,700 sq mi)
(232/sq mi)
Insigne Cubicum.svg Flag of Cuba.svg Cuba Havana 109,886 km2
(42,427 sq mi)
(264/sq mi)
Blason an Curacao.svg Flag of Curacao.svg Curaçao
(Kingdom of the Netherlands) [lower-alpha 2]
Willemstad 444 km2
(171 sq mi)
(821/sq mi)
Insigne Dominicae.svg Flag of Dominica.svg Dominica Roseau 751 km2
(290 sq mi)
(231/sq mi)
Insigne Dominicum.svg Flag of the Dominican Republic.svg Dominican Republic Santo Domingo 48,671 km2
(18,792 sq mi)
(537/sq mi)
Insigne Salvatoriae.svg Flag of El Salvador.svg El Salvador San Salvador 21,041 km2
(8,124 sq mi)
(759/sq mi)
None Federal dependencies of Venezuela's Flag.svg Federal Dependencies of Venezuela
Gran Roque 342 km2
(132 sq mi)
(16/sq mi)
Coat of arms of Greenland.svg Flag of Greenland.svg Greenland
(Kingdom of Denmark)
Nuuk 2,166,086 km2
(836,330 sq mi)
(0.067/sq mi)
Insigne Granatae.png Flag of Grenada.svg Grenada St. George's 344 km2
(133 sq mi)
(783/sq mi)
Flag of France.svg Guadeloupe
Basse-Terre 1,628 km2
(629 sq mi)
(639/sq mi)
Coat of arms of Guatemala.svg Flag of Guatemala.svg Guatemala Guatemala City 108,889 km2
(42,042 sq mi)
(334/sq mi)
Coat of arms of Haiti.svg Flag of Haiti.svg Haiti Port-au-Prince 27,750 km2
(10,710 sq mi)
(936/sq mi)
Insigne Honduriae.svg Flag of Honduras.svg Honduras Tegucigalpa 112,492 km2
(43,433 sq mi)
(172/sq mi)
Insigne Iamaicae.svg Flag of Jamaica.svg Jamaica Kingston 10,991 km2
(4,244 sq mi)
(641/sq mi)
Flag of France.svg Martinique
Fort-de-France 1,128 km2
(436 sq mi)
(913/sq mi)
Coat of arms of Mexico.svg Flag of Mexico.svg Mexico Mexico City 1,964,375 km2
(758,449 sq mi)
(148/sq mi)
Coat of arms of Montserrat.svg Flag of Montserrat.svg Montserrat
(United Kingdom)
Brades [lower-alpha 4]
102 km2
(39 sq mi)
(152/sq mi)
Insigne Nicaraguae.svg Flag of Nicaragua.svg Nicaragua Managua 130,373 km2
(50,337 sq mi)
(114/sq mi)
Coat of arms of Nueva Esparta State.svg Flag of Nueva Esparta.svg Nueva Esparta
La Asunción 1,151 km2
(444 sq mi)
(1,106/sq mi)
Insigne Panamae.svg Flag of Panama.svg Panama [lower-alpha 2] [lower-alpha 5] Panama City 75,417 km2
(29,119 sq mi)
(119/sq mi)
Insigne Portus divitis.svg Flag of Puerto Rico.svg Puerto Rico
(United States)
San Juan 8,870 km2
(3,420 sq mi)
(1,163/sq mi)
Insigne Sabae.svg Flag of Saba.svg Saba
(Kingdom of the Netherlands) [40]
The Bottom 13 km2
(5.0 sq mi)
(306/sq mi)
Escudo de San Andres y Providencia.svg Flag of San Andres y Providencia.svg San Andrés and Providencia
San Andrés 53 km2
(20 sq mi)
(3,803.6/sq mi)
BlasonSaintBarthelemy.svg Flag of France.svg Saint Barthélemy
(France) [41]
Gustavia 21 km2
(8.1 sq mi) [42]
(919/sq mi)
Insigne Sancti Christophori et Nivium.svg Flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis.svg Saint Kitts and Nevis Basseterre 261 km2
(101 sq mi)
(516/sq mi)
Insigne Sanctae Luciae.svg Flag of Saint Lucia.svg Saint Lucia Castries 539 km2
(208 sq mi)
(826/sq mi)
Insigne Insulae Sancti Martini (Francia).svg Flag of France.svg Saint Martin
(France) [41]
Marigot 54 km2
(21 sq mi) [42]
(1,430/sq mi)
BlasonSaintPierreetMiquelon.svg Flag of France.svg Saint Pierre and Miquelon
Saint-Pierre 242 km2
(93 sq mi)
(64/sq mi)
Insigne Sancti Vincenti et Granatinae.svg Flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.svg Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Kingstown 389 km2
(150 sq mi)
(726/sq mi)
Insigne Insulae Eustathii.svg Flag of Sint Eustatius.svg Sint Eustatius
(Kingdom of the Netherlands) [40]
Oranjestad 21 km2
(8.1 sq mi)
(338/sq mi)
Insigne Insulae Sancti Martini (Nederlandia).svg Flag of Sint Maarten.svg Sint Maarten
(Kingdom of the Netherlands)
Philipsburg 34 km2
(13 sq mi)
(3,048/sq mi)
Insigne Trinitatis et Tobaci.svg Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg Trinidad and Tobago [lower-alpha 2] Port of Spain 5,130 km2
(1,980 sq mi)
(676/sq mi)
Coat of arms of the Turks and Caicos Islands.svg Flag of the Turks and Caicos Islands.svg Turks and Caicos Islands
(United Kingdom) [lower-alpha 6]
Cockburn Town 948 km2
(366 sq mi)
(90/sq mi)
Coat of arms of the United States.svg Flag of the United States.svg United States [lower-alpha 7] Washington, D.C. 9,629,091 km2
(3,717,813 sq mi)
(85/sq mi)
Seal of the United States Virgin Islands.svg Flag of the United States Virgin Islands.svg United States Virgin Islands
(United States)
Charlotte Amalie 347 km2
(134 sq mi)
(821/sq mi)
(57/sq mi)


