The culture of the
United States of America is primarily of Western
culture (European) origin and form, but is influenced by a
multicultural ethos that includes African, Native American, Asian,
Polynesian, and Latin American people and their cultures. It also has
its own social and cultural characteristics, such as dialect, music,
arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore. The
United States of
America is an ethnically and racially diverse country as a result of
large-scale migration from many countries throughout its history.
Many American cultural elements, especially from popular culture, have
spread across the globe through modern mass media.
1 Origins, development, and spread
2 Regional variations
2.1 Fischer's theory
2.2 Woodard's theory
3.1 Native language statistics for the United States
5 Fine arts
6 Science and technology
10 National holidays
12 Fashion and dress
13.1 Sports and community culture
15 Family structure
15.1 Youth dependence
16.1 Automobiles and commuting
17 Social class and work
18 Race and ancestry
19 Death and funerals
20 Sociological issues
20.1 Marriage and divorce
20.2 Race relations
20.3 Drugs and alcohol
22 Military culture
23 Gun culture
24 Governmental role
26 See also
28 Further reading
29 External links
Origins, development, and spread
The European roots of the
United States are in the English settlers of
colonial America during British rule. The varieties of English people
as opposed to the other peoples in the
British Isles were the
overwhelming majority ethnic group in the 17th century (population of
the colonies in 1700 250,000) and were 47.9% of percent of the total
population of 3. 9 million. They constituted 60% of the whites at the
first census in 1790 (%, 3.5 Welsh, 8.5 Scotch Irish, 4.3 Scots, 4.7
Southern Irish, 7.2 German, 2.7 Dutch, 1.7 French and .2 Swedish), The
American Revolution, Colin Bonwick, 1991, p. 254. The English ethnic
group contributed the major cultural and social mindset and attitudes
that evolved into the American character. Of the total population in
each colony they numbered from 30% in
Pennsylvania to 85% in
Massachusetts, Becoming America, Jon Butler, 2000, pp. 9-11. Large
non-English immigrant populations from the 1720s to 1775, such as the
Germans (100,000 or more), Scotch Irish (250,000), added enriched and
modified the English cultural substrate, The Encyclopedia of Colonial
and Revolutionary America, Ed. John Mack Faragher, 1990, pp. 200-202.
The religious outlook was some versions of
Protestantism (1.6% of the
population were English, German and Irish Catholics ).
The British colonies inherited the English language, legal system, and
British culture, which was the majority cultural heritage. Parts of
what are now the
United States were colonized by France, Spain, the
Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, and Japan (Northern Mariana
Islands and briefly Guam). Though eventually overtaken by British
or American territorial expansion, the longer they lasted the more
these earlier colonial societies contributed to modern-day culture,
including place names, architecture, religion, language, and food.
Jeffersonian democracy was a foundational American cultural
innovation, which is still a core part of the country's identity.
Notes on the State of Virginia
Notes on the State of Virginia was perhaps the
first influential domestic cultural critique by an American and was
written in reaction to the views of some influential Europeans that
America's native flora, fauna, including humans, were degenerate.
Major cultural influences have been brought by historical immigration,
especially from Germany in much of the country, Ireland and Italy
in the Northeast, Japan in Hawaii.
Latin American culture
Latin American culture is
especially pronounced in former Spanish areas but has also been
introduced by immigration, as has
Asian American cultures (especially
on the West Coast). Forced migration during the Atlantic slave trade,
followed by liberation won in the
American Civil War
American Civil War created
African-American culture which pervades the South and other areas
receiving internal immigrants during the Great Migrations. Blending
Southern and traditional African culture to some degree, this uniquely
American culture has its own dialect; has contributed significant
innovation in music, dance, and fashion; embraced a struggle by many
Americans for political and economic equality; and is
associated with significant populations of African-American Muslims
and Christians in "Black churches".
Rap and music videos featuring
African-American urban street culture have appeared in countries and
melded with local performance cultures worldwide.
Though many mainland Native American tribes and nations were
overpowered by European colonists and American territorial expansion,
but even in the areas they were pushed out of left cultural influences
such as place names, knowledge about New World crops; cultural
appropriation and the history military rivalry resulted in Native
American-themed sports mascots. Native culture remains strong in areas
with large undisturbed or relocated populations, including traditional
government and communal organization of property now legally managed
Indian reservations (large reservations are mostly in the West,
Arizona and South Dakota). The fate of native culture after
contact with Europeans is quite varied. For example,
Taíno culture in
U.S. Caribbean territories is nearly extinct and like most Native
American languages, the
Taíno language is no longer spoken. In
Hawaiian language and culture of the Native Hawaiians has
Hawaii and mixed with that of immigrants from the mainland
U.S. (starting before the 1898 annexation) and to some degree Japanese
immigrants. It occasionally influences mainstream American culture
with notable exports like surfing and Hawaiian shirts. Most languages
native to what is now U.S. territory have gone extinct, and the
economic and mainstream cultural dominance of English threatens the
surviving ones in most places. The most common native languages
include Samoan, Hawaiian, Navajo language, Cherokee, Sioux, and a
spectrum of Inuit languages. (See Indigenous languages of the Americas
for a fuller listing, plus Chamorro, and Carolinian in the Pacific
territories.) Ethnic Samoans are a majority in American Samoa;
Chamorro are still the largest ethnic group in
Guam (though a
minority), and along with
Refaluwasch are smaller minorities in the
Northern Mariana Islands.
American culture includes both conservative and liberal elements,
scientific and religious competitiveness, political structures, risk
taking and free expression, materialist and moral elements. Despite
certain consistent ideological principles (e.g. individualism,
egalitarianism, and faith in freedom and democracy), American culture
has a variety of expressions due to its geographical scale and
demographic diversity. The flexibility of U.S. culture and its highly
symbolic nature lead some researchers to categorize American culture
as a mythic identity; others see it as American
United States has traditionally been thought of as a melting pot,
with immigrants contributing to but eventually assimiliating with
mainstream American culture. However, beginning in the 1960s and
continuing on in the present day, the country trends towards cultural
diversity, pluralism, and the image of a salad bowl instead.