Geologic history

Principal hydrological divides of Canada, the United States and Mexico NorthAmerica-WaterDivides.png
Principal hydrological divides of Canada, the United States and Mexico

Laurentia is an ancient craton which forms the geologic core of North America; it formed between 1.5 and 1.0 billion years ago during the Proterozoic eon. [43] The Canadian Shield is the largest exposure of this craton. From the Late Paleozoic to Early Mesozoic eras, North America was joined with the other modern-day continents as part of the supercontinent Pangaea, with Eurasia to its east. One of the results of the formation of Pangaea was the Appalachian Mountains, which formed some 480 million years ago, making it among the oldest mountain ranges in the world. When Pangaea began to rift around 200 million years ago, North America became part of Laurasia, before it separated from Eurasia as its own continent during the mid-Cretaceous period. [44] The Rockies and other western mountain ranges began forming around this time from a period of mountain building called the Laramide orogeny, between 80 and 55 million years ago. The formation of the Isthmus of Panama that connected the continent to South America arguably occurred approximately 12 to 15 million years ago, [45] and the Great Lakes (as well as many other northern freshwater lakes and rivers) were carved by receding glaciers about 10,000 years ago.

North America is the source of much of what humanity knows about geologic time periods. [46] The geographic area that would later become the United States has been the source of more varieties of dinosaurs than any other modern country. [46] According to paleontologist Peter Dodson, this is primarily due to stratigraphy, climate and geography, human resources, and history. [46] Much of the Mesozoic Era is represented by exposed outcrops in the many arid regions of the continent. [46] The most significant Late Jurassic dinosaur-bearing fossil deposit in North America is the Morrison Formation of the western United States. [47]


The El Castillo pyramid, at Chichen Itza, Mexico Chichen Itza 3.jpg
The El Castillo pyramid, at Chichén Itzá, Mexico

The indigenous peoples of the Americas have many creation myths by which they assert that they have been present on the land since its creation, [48] but there is no evidence that humans evolved there. [49] The specifics of the initial settlement of the Americas by ancient Asians are subject to ongoing research and discussion. [50] The traditional theory has been that hunters entered the Beringia land bridge between eastern Siberia and present-day Alaska from 27,000 to 14,000 years ago. [51] [52] [lower-alpha 8] A growing viewpoint is that the first American inhabitants sailed from Beringia some 13,000 years ago, [54] with widespread habitation of the Americas during the end of the Last Glacial Period, in what is known as the Late Glacial Maximum, around 12,500 years ago. [55] The oldest petroglyphs in North America date from 15,000 to 10,000 years before present. [56] [lower-alpha 9] Genetic research and anthropology indicate additional waves of migration from Asia via the Bering Strait during the Early-Middle Holocene. [58] [59] [60]

Before contact with Europeans, the natives of North America were divided into many different polities, from small bands of a few families to large empires. They lived in several "culture areas", which roughly correspond to geographic and biological zones and give a good indication of the main way of life of the people who lived there (e.g., the bison hunters of the Great Plains, or the farmers of Mesoamerica). Native groups can also be classified by their language family (e.g., Athapascan or Uto-Aztecan ). Peoples with similar languages did not always share the same material culture, nor were they always allies. Anthropologists think that the Inuit people of the high Arctic came to North America much later than other native groups, as evidenced by the disappearance of Dorset culture artifacts from the archaeological record, and their replacement by the Thule people.

During the thousands of years of native habitation on the continent, cultures changed and shifted. One of the oldest yet discovered is the Clovis culture (c. 9550–9050 BCE) in modern New Mexico. [57] Later groups include the Mississippian culture and related Mound building cultures, found in the Mississippi river valley and the Pueblo culture of what is now the Four Corners. The more southern cultural groups of North America were responsible for the domestication of many common crops now used around the world, such as tomatoes, squash, and maize. As a result of the development of agriculture in the south, many other cultural advances were made there. The Mayans developed a writing system, built huge pyramids and temples, had a complex calendar, and developed the concept of zero around 400 CE. [61]

The earliest verifiable instance of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact by any European culture with the North America mainland has been dated to around 1000 CE. [62] The site, situated at the northernmost extent of the island named Newfoundland, has provided unmistakable evidence of Norse settlement. [63]

The Mayan culture was still present in southern Mexico and Guatemala when the Spanish conquistadors arrived, but political dominance in the area had shifted to the Aztec Empire, whose capital city Tenochtitlan was located further north in the Valley of Mexico. The Aztecs were conquered in 1521 by Hernán Cortés. [64]

Colonial period

Benjamin West's The Death of General Wolfe (1771) depicting the Battle of the Plains of Abraham Benjamin West 005.jpg
Benjamin West's The Death of General Wolfe (1771) depicting the Battle of the Plains of Abraham

During the Age of Discovery, Europeans explored and staked claims to various parts of North America. Upon their arrival in the "New World", the Native American population declined substantially, because of violent conflicts with the invaders and the introduction of European diseases to which the Native Americans lacked immunity. [65] Native culture changed drastically and their affiliation with political and cultural groups also changed. Several linguistic groups died out, and others changed quite quickly. The names and cultures that Europeans recorded were not necessarily the same as the names they had used a few generations before, or the ones in use today.

Britain, Spain, and France took over extensive territories in North America. In the late 18th and early 19th century, independence movements sprung up across the continent, leading to the founding of the modern countries in the area. The 13 British Colonies on the North Atlantic coast declared independence in 1776, becoming the United States of America. Canada was formed from the unification of northern territories controlled by Britain and France. New Spain, a territory that stretched from the modern-day southern US to Central America, declared independence in 1810, becoming the First Mexican Empire. In 1823 the former Captaincy General of Guatemala, then part of the Mexican Empire, became the first independent state in Central America, officially changing its name to the United Provinces of Central America.

Over three decades of work on the Panama Canal led to the connection of Atlantic and Pacific waters in 1913, physically making North America a separate continent.[ attribution needed ]


Satellite imagery of North America North America satellite orthographic.jpg
Satellite imagery of North America

North America occupies the northern portion of the landmass generally referred to as the New World, the Western Hemisphere, the Americas, or simply America (which, less commonly, is considered by some as a single continent [66] [67] [68] with North America a subcontinent). [69] North America's only land connection to South America is at the Isthmus of Darian/ Isthmus of Panama. The continent is delimited on the southeast by most geographers at the Darién watershed along the Colombia-Panama border, placing almost all of Panama within North America. [70] [71] [72] Alternatively, some geologists physiographically locate its southern limit at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico, with Central America extending southeastward to South America from this point. [73] The Caribbean islands, or West Indies, are considered part of North America. [5] The continental coastline is long and irregular. The Gulf of Mexico is the largest body of water indenting the continent, followed by Hudson Bay. Others include the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Gulf of California.

Before the Central American isthmus formed, the region had been underwater. The islands of the West Indies delineate a submerged former land bridge, which had connected North and South America via what are now Florida and Venezuela.

There are numerous islands off the continent's coasts; principally, the Arctic Archipelago, the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Aleutian Islands (some of which are in the Eastern Hemisphere proper), the Alexander Archipelago, the many thousand islands of the British Columbia Coast, and Newfoundland. Greenland, a self-governing Danish island, and the world's largest, is on the same tectonic plate (the North American Plate) and is part of North America geographically. In a geologic sense, Bermuda is not part of the Americas, but an oceanic island which was formed on the fissure of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge over 100 million years ago. The nearest landmass to it is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. However, Bermuda is often thought of as part of North America, especially given its historical, political and cultural ties to Virginia and other parts of the continent.

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park Moraine Lake.jpg
Moraine Lake in Banff National Park

The vast majority of North America is on the North American Plate. Parts of western Mexico, including Baja California, and of California, including the cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, and Santa Cruz, lie on the eastern edge of the Pacific Plate, with the two plates meeting along the San Andreas fault. The southernmost portion of the continent and much of the West Indies lie on the Caribbean Plate, whereas the Juan de Fuca and Cocos plates border the North American Plate on its western frontier.

The continent can be divided into four great regions (each of which contains many subregions): the Great Plains stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian Arctic; the geologically young, mountainous west, including the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, California and Alaska; the raised but relatively flat plateau of the Canadian Shield in the northeast; and the varied eastern region, which includes the Appalachian Mountains, the coastal plain along the Atlantic seaboard, and the Florida peninsula. Mexico, with its long plateaus and cordilleras, falls largely in the western region, although the eastern coastal plain does extend south along the Gulf.

The western mountains are split in the middle into the main range of the Rockies and the coast ranges in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, with the Great Basin—a lower area containing smaller ranges and low-lying deserts—in between. The highest peak is Denali in Alaska.

The United States Geographical Survey (USGS) states that the geographic center of North America is "6 miles [10 km] west of Balta, Pierce County, North Dakota" at about 48°10′N100°10′W / 48.167°N 100.167°W / 48.167; -100.167 , about 24 kilometres (15 mi) from Rugby, North Dakota. The USGS further states that "No marked or monumented point has been established by any government agency as the geographic center of either the 50 States, the conterminous United States, or the North American continent." Nonetheless, there is a 4.6-metre (15 ft) field stone obelisk in Rugby claiming to mark the center. The North American continental pole of inaccessibility is located 1,650 km (1,030 mi) from the nearest coastline, between Allen and Kyle, South Dakota at 43°22′N101°58′W / 43.36°N 101.97°W / 43.36; -101.97 (Pole of Inaccessibility North America) . [74]


Geologic Map of North America published by USGS USGS Geologic Map of North America.jpg
Geologic Map of North America published by USGS
Sedimentary, volcanic, plutonic, and metamorphic rock types of North America North america rock types.jpg
Sedimentary, volcanic, plutonic, and metamorphic rock types of North America

Canadian geology

Geologically, Canada is one of the oldest regions in the world, with more than half of the region consisting of precambrian rocks that have been above sea level since the beginning of the Palaeozoic era. [75] Canada's mineral resources are diverse and extensive. [75] Across the Canadian Shield and in the north there are large iron, nickel, zinc, copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, and uranium reserves. Large diamond concentrations have been recently developed in the Arctic, [76] making Canada one of the world's largest producers. Throughout the Shield there are many mining towns extracting these minerals. The largest, and best known, is Sudbury, Ontario. Sudbury is an exception to the normal process of forming minerals in the Shield since there is significant evidence that the Sudbury Basin is an ancient meteorite impact crater. The nearby, but less known Temagami Magnetic Anomaly has striking similarities to the Sudbury Basin. Its magnetic anomalies are very similar to the Sudbury Basin, and so it could be a second metal-rich impact crater. [77] The Shield is also covered by vast boreal forests that support an important logging industry.

United States geology

The lower 48 US states can be divided into roughly five physiographic provinces:

  1. The American cordillera
  2. The Canadian Shield [75] Northern portion of the upper midwestern United States.
  3. The stable platform
  4. The coastal plain
  5. The Appalachian orogenic belt

The geology of Alaska is typical of that of the cordillera, while the major islands of Hawaii consist of Neogene volcanics erupted over a hot spot.