Throughout the country's history, certain subcultures (whether based
on ethnicity or other commonality, such as the gay village) have
dominated certain neighborhoods, only partially melded with the
broader culture. Due to the extent of American culture, there are many
integrated but unique social subcultures within the United States,
some not tied to any particular geography. The cultural affiliations
an individual in the
United States may have commonly depend on social
class, political orientation and a multitude of demographic
characteristics such as religious background, occupation, and ethnic
Mass media promote cross-cultural diffusion. Some subcultures have
national media exposure with dedicated television channels and
crossover with mainstream media (such as Latin, African American, and
LGBT culture, though there are many niche channels). Some communities
have local broadcast or paper publications that carry content from a
specific culture, such as native radio stations or Chinese-language
newspapers in Chinatowns. Almost every subculture has a presence on
World Wide Web
World Wide Web and social media.
Military history has influenced American culture and its worldwide
reach in several ways.
German cuisine became stigmatized by World War
I; but in contrast the end of
World War II
World War II resulted in
cross-fertilization of American and Japanese business techniques
during reconstruction and occupation, and brought home troops with an
increased taste for Italian dishes. Wars have also forced progress on
equal rights for women and racial minorities, as these groups proved
their till-then unrealized potential either in industry while men were
off fighting, or by serving in the military honorably and effectively.
American Civil War
American Civil War highlighted differences in culture (including
attitudes toward racism) between the Southern
United States and the
North. Though the issue of slavery was settled by the war, racism and
discrimination persisted and were supported by laws in some Southern
states. Combined with determined civil rights activism, later wars
resulted in profound changes in social norms, including desegregation,
more intermixing of Black and White cultures, and more egalitarian
social roles for men and women compared to countries that have not
undergone similar shifts.
Modern display of the Confederate flag
Modern display of the Confederate flag and
removal of Confederate monuments and memorials remain controversial
cultural and political issues, though many elements of proud Southern
identity and culture such as hospitality, drawl, and comfort food have
nothing to do with racial division. Some differences in modern
cultural tendencies fall along liberal-conservative political lines,
with people on both sides of that increasingly self-segregating.
The post-WWII economic and military power of the
United States (not to
mention its large, relatively unified population) also helped it
become more of an exporter of its own culture and values compared to
its initial tendency to import of European culture (especially in its
early, largely rural decades). The
United States has also administered
now-foreign territories for many years, creating opportunities for
cultural intermingling among many government employees and military
personnel. The longest stays have included the Philippines
Panama Canal Zone
Panama Canal Zone (1903–1979), Haiti (1915-1934,),
Dominican Republic (1916-1924), and various Japanese islands and
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands for decades after WWII.
Colonists from the
United States formed the now-independent country of
Liberia, which inherited a considerable amount of American culture and
values. Given its proximity, relatively free movement over the border,
the highly integrated North American economy, strong military
alliance, shared origins in British colonialism, and a common
language, the English-speaking culture of Canada is strongly
influenced by that of the United States. Some Canadian resist the
dominance of the
United States includes requirements for domestically
produced mass media, though especially since the Hollywood North
phenomenon began in the 1980s, Canada also exports entertainment to
the United States. American movies may have made the biggest impact of
all American exports on popular culture worldwide.
Semi-distinct cultural regions of the
United States include New
England, the Mid-Atlantic states, the Southern United States, the
United States and the Western United States—an area that
can be further subdivided, on the basis of the local culture into the
Pacific States and the Mountain States.
The western coast of the continental
United States consisting of
California, Oregon, and the state of Washington is also sometimes
referred to as the Left Coast, indicating its left-leaning political
orientation and tendency towards social liberalism.
United States are informally called "the Bible Belt" due to
socially conservative evangelical Protestantism, which is a
significant part of the region's culture and Christian church
attendance across the denominations is generally higher there than the
nation's average. This region is usually contrasted with the mainline
Catholicism of the northeastern United States, the
Midwest and Great Lakes, the
Mormon Corridor in
Utah and southern Idaho, and the relatively secular western United
States. The percentage of non-religious people is the highest in the
northeastern state of
Vermont at 34%, compared to the
Bible Belt state
of Alabama, where it is 6%.
Strong cultural differences have a long history in the U.S. with the
southern slave society in the antebellum period serving as a prime
example. Not only social, but also economic tensions between the
Northern and Southern states were so severe that they eventually
caused the South to declare itself an independent nation, the
Confederate States of America; thus initiating the American Civil
Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty in New York City, is an important cultural
symbol in the United States, and the values that it symbolizes—the
virtues of freedom and liberty—are likewise integral to United
David Hackett Fischer theorizes that the
United States is made up
today of four distinct regional cultures. The book's focus is on
the folkways of four groups of settlers from the
British Isles that
emigrated from distinct regions of Britain and Ireland to the British
American colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries. Fischer's thesis
is that the culture and folkways of each of these groups persisted,
albeit with some modification over time, providing the basis for the
four modern regional cultures of the United States.
According to Fischer, the foundation of American culture was formed
from four mass migrations from four different regions of the British
Isles by four distinct socio-religious groups. New England's earliest
settlement period occurred between 1629 and 1640 when Puritans, mostly
East Anglia in England, settled there, forming the New England
regional culture. The next mass migration was of southern English
cavaliers and their working class English domestic servants to the
Chesapeake Bay region between 1640 and 1675. This facilitated the
development of the Southern American culture.