North america terrain 2003 map.jpg
North America bedrock and terrain
North america basement rocks.png
North American cratons and basement rocks

Central American geology

Central America rests in the Caribbean Plate. Tectonic plates Caribbean.png
  Central America rests in the Caribbean Plate.

Central America is geologically active with volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occurring from time to time. In 1976 Guatemala was hit by a major earthquake, killing 23,000 people; Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, was devastated by earthquakes in 1931 and 1972, the last one killing about 5,000 people; three earthquakes devastated El Salvador, one in 1986 and two in 2001; one earthquake devastated northern and central Costa Rica in 2009, killing at least 34 people; in Honduras a powerful earthquake killed seven people in 2009.

Volcanic eruptions are common in the region. In 1968 the Arenal Volcano, in Costa Rica, erupted and killed 87 people. Fertile soils from weathered volcanic lavas have made it possible to sustain dense populations in the agriculturally productive highland areas.

Central America has many mountain ranges; the longest are the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, the Cordillera Isabelia, and the Cordillera de Talamanca. Between the mountain ranges lie fertile valleys that are suitable for the people; in fact, most of the population of Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala live in valleys. Valleys are also suitable for the production of coffee, beans, and other crops.


North America map of Koppen climate classification North America map of Koppen climate classification.svg
North America map of Köppen climate classification

North America is a very large continent which surpasses the Arctic Circle, and the Tropic of Cancer. Greenland, along with the Canadian Shield, is tundra with average temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 °C (50 to 68 °F), but central Greenland is composed of a very large ice sheet. This tundra radiates throughout Canada, but its border ends near the Rocky Mountains (but still contains Alaska) and at the end of the Canadian Shield, near the Great Lakes. Climate west of the Cascades is described as being a temperate weather with average precipitation 20 inches (510 mm). [78] Climate in coastal California is described to be Mediterranean, with average temperatures in cities like San Francisco ranging from 57 to 70 °F (14 to 21 °C) over the course of the year. [79]

Stretching from the East Coast to eastern North Dakota, and stretching down to Kansas, is the continental-humid climate featuring intense seasons, with a large amount of annual precipitation, with places like New York City averaging 50 inches (1,300 mm). [80] Starting at the southern border of the continental-humid climate and stretching to the Gulf of Mexico (whilst encompassing the eastern half of Texas) is the subtropical climate. This area has the wettest cities in the contiguous U.S. with annual precipitation reaching 67 inches (1,700 mm) in Mobile, Alabama. [81] Stretching from the borders of the continental humid and subtropical climates, and going west to the Cascades Sierra Nevada, south to the southern tip of durango, north to the border with tundra climate, the steppe/desert climate is the driest climate in the U.S. [82] Highland climates cut from north to south of the continent, where subtropical or temperate climates occur just below the tropics, as in central Mexico and Guatemala. Tropical climates appear in the island regions and in the subcontinent's bottleneck. Usually of the savannah type, with rains and high temperatures constants the whole year. Found in countries and states bathed by the Caribbean Sea or to south of the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean. [83]


Notable North American fauna include the bison, black bear, prairie dog, turkey, pronghorn, raccoon, coyote and monarch butterfly.

Notable plants that were domesticated in North America include tobacco, maize, squash, tomato, sunflower, blueberry, avocado, cotton, chile pepper and vanilla.


Non-native nations' control and claims over North America c. 1750-2008 Non-Native American Nations Control over N America 1750-2008.gif
Non-native nations' control and claims over North America c. 1750–2008
Native languages of the US, Canada and Greenland Langs N.Amer.png
Native languages of the US, Canada and Greenland

Economically, Canada and the United States are the wealthiest and most developed nations in the continent, followed by Mexico, a newly industrialized country. [84] The countries of Central America and the Caribbean are at various levels of economic and human development. For example, small Caribbean island-nations, such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Antigua and Barbuda, have a higher GDP (PPP) per capita than Mexico due to their smaller populations. Panama and Costa Rica have a significantly higher Human Development Index and GDP than the rest of the Central American nations. [85] Additionally, despite Greenland's vast resources in oil and minerals, much of them remain untapped, and the island is economically dependent on fishing, tourism, and subsidies from Denmark. Nevertheless, the island is highly developed. [86]

Demographically, North America is ethnically diverse. Its three main groups are Caucasians, Mestizos and Blacks.[ citation needed ] There is a significant minority of Indigenous Americans and Asians among other less numerous groups.[ citation needed ]


Languages spoken in the Americas Languages of the Americas.PNG
Languages spoken in the Americas

The dominant languages in North America are English, Spanish, and French. Danish is prevalent in Greenland alongside Greenlandic, and Dutch is spoken side by side local languages in the Dutch Caribbean. The term Anglo-America is used to refer to the anglophone countries of the Americas: namely Canada (where English and French are co-official) and the United States, but also sometimes Belize and parts of the tropics, especially the Commonwealth Caribbean. Latin America refers to the other areas of the Americas (generally south of the United States) where the Romance languages, derived from Latin, of Spanish and Portuguese (but French speaking countries are not usually included) predominate: the other republics of Central America (but not always Belize), part of the Caribbean (not the Dutch-, English-, or French-speaking areas), Mexico, and most of South America (except Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana (France), and the Falkland Islands (UK)).

The French language has historically played a significant role in North America and now retains a distinctive presence in some regions. Canada is officially bilingual. French is the official language of the Province of Quebec, where 95% of the people speak it as either their first or second language, and it is co-official with English in the Province of New Brunswick. Other French-speaking locales include the Province of Ontario (the official language is English, but there are an estimated 600,000 Franco-Ontarians), the Province of Manitoba (co-official as de jure with English), the French West Indies and Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, as well as the US state of Louisiana, where French is also an official language. Haiti is included with this group based on historical association but Haitians speak both Creole and French. Similarly, French and French Antillean Creole is spoken in Saint Lucia and the Commonwealth of Dominica alongside English.