Then (between 1675 and 1725), thousands of English and Welsh Quakers,
led by William Penn, settled in the
Delaware Valley followed by large
numbers of German Lutherans. This settlement resulted in the formation
of what is today considered the "General American" culture, although,
according to Fischer, it is really just a regional American culture,
even if it does today encompass most of the U.S. from the mid-Atlantic
states to the Pacific Coast. Finally, Scotch-Irish, English and
Scottish settlers from the borderlands of Britain and Ireland migrated
Appalachia between 1717 and 1775. They formed the regional culture
of the Upland South, which has since spread west to such areas as West
Texas and parts of the U.S. Southwest.
Fischer suggests that the U.S. today is not a country with one General
American culture and three or more regional sub-cultures. He asserts
that the country is composed of just regional cultures, and that
understanding that helps one to understand many things about modern
American life. Fischer also makes the point that the development of
these regional cultures derived not only from where exactly the
settlers first came, but when they came. Fischer asserts that during
different periods of time, a population of people will have very
distinct beliefs, fears, hopes and prejudices, and that various groups
of settlers brought these feelings to the New World where they more or
less froze in time in America, even if they eventually changed in
their place of origin.
Continuing the work of Fischer, Colin Woodard, in his book American
Nations, claims an existence of eleven rival regional cultures in
North America, based on the cultural characteristics of the original
settlers of these regions. These regions are: Yankeedom, New
Netherland, The Midlands, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, The Deep
South, New France, El Norte, The Left Coast, The Far West and First
Nation (a region in parts of northern Canada and Alaska, and
According to Woodard, these regions cross and disregard formal state
or even country borders. For example, he compares the Mexican border
with the Berlin wall, saying that "El Norte in some ways resembles
Germany during the Cold War: two peoples with a common culture
separated by a large wall."
Main article: Languages of the United States
Tree map of languages in the US.
United States has no official language at the federal
level, 28 states have passed legislation making English the official
language and it is considered to be the de facto national language.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, more than 97% of
speak English well, and for 81% it is the only language spoken at
home. More than 300 languages besides English have native speakers in
the United States—some of which are spoken by the indigenous peoples
(about 150 living languages) and others imported by immigrants.
Spanish has official status in the commonwealth of
Puerto Rico and the
state of New Mexico; Spanish is the primary spoken language in Puerto
Rico and various smaller linguistic enclaves. According to the
2000 census, there are nearly 30 million native speakers of Spanish in
the United States. Bilingual speakers may use both English and Spanish
reasonably well but code-switch according to their dialog partner or
context. Some refer to this phenomenon as Spanglish.
Indigenous languages of the
United States include the Native American
languages, which are spoken on the country's numerous Indian
reservations and Native American cultural events such as pow wows;
Hawaiian, which has official status in the state of Hawaii; Chamorro,
which has official status in the commonwealths of
Guam and the
Northern Mariana Islands; Carolinian, which has official status in the
commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; and Samoan, which has
official status in the commonwealth of American Samoa. American Sign
Language, used mainly by the deaf, is also native to the country.
The national dialect is known as American English, which itself
consists of numerous regional dialects but has some shared unifying
features that distinguish it from other national varieties of English.
There are four large dialect regions in the United States—the North,
the Midland, the South, and the West—and several smaller dialect
regions such as those of New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston. A
standard dialect called "General American" (analogous in some respects
to the received pronunciation elsewhere in the English-speaking
world), lacking the distinctive noticeable features of any particular
region, is believed by some to exist as well; it is sometimes
regionally associated with the vaguely-defined "Midwest".
Native language statistics for the United States
The following information is an estimation as actual statistics
According to the CIA, the following is the percentage of total
population's native languages in the United States:
Indo-European languages (3.8%)
Other Asian or Pacific Islander languages (2.7%)
Other languages (0.7%)
Main article: American literature
Mark Twain is regarded as among the greatest writers in American
The right to freedom of expression in the American constitution can be
traced to German immigrant
John Peter Zenger
John Peter Zenger and his legal fight to
make truthful publications in the Colonies a protected legal
right,[relevant? – discuss] ultimately paving the way for the
protected rights of American authors.
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, American art and
literature took most of its cues from Europe. During its early
history, America was a series of British colonies on the eastern coast
of the present-day United States. Therefore, its literary tradition
begins as linked to the broader tradition of English literature.
However, unique American characteristics and the breadth of its
production usually now cause it to be considered a separate path and
America's first internationally popular writers were James Fenimore
Washington Irving in the early nineteenth century. They
painted an American literary landscape full of humor and adventure.
These were followed by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman
Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Henry
David Thoreau who established a distinctive American literary voice in
the middle of the nineteenth century.
Mark Twain, Henry James, and poet
Walt Whitman were major figures in
the century's second half; Emily Dickinson, virtually unknown during
her lifetime, would be recognized as America's other essential poet.
Eleven U.S. citizens have won the
Nobel Prize in Literature, including
John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Eugene O'Neill, Pearl S. Buck, T. S.
Eliot and Sinclair Lewis. Ernest Hemingway, the 1954 Nobel laureate,
is often named as one of the most influential writers of the twentieth
A work seen as capturing fundamental aspects of the national
experience and character—such as Herman Melville's
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), and F. Scott
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby (1925)—may be dubbed the "Great
American Novel". Popular literary genres such as the Western and
hardboiled crime fiction were developed in the United States.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, American
artists primarily painted landscapes and portraits in a realistic
style. A parallel development taking shape in rural America was the
American craft movement, which began as a reaction to the Industrial
Revolution. Developments in modern art in
Europe came to America from
New York City
New York City such as the
Armory Show in 1913. After
World War II, New York emerged as a center of the art world. Painting
United States today covers a vast range of styles. American
painting includes works by Jackson Pollock, John Singer Sargent, and
Norman Rockwell, among many others.