Washington National Cathedral, in Washington, D.C. The United States has the most people in the world identifying as Christian. WashingtonNationalCathedralHighsmith15393v.jpg
Washington National Cathedral, in Washington, D.C. The United States has the most people in the world identifying as Christian.

Christianity is the largest religion in the United States, Canada and Mexico. According to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey, 77% of the population considered themselves Christians. [87] Christianity also is the predominant religion in the 23 dependent territories in North America. [88] The United States has the largest Christian population in the world, with nearly 247 million Christians (70%), although other countries have higher percentages of Christians among their populations. [89] Mexico has the world's second largest number of Catholics, surpassed only by Brazil. [90] A 2015 study estimates about 493,000 Christian believers from a Muslim background in North America, most of them belonging to some form of Protestantism. [91]

According to the same study religiously unaffiliated (include agnostic and atheist) make up about 17% of the population of Canada and the United States. [92] No religion make up about 24% of the United States population, and 24% of Canada total population. [93]

Canada, the United States and Mexico host communities of both Jews (6 million or about 1.8%), [94] Buddhists (3.8 million or 1.1%) [95] and Muslims (3.4 million or 1.0%). [96] The biggest number of Jewish individuals can be found in the United States (5.4 million), [97] Canada (375,000) [98] and Mexico (67,476). [99] The United States host the largest Muslim population in North America with 2.7 million or 0.9%, [100] [101] While Canada host about one million Muslim or 3.2% of the population. [102] While in Mexico there were 3,700 Muslims in the country. [103] In 2012, U-T San Diego estimated U.S. practitioners of Buddhism at 1.2 million people, of whom 40% are living in Southern California. [104]

The predominant religion in Central America is Christianity (96%). [105] Beginning with the Spanish colonization of Central America in the 16th century, Roman Catholicism became the most popular religion in the region until the first half of the 20th century. Since the 1960s, there has been an increase in other Christian groups, particularly Protestantism, as well as other religious organizations, and individuals identifying themselves as having no religion. Also Christianity is the predominant religion in the Caribbean (85%). [105] Other religious groups in the region are Hinduism, Islam, Rastafari (in Jamaica), and Afro-American religions such as Santería and Vodou.


The most populous country in North America is the United States with 329.7 million persons. The second largest country is Mexico with a population of 112.3 million. [106] Canada is the third most populous country with 37.0 million. [107] The majority of Caribbean island-nations have national populations under a million, though Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico (a territory of the United States), Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago each have populations higher than a million. [108] [109] [110] [111] [112] Greenland has a small population of 55,984 for its massive size (2,166,000 km² or 836,300 mi²), and therefore, it has the world's lowest population density at 0.026 pop./km² (0.067 pop./mi²). [113]

While the United States, Canada, and Mexico maintain the largest populations, large city populations are not restricted to those nations. There are also large cities in the Caribbean. The largest cities in North America, by far, are Mexico City and New York. These cities are the only cities on the continent to exceed eight million, and two of three in the Americas. Next in size are Los Angeles, Toronto, [114] Chicago, Havana, Santo Domingo, and Montreal. Cities in the sunbelt regions of the United States, such as those in Southern California and Houston, Phoenix, Miami, Atlanta, and Las Vegas, are experiencing rapid growth. These causes included warm temperatures, retirement of Baby Boomers, large industry, and the influx of immigrants. Cities near the United States border, particularly in Mexico, are also experiencing large amounts of growth. Most notable is Tijuana, a city bordering San Diego that receives immigrants from all over Latin America and parts of Europe and Asia. Yet as cities grow in these warmer regions of North America, they are increasingly forced to deal with the major issue of water shortages. [115]

Eight of the top ten metropolitan areas are located in the United States. These metropolitan areas all have a population of above 5.5 million and include the New York City metropolitan area, Los Angeles metropolitan area, Chicago metropolitan area, and the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex. [116] Whilst the majority of the largest metropolitan areas are within the United States, Mexico is host to the largest metropolitan area by population in North America: Greater Mexico City. [117] Canada also breaks into the top ten largest metropolitan areas with the Toronto metropolitan area having six million people. [118] The proximity of cities to each other on the Canada–United States border and Mexico–United States border has led to the rise of international metropolitan areas. These urban agglomerations are observed at their largest and most productive in Detroit–Windsor and San Diego–Tijuana and experience large commercial, economic, and cultural activity. The metropolitan areas are responsible for millions of dollars of trade dependent on international freight. In Detroit-Windsor the Border Transportation Partnership study in 2004 concluded US$13 billion was dependent on the Detroit–Windsor international border crossing while in San Diego-Tijuana freight at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry was valued at US$20 billion. [119] [120]

North America has also been witness to the growth of megapolitan areas. In the United States exists eleven megaregions that transcend international borders and comprise Canadian and Mexican metropolitan regions. These are the Arizona Sun Corridor, Cascadia, Florida, Front Range, Great Lakes Megaregion, Gulf Coast Megaregion, Northeast, Northern California, Piedmont Atlantic, Southern California, and the Texas Triangle. [121] Canada and Mexico are also the home of megaregions. These include the Quebec City – Windsor Corridor, Golden Horseshoe – both of which are considered part of the Great Lakes Megaregion – and megalopolis of Central Mexico. Traditionally the largest megaregion has been considered the Boston-Washington, DC Corridor, or the Northeast, as the region is one massive contiguous area. Yet megaregion criterion have allowed the Great Lakes Megalopolis to maintain status as the most populated region, being home to 53,768,125 people in 2000. [122]

The top ten largest North American metropolitan areas by population as of 2013, based on national census numbers from the United States and census estimates from Canada and Mexico.