Main article: Architecture of the United States
Art Deco architectural style of the
Empire State Building
Empire State Building was
typical of such buildings of the period
Architecture in the
United States is regionally diverse and has been
shaped by many external forces, not only English. U.S. architecture
can therefore be said to be eclectic, something unsurprising in such a
multicultural society. In the absence of a single large-scale
architectural influence from indigenous peoples such as those in
Mexico or Peru, generations of designers have incorporated influences
from around the world. Currently, the overriding theme of American
Architecture is modernity, as manifest in the skyscrapers of the 20th
Neoclassicism accompanied the Founding Father's idealization of
European Enlightenment, making it the predominant architectural style
for public buildings and large manors. However, in recent years,
suburbanization and mass migration to the
Sun Belt has allowed
architecture to reflect a Mediterranean style as well.[citation
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Main article: Theater of the United States
Theater of the United States
Theater of the United States is based in the Western tradition and did
not take on a unique dramatic identity until the emergence of Eugene
O'Neill in the early twentieth century, now considered by many to be
the father of American drama. O'Neill is a four-time winner of the
Pulitzer Prize for drama and the only American playwright to win the
Nobel Prize for literature. After O'Neill, American drama came of age
and flourished with the likes of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams,
Lillian Hellman, William Inge, and
Clifford Odets during the first
half of the twentieth century. After this fertile period, American
theater broke new ground, artistically, with the absurdist forms of
Edward Albee in the 1960s.
Social commentary has also been a preoccupation of American theater,
often addressing issues not discussed in the mainstream. Writers such
as Lorraine Hansbury, August Wilson,
David Mamet and
Tony Kushner have
Pulitzer Prizes for their polemical plays on American society.
United States is also the home and largest exporter of modern
musical theater, producing such musical talents as Rodgers and
Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Leonard
Bernstein, George and Ira Gershwin, Kander and Ebb, and Stephen
Sondheim. Broadway is one of the largest theater communities in the
world and is the epicenter of American commercial theater.
Frank Sinatra is awarded the Presidential Medal of
President Ronald Reagan.
Music of the United States
Music of the United States and Music history of the
Further information: Category:American singers
Further information: List of American composers
American music styles and influences (such as rock and roll, jazz,
rock, techno, soul, country, hip-hop, blues) and music based on them
can be heard all over the world. Music in the U.S. is diverse. It
includes African-American influence in the 20th century. The first
half of this century is famous for jazz, introduced by
African-Americans. In the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, rock, and
Pop music was prevalent.
Dance in the United States
United States is represented by various genres of dance, from
ballet to hip-hop and folk.
Main article: Cinema of the United States
James Dean is a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment.
The cinema of the United States, often generally referred to as
Hollywood, has had a profound effect on cinema across the world since
the early twentieth century. While the
Lumiere Brothers are generally
credited with the birth of modern cinema, it is American cinema that
has emerged as the most dominant force in the industry. Its history
can be separated into four main periods: the silent film era,
classical Hollywood cinema, New Hollywood, and the contemporary
period. Actor James Dean, who appeared in films during the classical
Hollywood era until his untimely death, is widely regarded as an
American cultural icon of teenage disillusionment.
American independent cinema was revitalized in the late 1980s and
early 1990s when another new generation of moviemakers, including
Spike Lee, Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith, and
Quentin Tarantino made
movies like, respectively: Do the Right Thing; Sex, Lies, and
Videotape; Clerks; and Reservoir Dogs. In terms of directing,
screenwriting, editing, and other elements, these movies were
innovative and often irreverent, playing with and contradicting the
conventions of Hollywood movies. Furthermore, their considerable
financial successes and crossover into popular culture reestablished
the commercial viability of independent film. Since then, the
independent film industry has become more clearly defined and more
influential in American cinema. Many of the major studios have
capitalized on this by developing subsidiaries to produce similar
films; for example Fox Searchlight Pictures.
To a lesser degree in the early 21st century, film types that were
previously considered to have only a minor presence in the mainstream
movie market began to arise as more potent American box office draws.
These include foreign-language films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Baahubali 2 and Hero and documentary films such as Super Size
Me, March of the Penguins, and Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine
and Fahrenheit 9/11.
American family watching TV, 1958
Television in the United States
Television in the United States and Radio in the United
Television is a major mass media of the United States. Household
ownership of television sets in the country is 96.7%, and the
majority of households have more than one set. The peak ownership
percentage of households with at least one television set occurred
during the 1996–97 season, with 98.4% ownership. As a whole, the
television networks of the
United States are the largest and most
syndicated in the world.
As of August 2013, approximately 114,200,000 American households own
at least one television set.
Due to a recent surge in the number and popularity of critically
acclaimed television series, many critics have said that American
television is currently enjoying a golden age.
Science and technology
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Further information: Science and technology in the United States
The Washington Post
The Washington Post on Monday, July 21, 1969 stating "'The Eagle Has
Landed'—Two Men Walk on the Moon".
There is a regard for scientific advancement and technological
innovation in American culture, resulting in the flow of many modern
innovations. The great American inventors include
Robert Fulton (the
Samuel Morse (the telegraph);
Eli Whitney (the cotton gin,
Cyrus McCormick (the reaper); and Thomas
Edison (with more than a thousand inventions credited to his name).
Most of the new technological innovations over the 20th and 21st
centuries were either first invented in the United States, first
widely adopted by Americans, or both. Examples include the lightbulb,
the airplane, the transistor, the atomic bomb, nuclear power, the
personal computer, the iPod, video games, online shopping, and the
development of the Internet.
A replica of the first working transistor.
This propensity for application of scientific ideas continued
throughout the 20th century with innovations that held strong
international benefits. The twentieth century saw the arrival of the
Space Age, the Information Age, and a renaissance in the health
sciences. This culminated in cultural milestones such as the Apollo
moon landings, the creation of the Personal Computer, and the
sequencing effort called the Human Genome Project.
Throughout its history, American culture has made significant gains
through the open immigration of accomplished scientists. Accomplished
scientists include: Scottish-American scientist Alexander Graham Bell,
who developed and patented the telephone and other devices; German
scientist Charles Steinmetz, who developed new alternating-current
electrical systems in 1889; Russian scientist Vladimir Zworykin, who
invented the motion camera in 1919; Serb scientist
Nikola Tesla who
patented a brushless electrical induction motor based on rotating
magnetic fields in 1888. With the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, a
large number of Jewish scientists fled Germany and immigrated to the
country, including theoretical physicist
Albert Einstein in 1933.
In the years during and following WWII, several innovative scientists
immigrated to the U.S. from Europe, such as Enrico Fermi, who came
Italy in 1938 and led the work that produced the world's first
self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. Post-war
Europe saw many of
its scientists, such as rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, recruited
United States as part of Operation Paperclip.[relevant? –
Main articles: Education in the
United States and Educational
attainment in the United States
Higher education in the US by race as of 2003
Education in the
United States is and has historically been provided
mainly by government. Control and funding come from three levels:
federal, state, and local. School attendance is mandatory and nearly
universal at the elementary and high school levels (often known
United States as the primary and secondary levels).
Students have the options of having their education held in public
schools, private schools, or home school. In most public and private
schools, education is divided into three levels: elementary school,
junior high school (also often called middle school), and high school.
In almost all schools at these levels, children are divided by age
groups into grades. Post-secondary education, better known as
"college" in the United States, is generally governed separately from
the elementary and high school system.
In the year 2000, there were 76.6 million students enrolled in
schools from kindergarten through graduate schools. Of these, 72
percent aged 12 to 17 were judged academically "on track" for their
age (enrolled in school at or above grade level). Of those enrolled in
compulsory education, 5.2 million (10.4 percent) were attending
private schools. Among the country's adult population, over 85 percent
have completed high school and 27 percent have received a bachelor's
degree or higher.
Main article: Religion in the United States
Protestant work ethic
Completed in 1716,
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is
one of numerous surviving colonial Spanish missions in the United
States. These were primarily used to convert the Native
Among developed countries, the U.S. is one of the most religious in
terms of its demographics. According to a 2002 study by the Pew Global
Attitudes Project, the U.S. was the only developed nation in the
survey where a majority of citizens reported that religion played a
"very important" role in their lives, an opinion similar to that found
in Latin America. Today, governments at the national, state, and
local levels are a secular institution, with what is often called the
"separation of church and state".
Although participation in organized religion has been diminishing, the
public life and popular culture of the
United States incorporates many
Christian ideals specifically about redemption, salvation, conscience,
and morality. Examples are popular culture obsessions with confession
and forgiveness, which extends from reality television to twelve-step
Americans expect public figures to confess and have public
penitence for any sins, or moral wrongdoings they may have caused.
According to Salon, examples of inadequate public penitence may
include the scandals and fallout regarding Tiger Woods, Alex
Rodriguez, Mel Gibson, Larry Craig, and Lance Armstrong.
Brick Presbyterian Church in suburban East Orange, New Jersey
Several of the original
Thirteen Colonies were established by English
settlers who wished to practice their own religion without
discrimination or persecution:
Pennsylvania was established by
Maryland by Roman Catholics, and the
Massachusetts Bay Colony
by Puritans. Separatist
Congregationalists (Pilgrim Fathers) founded
Plymouth Colony in 1620. They were convinced that the democratic form
of government was the will of God. They and the other Protestant
groups applied the representative democratic organisation of their
congregations also to the administration of their communities in
wordly matters. Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania
added religious freedom to their democratic constitutions, becoming
safe havens for persecuted religious minorities. The first
Bible printed in a European language in the Colonies was by German
immigrant Christopher Sauer. Nine of the thirteen colonies had
official public religions. By the time of the Philadelphia Convention
of 1787, the
United States became one of the first countries in the
world to codify freedom of religion into law, although this originally
applied only to the federal government, and not to state governments
or their political subdivisions.
Modeling the provisions concerning religion within the Virginia
Statute for Religious Freedom, the framers of the United States
Constitution rejected any religious test for office, and the First
Amendment specifically denied the central government any power to
enact any law respecting either an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting its free exercise. In following decades, the animating
spirit behind the constitution's
Establishment Clause led to the
disestablishment of the official religions within the member states.
The framers were mainly influenced by secular, Enlightenment ideals,
but they also considered the pragmatic concerns of minority religious
groups who did not want to be under the power or influence of a state
religion that did not represent them. Thomas Jefferson, author of
the Declaration of Independence said: "The priest has been hostile to
liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot."
The following information is an estimation as actual statistics
constantly vary. According to the Pew Research Center's Religious
Landscape Survey, the following is the percentage of followers of
different religions in the United States:
Mainline Protestant (14.7%)
Roman Catholic (20.8%)
Other Christian (1.7%)
Non-Christian Faiths (4.5%)
Other World Religions (0.3%)
Nothing in particular (15.8%)
religion not important (8.8%)
religion important (6.9%)
Don't know (0.6%)
Main article: Folklore of the United States
Fireworks light up the sky over the Washington Monument. Americans
traditionally shoot fireworks throughout the night on the Fourth of
New York City's
Times Square is the most famous location for New
Year's celebrations in the
United States with the iconic ball drop.
Halloween is popular in the United States. It typically involves
dressing up in costumes and an emphasis on scary themes.
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy unofficially spares a turkey on November 19, 1963. The
practice of "pardoning" turkeys in this manner became a permanent
tradition in 1989.
Columbus Day in
Salem, Massachusetts in 1892
United States observes holidays derived from events in American
history, Christian traditions, and national patriarchs.