Metro AreaPopulationAreaCountry
Mexico City 21,163,2267,346 km2 (2,836 sq mi)Mexico
New York City 19,949,50217,405 km2 (6,720 sq mi)United States
Los Angeles 13,131,43112,562 km2 (4,850 sq mi)United States
Chicago 9,537,28924,814 km2 (9,581 sq mi)United States
Dallas–Fort Worth 6,810,91324,059 km2 (9,289 sq mi)United States
Houston 6,313,15826,061 km2 (10,062 sq mi)United States
Toronto 6,054,1915,906 km2 (2,280 sq mi)Canada
Philadelphia 6,034,67813,256 km2 (5,118 sq mi)United States
Washington, DC 5,949,85914,412 km2 (5,565 sq mi)United States
Miami 5,828,19115,896 km2 (6,137 sq mi)United States

2011 Census figures.


RankCountry GDP (PPP, peak year)
millions of USD
Peak year
1Flag of the United States.svg  United States 21,344,6672019
2Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 2,658,0412019
3Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 1,896,7252019
4Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba 254,8652015
5Flag of the Dominican Republic.svg  Dominican Republic 202,4502019
6Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 153,3982019
7Flag of Puerto Rico.svg  Puerto Rico 130,9922015
8Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 115,1942019
9Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 92,4152019
10Flag of El Salvador.svg  El Salvador 55,7092019
RankCountry GDP (nominal, peak year)
millions of USD
Peak year
1Flag of the United States.svg  United States 21,344,6672019
2Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 1,847,2072013
3Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 1,314,5692014
4Flag of Puerto Rico.svg  Puerto Rico 104,3442018
5Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba 96,8512017
6Flag of the Dominican Republic.svg  Dominican Republic 84,8372019
7Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 82,3352019
8Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 70,1552019
9Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 60,4592019
10Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg  Trinidad and Tobago 27,4802014

North America's GDP per capita was evaluated in October 2016 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be $41,830, making it the richest continent in the world, [123] followed by Oceania. [124]

Canada, Mexico, and the United States have significant and multifaceted economic systems. The United States has the largest economy of all three countries and in the world. [124] In 2016, the U.S. had an estimated per capita gross domestic product (PPP) of $57,466 according to the World Bank, and is the most technologically developed economy of the three. [125] The United States' services sector comprises 77% of the country's GDP (estimated in 2010), industry comprises 22% and agriculture comprises 1.2%. [124] The U.S. economy is also the fastest growing economy in North America and the Americas as a whole, [126] [123] with the highest GDP per capita in the Americas as well. [123]

Canada shows significant growth in the sectors of services, mining and manufacturing. [127] Canada's per capita GDP (PPP) was estimated at $44,656 and it had the 11th largest GDP (nominal) in 2014. [127] Canada's services sector comprises 78% of the country's GDP (estimated in 2010), industry comprises 20% and agriculture comprises 2%. [127] Mexico has a per capita GDP (PPP) of $16,111 and as of 2014 is the 15th largest GDP (nominal) in the world. [128] Being a newly industrialized country, [84] Mexico maintains both modern and outdated industrial and agricultural facilities and operations. [129] Its main sources of income are oil, industrial exports, manufactured goods, electronics, heavy industry, automobiles, construction, food, banking and financial services. [130]

The North American economy is well defined and structured in three main economic areas. [131] These areas are the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), and the Central American Common Market (CACM). [131] Of these trade blocs, the United States takes part in two. In addition to the larger trade blocs there is the Canada-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement among numerous other free trade relations, often between the larger, more developed countries and Central American and Caribbean countries.

The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) forms one of the four largest trade blocs in the world. [132] Its implementation in 1994 was designed for economic homogenization with hopes of eliminating barriers of trade and foreign investment between Canada, the United States and Mexico. [133] While Canada and the United States already conducted the largest bilateral trade relationship – and to present day still do – in the world and Canada–United States trade relations already allowed trade without national taxes and tariffs, [134] NAFTA allowed Mexico to experience a similar duty-free trade. The free trade agreement allowed for the elimination of tariffs that had previously been in place on United States-Mexico trade. Trade volume has steadily increased annually and in 2010, surface trade between the three NAFTA nations reached an all-time historical increase of 24.3% or US$791 billion. [135] The NAFTA trade bloc GDP (PPP) is the world's largest with US$17.617 trillion. [136] This is in part attributed to the fact that the economy of the United States is the world's largest national economy; the country had a nominal GDP of approximately $14.7 trillion in 2010. [137] The countries of NAFTA are also some of each other's largest trade partners. The United States is the largest trade partner of Canada and Mexico; [138] while Canada and Mexico are each other's third largest trade partners. [139] [140]

The Caribbean trade bloc – CARICOM – came into agreement in 1973 when it was signed by 15 Caribbean nations. As of 2000, CARICOM trade volume was US$96 billion. CARICOM also allowed for the creation of a common passport for associated nations. In the past decade the trade bloc focused largely on Free Trade Agreements and under the CARICOM Office of Trade Negotiations (OTN) free trade agreements have been signed into effect.

Integration of Central American economies occurred under the signing of the Central American Common Market agreement in 1961; this was the first attempt to engage the nations of this area into stronger financial cooperation. Recent implementation of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has left the future of the CACM unclear. [141] The Central American Free Trade Agreement was signed by five Central American countries, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. The focal point of CAFTA is to create a free trade area similar to that of NAFTA. In addition to the United States, Canada also has relations in Central American trade blocs. Currently under proposal, the Canada – Central American Free Trade Agreement (CA4) would operate much the same as CAFTA with the United States does.