Thanksgiving is the principal traditionally American holiday. It
evolved from the English Pilgrim's custom of giving thanks for one's
Thanksgiving is generally celebrated as a family reunion with
a large afternoon feast.
Christmas Day, celebrating the birth of Jesus
Christ, is widely celebrated and a federal holiday, though a fair
amount of its current cultural importance is due to secular reasons.
European colonization has led to some other Christian holidays such as
St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick's Day to be observed, though with varying
degrees of religious fidelity.
Independence Day (also known as the Fourth of July) celebrates the
anniversary of the country's Declaration of Independence from Great
Britain. It is generally observed by parades throughout the day and
the shooting of fireworks at night.
Halloween is thought to have evolved from the ancient Celtic/Gaelic
festival of Samhain, which was introduced in the American colonies by
Irish settlers. It has become a holiday that is celebrated by children
and teens who traditionally dress up in costumes and go door to door
trick-or-treating for candy. It also brings about an emphasis on eerie
and frightening urban legends and movies.
Additionally, Mardi Gras, which evolved from the Catholic tradition of
Carnival, is observed in New Orleans, St. Louis, Mobile, Alabama, and
numerous other towns.
Federally recognized holidays are as follows:
New Year's Day
Celebrates beginning of the
Gregorian calendar year. Festivities
include counting down to midnight (12:00 am) on the preceding
New Year's Eve. Traditional end of holiday season.
Third Monday in January
Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., or
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Honors Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Civil Rights leader, who was actually
born on January 15, 1929; combined with other holidays in several
First January 20 following a Presidential election
Observed only by federal government employees in Washington D.C., and
the border counties of
Virginia to relieve traffic
congestion that occurs with this major event. Swearing-in of President
United States and Vice President of the United States.
Celebrated every fourth year. Note: Takes place on January 21 if the
20th is a Sunday (although the President is still privately
inaugurated on the 20th). If
Inauguration Day falls on a Saturday or a
Sunday, the preceding Friday or following Monday is not a Federal
Third Monday in February
Washington's Birthday was first declared a federal holiday by an 1879
act of Congress. The Uniform Holidays Act, 1968, shifted the date of
the commemoration of
Washington's Birthday from February 22 to the
third Monday in February. Many people now refer to this holiday as
"Presidents' Day" and consider it a day honoring all American
presidents. However, neither the Uniform Holidays Act nor any
subsequent law changed the name of the holiday from Washington's
Birthday to Presidents' Day.
Last Monday in May
Honors the nation's war dead from the Civil War onwards; marks the
unofficial beginning of the summer season. (traditionally May 30,
shifted by the Uniform Holidays Act 1968)
Celebrates Declaration of Independence, also called the Fourth of
First Monday in September
Celebrates the achievements of workers and the labor movement; marks
the unofficial end of the summer season.
Second Monday in October
Honors Christopher Columbus, traditional discoverer of the Americas.
In some areas it is also a celebration of Italian culture and
heritage. (traditionally October 12); celebrated as American Indian
Heritage Day and
Fraternal Day in Alabama; celebrated as Native
American Day in South Dakota. In Hawaii, it is celebrated as
Discoverer's Day, though is not an official state holiday.
Honors all veterans of the
United States armed forces. A traditional
observation is a moment of silence at 11:00 am remembering those
killed in war. (Commemorates the 1918 armistice, which began at "the
eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.")
Fourth Thursday in November
Traditionally celebrates the giving of thanks for the autumn harvest.
Traditionally includes the consumption of a turkey dinner. Traditional
start of the holiday season.
Celebrates the Nativity of Jesus.
Federal Holidays Calendars from the federal Office of Personnel
American names and African-American names
United States has few laws governing given names. Traditionally,
the right to name your child or yourself as you choose has been upheld
by court rulings and is rooted in the
Due Process Clause
Due Process Clause of the
fourteenth Amendment of the
United States Constitution and the Free
Speech Clause of the First Amendment. A few restrictions do exist.
Restrictions vary by state, but most are for the sake of practicality
(for example: limiting the number of characters due to limitations in
record keeping software). This freedom, along with the cultural
diversity in the
United States has given rise to a wide variety of
names and naming trends. Creativity has also long been a part of
American naming traditions and names have been used to express
personality, cultural identity, and values Naming trends vary
by race, geographic area, and socioeconomic status. African-Americans,
for instance, have developed a very distinct naming culture. Both
religious names and those inspired by popular culture are common.
Fashion and dress
Main article: Fashion in the United States
A pair of blue jeans
Fashion in the United States is eclectic and predominantly informal.
While Americans' diverse cultural roots are reflected in their
clothing, particularly those of recent immigrants, cowboy hats and
boots and leather motorcycle jackets are emblematic of specifically
Blue jeans were popularized as work clothes in the 1850s by merchant
Levi Strauss, a German-Jewish immigrant in San Francisco, and adopted
by many American teenagers a century later. They are worn in every
state by people of all ages and social classes. Along with
mass-marketed informal wear in general, blue jeans are arguably one of
US culture's primary contributions to global fashion.
Though informal dress is more common, certain professionals, such as
bankers and lawyers, traditionally dress formally for work, and some
occasions, such as weddings, funerals, dances, and some parties,
typically call for formal wear.
Main article: Sports in the United States
Since 1820, American schools focused on gymnastics, hygiene training,
and care and development of the human body.[dubious
– discuss] In the 1800s, colleges were encouraged to focus on
intramural sports, particularly track, field, and, in the late 1800s,
American football. Physical education was incorporated into primary
school curriculums in the 20th century.
Baseball diamond as seen from the stadium.
Baseball is the oldest of the major American team sports. Professional
baseball dates from 1869 and had no close rivals in popularity until
the 1960s. Though baseball is no longer the most popular sport, it
is still referred to as "the national pastime." Also unlike the
professional levels of the other popular spectator sports in the U.S.,
Baseball teams play almost every day. The Major League
Baseball regular season consists of each of the 30 teams playing 162
games from April to September. The season ends with the postseason and
World Series in October.
The opening of
College football season is a major part of American
pastime. Massive marching bands, cheerleaders, and colorguard are
American football games.
American football, known in the
United States as simply "football,"
now attracts more television viewers than any other sport and is
considered to be the most popular sport in the United States. The
National Football League
National Football League (NFL) is the most popular
American football league. The National Football League
differs from the other three major pro sports leagues in that each of
its 32 teams plays one game a week over 17 weeks, for a total of 16
games with one bye week for each team. The NFL season lasts from
September to December, ending with the playoffs and
Super Bowl in
January and February. Its championship game, the Super Bowl, has often
been the highest rated television show, and it has an audience of over
100 million viewers annually.
College football also attracts audiences of millions. Some
communities, particularly in rural areas, place great emphasis on
their local high school football team.
American football games usually
include cheerleaders and marching bands, which aim to raise school
spirit and entertain the crowd at halftime.
Basketball is another major sport, represented professionally by the
Basketball Association. It was invented in Springfield,
Massachusetts in 1891, by Canadian-born physical education teacher
College basketball is also popular, due in large part
to the NCAA men's Division I basketball tournament in March, also
known as "March Madness."
Ice hockey is the fourth leading professional team sport. Always a
Great Lakes and New England-area culture, the sport gained
tenuous footholds in regions like the
American South since the early
1990s, as the
National Hockey League
National Hockey League pursued a policy of
Lacrosse is a team sport of American and Canadian Native American
origin and is the fastest growing sport in the United States.
Lacrosse is most popular in the East Coast area. NLL and MLL are the
national box and outdoor lacrosse leagues, respectively, and have
increased their following in recent years. Also, many of the top
Division I college lacrosse teams draw upwards of 7–10,000 for a
game, especially in the Mid-Atlantic and
New England areas.
Soccer is very popular as a participation sport, particularly among
youth, and the US national teams are competitive internationally. A
twenty-team professional league, Major League Soccer, plays from March
to October, but its television audience and overall popularity lag
behind other American professional sports.
NASCAR is the most watched auto racing series in the United States.
Boxing and horse racing were once[when?] the most watched individual
sports, but they have been eclipsed by golf and auto racing,
particularly NASCAR. Other popular sports are tennis,
softball, rodeo, swimming, water polo, fencing, shooting sports,
hunting, volleyball, skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, Ultimate,
Disc golf, cycling, MMA, roller derby, wrestling, weightlifting and
Relative to other parts of the world, the
United States is unusually
competitive in women's sports, a fact usually attributed to the Title
IX antidiscrimination law, which requires most American colleges to
give equal funding to men's and women's sports. Despite that,
however, women's sports are not nearly as popular among spectators as
United States enjoys a great deal of success both in the Summer
Olympics and Winter Olympics, constantly finishing among the top medal
Sports and community culture
Homecoming parade at Texas A&M University–Commerce in 2013
Homecoming is an annual tradition of the United States. People, towns,
high schools and colleges come together, usually in late September or
early October, to welcome back former residents and alumni. It is
built around a central event, such as a banquet, a parade, and most
often, a game of American football, or, on occasion, basketball,
wrestling or ice hockey. When celebrated by schools, the activities
vary. However, they usually consist of a football game, played on the
school's home football field, activities for students and alumni, a
parade featuring the school's marching band and sports teams, and the
coronation of a
American high schools commonly field football, basketball, baseball,
softball, volleyball, soccer, golf, swimming, track and field, and
cross-country teams as well.
Main article: Cuisine of the United States
Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
The cuisine of the
United States is extremely diverse, owing to the
vastness of the continent, the relatively large population (1/3 of a
billion people) and the number of native and immigrant influences.
Mainstream American culinary arts are similar to those in other
Western countries. Wheat and corn are the primary cereal grains.
Traditional American cuisine uses ingredients such as turkey,
potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, and maple syrup, indigenous
foods employed by American Indians and early European settlers,
African slaves and their descendants.
The types of food served at home vary greatly and depend upon the
region of the country and the family's own cultural heritage. Recent
immigrants tend to eat food similar to that of their country of
origin, and Americanized versions of these cultural foods, such as
American Chinese cuisine,
Tex-Mex (Mexican-American cuisine) or
Italian-American cuisine often eventually appear; an example is
Korean cuisine and Thai cuisine. German cuisine
has a profound impact on American cuisine, especially mid-western
cuisine; potatoes, noodles, roasts, stews, cakes, and other pastries
are the most iconic ingredients in both cuisines. Dishes such as
the hamburger, pot roast, baked ham, and hot dogs are examples of
American dishes derived from German cuisine.
Apple pie is one of a number of American cultural icons.
Different regions of the
United States have their own cuisine and
styles of cooking. The states of Louisiana and Mississippi, for
example, is known for its Cajun and Creole cooking. Cajun and Creole
cooking are influenced by French, Acadian, and Haitian cooking,
although the dishes themselves are original and unique. Examples
include Crawfish Etouffee, Red Beans and Rice, Seafood or Chicken
Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Boudin. Italian, German, Hungarian and Chinese
influences, traditional Native American, Caribbean, Mexican and Greek
dishes have also diffused into the general American repertoire. It is
not uncommon for a "middle-class" family from "middle America" to eat,
for example, restaurant pizza, home-made pizza, enchiladas con carne,
chicken paprikas, beef stroganof and bratwurst with sauerkraut for
dinner throughout a single week.