These nations also take part in inter-continental trade blocs. Mexico takes a part in the G3 Free Trade Agreement with Colombia and Venezuela and has a trade agreement with the EU. The United States has proposed and maintained trade agreements under the Transatlantic Free Trade Area between itself and the European Union; the US-Middle East Free Trade Area between numerous Middle Eastern nations and itself; and the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership between Southeast Asian nations, Australia, and New Zealand.


The full Pan American Highway (including South America), from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina PanAmericanHwy.png
The full Pan American Highway (including South America), from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina

The Pan-American Highway route in the Americas is the portion of a network of roads nearly 48,000 km (30,000 mi) in length which travels through the mainland nations. No definitive length of the Pan-American Highway exists because the US and Canadian governments have never officially defined any specific routes as being part of the Pan-American Highway, and Mexico officially has many branches connecting to the US border. However, the total length of the portion from Mexico to the northern extremity of the highway is roughly 26,000 km (16,000 mi).

2006 map of the North American Class I railroad network Class1rr.png
2006 map of the North American Class I railroad network

The First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States was built in the 1860s, linking the railroad network of the eastern US with California on the Pacific coast. Finished on 10 May 1869 at the famous golden spike event at Promontory Summit, Utah, it created a nationwide mechanized transportation network that revolutionized the population and economy of the American West, catalyzing the transition from the wagon trains of previous decades to a modern transportation system. [142] Although an accomplishment, it achieved the status of first transcontinental railroad by connecting myriad eastern US railroads to the Pacific and was not the largest single railroad system in the world. The Canadian Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) had, by 1867, already accumulated more than 2,055 km (1,277 mi) of track by connecting Ontario with the Canadian Atlantic provinces west as far as Port Huron, Michigan, through Sarnia, Ontario.


A shared telephone system known as the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) is an integrated telephone numbering plan of 24 countries and territories: the United States and its territories, Canada, Bermuda, and 17 Caribbean nations.


Canada and the United States were both former British colonies. There is frequent cultural interplay between the United States and English-speaking Canada. Greenland shares some cultural ties with the indigenous people of Canada but is considered Nordic and has strong Danish ties due to centuries of colonization by Denmark. Spanish-speaking North America shares a common past as former Spanish colonies. In Mexico and the Central American countries where civilizations like the Maya developed, indigenous people preserve traditions across modern boundaries. Central American and Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations have historically had more in common due to geographical proximity.

Northern Mexico, particularly in the cities of Monterrey, Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, and Mexicali, is strongly influenced by the culture and way of life of the United States. Of the aforementioned cities, Monterrey has been regarded as the most Americanized city in Mexico. [143] Immigration to the United States and Canada remains a significant attribute of many nations close to the southern border of the US. The Anglophone Caribbean states have witnessed the decline of the British Empire and its influence on the region, and its replacement by the economic influence of Northern America in the Anglophone Caribbean. This is partly due to the relatively small populations of the English-speaking Caribbean countries, and also because many of them now have more people living abroad than those remaining at home. Northern Mexico, the Western United States and Alberta, Canada share a cowboy culture.


Canada, Mexico and the US submitted a joint bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The following table shows the most prominent sports leagues in North America, in order of average revenue. [144] [145]

US$ (bn)
National Football League (NFL) American football United States192032$9.067,604
Major League Baseball (MLB) Baseball United States
National Basketball Association (NBA) Basketball United States
National Hockey League (NHL) Ice hockey United States
Liga MX Football (soccer) Mexico194318$0.625,557
Major League Soccer (MLS) Football (soccer) United States
199424 [sn 1] $0.521,574
Canadian Football League (CFL) Canadian football Canada19589$0.323,890
  1. MLS plans to expand to 26 teams in 2020, and to 28 teams by 2022.

See also

Related Research Articles

Economy of Canada National economy

The economy of Canada is a highly developed market economy. It is the 10th largest GDP by nominal and 16th largest GDP by PPP in the world. As with other developed nations, the country's economy is dominated by the service industry which employs about three quarters of Canadians. Canada has the fourth highest total estimated value of natural resources, valued at US$33.2 trillion in 2016. It has the world's third largest proven petroleum reserves and is the fourth largest exporter of petroleum. It is also the fourth largest exporter of natural gas. Canada is considered an "energy superpower" due to its abundant natural resources and a small population of 37 million inhabitants relative to its land area.

Central America central geographic region of the Americas

Central America is a region found in the southern tip of North America and is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas. This region is bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. The combined population of Central America is estimated to be between 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.

Economy of the Dominican Republic economy of the country

The Dominican Republic has the 8th largest economy in Latin America, and is the largest in the Caribbean and Central America region. It is an upper middle-income developing country primarily dependent on mining, agriculture, trade, and services. The country is the site of the single largest gold mine in Latin America, the Pueblo Viejo mine. Although the service sector has recently overtaken agriculture as the leading employer of Dominicans, agriculture remains the most important sector in terms of domestic consumption and is in second place in terms of export earnings. Tourism accounts for more than $1 billion in annual earnings. free-trade zone earnings and tourism are the fastest-growing export sectors. According to a 1999 International Monetary Fund report, remittances from Dominican Americans, are estimated to be about $1.5 billion per year. Most of these funds are used to cover basic household needs such as shelter, food, clothing, health care and education. Secondarily, remittances have financed small businesses and other productive activities.

Latin America Region of the Americas where Romance languages are primarily spoken

Latin America is a group of countries and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere where Romance languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French are predominantly spoken; it is broader than the terms Ibero-America or Hispanic America. The term "Latin America" was first used in an 1856 conference with the title "Initiative of the Americas. Idea for a Federal Congress of the Republics", by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao. The term was used also by Napoleon III's French government in the 1860s as Amérique latine to consider French-speaking territories in the Americas, along with the larger group of countries where Spanish and Portuguese languages prevailed, including the Spanish-speaking portions of the United States Today, areas of Canada and the United States where Spanish, Portuguese and French are predominant are typically not included in definitions of Latin America.

Americas Landmass comprising North America, Central America and South America

The Americas comprise the totality of the continents of North and South America. Together, they make up most of the land in Earth's western hemisphere and comprise the New World.

Free Trade Area of the Americas

The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was a proposed agreement to eliminate or reduce the trade barriers among all countries in the Americas, excluding Cuba.

History of North America aspect of history

History of North America encompasses the past developments of people populating the continent of North America. While it was widely believed that continent first became a human habitat when people migrated across the Bering Sea 40,000 to 17,000 years ago, recent discoveries may have pushed those estimates back at least another 90,000 years. Regardless, migrants settled in many locations on the continent, from the Inuit of the far north to the Mayans and Aztecs of the south. These isolated communities each developed their own unique ways of life and cultures, and their interaction with one another was limited in comparison to the extensive trade and conflict of civilizations across the Atlantic in Europe and Asia.

A subregion is a part of a larger region or continent and is usually based on location. Cardinal directions, such as south or southern, are commonly used to define a subregion.

Economy of Europe Continental economy

The economy of Europe comprises more than 740 million people in 50 different countries. Formation of the European Union (EU) and in 1999, the introduction of a unified currency – the euro brings participating European countries closer through the conveniece of a shared currency and has led to a stronger European cash flow. The difference in wealth across Europe can be seen roughly in former Cold War divide, with some countries breaching the divide. Whilst most European states have a GDP per capita higher than the world's average and are very highly developed, some European economies, despite their position over the world's average in the Human Development Index, are poorer.

The economy of North America comprises more than 579 million people in its 23 sovereign states and 15 dependent territories. It is marked by a sharp division between the predominantly English speaking countries of Canada and the United States, which are among the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world, and countries of Central America and the Caribbean in the former Latin America that are less developed. Mexico and Caribbean nations of the Commonwealth of Nations are between the economic extremes of the development of North America.

Latin Americans are the citizens of the Latin American countries and dependencies. Latin American countries are multi-ethnic, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds. As a result, some Latin Americans do not take their nationality as an ethnicity, but identify themselves with both their nationality and their ancestral origins. Aside from the indigenous Amerindian population, all Latin Americans or their ancestors immigrated since 1492. Latin America has the largest diasporas of Spaniards, Portuguese, Black Africans, Italians, Lebanese and Japanese in the world. The region also has large German, French, and Jewish diasporas.

Northern America the northernmost region of North America, which consists of Canada, the United States, and Greenland

Northern America is the northernmost region of North America. The boundaries may be drawn slightly differently. In one definition, it lies directly north of Middle America. Northern America's land frontier with the rest of North America then coincides with the Mexico–United States border. Geopolitically, according to the United Nations' scheme of geographic regions and subregions, Northern America consists of Bermuda, Canada, Greenland, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and the United States of America.

Americas (terminology)

The Americas, also known as America, are lands of the Western Hemisphere, composed of numerous entities and regions variably defined by geography, politics, and culture.

Outline of Mexico Overview of and topical guide to Mexico

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Mexico:

Outline of North America Overview of and topical guide to North America

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to North America.

Economy of Belize economy of the country

Belize has a small, essentially private enterprise economy that is based primarily on agriculture, tourism, and services. The cultivation of newly discovered oil in the town of Spanish Lookout has presented new prospects and problems for this developing nation. Belize's primary exports are citrus, sugar, and bananas. Belize's trade deficit has been growing, mostly as a result of low export prices for sugar and bananas.

Free trade agreements of Canada

Canada is regularly described as a trading nation as its total trade is worth more than two-thirds of its GDP. Of that total trade, roughly 75% is done with countries which are part of free-trade agreements with Canada, primarily the United States through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). By the end of 2014, Canada bilateral trade hit C$1 trillion for the first time.

The economy of the Americas comprises more than 953 million people in 35 different countries and 18 territories. Sometimes divided into the continents of North America and South America depending on the source, like other continents, the wealth of the states in the Americas varies, although the poorest are well above the poorest states of other continents in terms of GDP and living standards. The difference in wealth across the Americas can be seen roughly between the economies of North America and South America, with the countries in the former significantly better off than those in the latter.



  1. This North American density figure is based on a total land area of 23,090,542 km2 only, considerably less than the total combined land and water area of 24,709,000 km2.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Depending on definitions, Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago have territory in either or both of North and South America.
  3. Since the Lucayan Archipelago is located in the Atlantic Ocean rather than Caribbean Sea, the Bahamas are part of the West Indies but are not technically part of the Caribbean, although the United Nations groups them with the Caribbean.
  4. Because of ongoing activity of the Soufriere Hills volcano beginning in July 1995, much of Plymouth was destroyed and government offices were relocated to Brades. Plymouth remains the de jure capital.
  5. Panama is generally considered a North American country, though some authorities divide it at the Panama Canal. Figures listed here are for the entire country.
  6. Since the Lucayan Archipelago is located in the Atlantic Ocean rather than Caribbean Sea, the Turks and Caicos Islands are part of the West Indies but are not technically part of the Caribbean, although the United Nations groups them with the Caribbean.
  7. Includes the states of Hawaii and Alaska which are both separated from the US mainland, with Hawaii is distant from the North American landmass in the Pacific Ocean and therefore more commonly associated with the other territories of Oceania while Alaska is located between Asia (Russia) and Canada.
  8. The receding of oceans during successive ice ages may have enabled migrants to cross the land bridge as far back as 40,000 years. [53]
  9. While not conclusive, some South American rock painting has been dated to 25,000 years ago. [57]


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