Soul food, mostly the same as food eaten by white southerners,
developed by southern African slaves, and their free descendants, is
popular around the South and among many African-
Syncretic cuisines such as Louisiana creole, Cajun, Pennsylvania
Tex-Mex are regionally important. Iconic American dishes
such as apple pie, fried chicken, pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs
derive from the recipes of various immigrants and domestic
innovations. French fries, Mexican dishes such as burritos and tacos,
and pasta dishes freely adapted from Italian sources are consumed.
Americans generally prefer coffee to tea, and more than half the adult
population drinks at least one cup a day. Marketing by U.S.
industries is largely responsible for making orange juice and milk
(now often fat-reduced) ubiquitous breakfast beverages. During the
1980s and 1990s, Americans' caloric intake rose 24%; frequent
dining at fast food outlets is associated with what health officials
call the American "obesity epidemic." Highly sweetened soft drinks are
popular; sugared beverages account for 9% of the average American's
daily caloric intake.
Hamburgers, fries, and doughnuts are considered American
Some representative American foods
Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes,
and cranberry sauce.
New England chowder, traditionally made with clams and
Caesar salad containing croutons, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice,
olive oil, Worcestershire, and pepper.
Jambalaya with shrimp, ham, tomato, and Andouille sausage.
Chicken Fried Steak
Chicken Fried Steak (alternatively known as Country Fried Steak)
California club pizza with avocados and tomatoes.
A submarine sandwich, which includes a variety of Italian luncheon
American style breakfast with pancakes, maple syrup, sausage links,
bacon strips, and fried eggs.
A hot dog sausage topped with beef chili, white onions and mustard.
A barbecue pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw as the side dish.
A meatloaf with a tomato sauce topping.
An apple cobbler dessert.
Further information: Family structure in the United States
American family structure
American family structure has no particular household arrangement
being prevalent enough to be identified as the average.
Family arrangements in the
United States reflect the nature of
contemporary American society, as they always have. Although the
nuclear family concept (two-married adults with biological children)
holds a special place in the mindset of Americans, it is single-parent
families, childless couples, and fused families which now constitute
the majority of families. A person may grow up in a
single-parent family, go on to marry and live in childless couple
arrangement, then get divorced, live as a single for a couple of
years, remarry, have children and live in a nuclear family
The nuclear family... is the idealized version of what most people
think when they think of "family..." The old definition of what a
family is... the nuclear family- no longer seems adequate to cover the
wide diversity of household arrangements we see today, according to
many social scientists (Edwards 1991; Stacey 1996). Thus has arisen
the term postmodern family, which is meant to describe the great
variability in family forms, including single-parent families and
child-free couples.- Brian K. Williams, Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M.
Wahlstrom, Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships, 2005.
Married couples (52.5%)
Other blood relatives
Single-parent households are households consisting of a single adult
(most often a woman) and one or more children. In the single-parent
household, one parent typically raises the children with little to no
help at all, from the other. This parent is the sole "breadwinner" of
the family and thus, these households are particularly vulnerable
economically. They have higher rates of poverty, and children of these
households are more likely to have educational problems.[citation
Other changes to the landscape of American family arrangements include
dual-income earner households and delayed independence among American
youths. Whereas most families in the 1950s and 1960s relied on one
income earner, most commonly the husband, the vast majority of family
households now have two-income earners.[clarification
Another change is the increasing age at which young
their parental home. Traditionally, a person past "college age" who
lived with their parent(s) was viewed negatively, but today it is not
uncommon for children to live with their parents until their
mid-twenties. This trend can be mostly attributed to rising living
costs that are more expensive compared to those in decades past. Thus,
many young adults now remain with their parents well past their
mid-twenties. This topic was a cover article of TIME magazine in
Exceptions to the custom of leaving home in one's mid-twenties can
occur especially among Italian and Hispanic Americans, and in
expensive urban real estate markets such as New York City,
California, and Honolulu, where monthly rents commonly exceed
$1,000 a month.
This section needs expansion with: material about housing pre-World
War II. You can help by adding to it. (August 2016)
American Foursquare was a popular house style from the late 19th
century until the 1930s.
Americans mainly lived in a rural environment, with a
few important cities of moderate size. Following World War II,
however, increasing numbers of
Americans began living in the suburbs,
belts around major cities with higher density than rural areas, but
much lower than urban areas. This move has been attributed to many
factors such as the automobile, the availability of large tracts of
land, the convenience of more and longer paved roads, increasing
violence in urban centers (see white flight), and the lower expense of
An upscale home in Salinas, California.
These new single-family houses were usually one or two stories tall,
and often were part of large contracts of homes built by a single
developer and often with little variation (sometimes referred to as
cookie cutter houses or homes). Houses were separated. The resulting
low-density development was given the pejorative label urban
This has changed;[how?][when?] white flight has reversed, as Yuppies
and upper-middle-class, empty nest
Baby Boomers return to urban
living, usually in condominiums, such as in New York City's Lower East
Side, Chicago's South Loop and Miami's
Brickell Neighborhood. The
result has been the displacement of many poorer, inner-city
American cities with housing prices near the national median have also
been losing the middle income neighborhoods, those with median income
between 80% and 120% of the metropolitan area's median household
income. Here, the more affluent members of the middle-class, who are
also often referred to as being professional or upper middle-class,
have left in search of larger homes in more exclusive suburbs. This
trend is largely attributed to the Middle-class squeeze, which has
caused a starker distinction between the statistical middle class and
the more privileged members of the middle class. In more expensive
areas such as California, however, another trend has been taking place
where an influx of more affluent middle-class households has displaced
those in the actual middle of society and converted former
middle-middle-class neighborhoods into upper-middle-class
The population of rural areas has been declining over time as more and
more people migrate to cities for work and entertainment. The great
exodus from the farms came in the 1940s; in recent years fewer than 2%
of the population lives on farms (though others live in the
countryside and commute to work). Electricity and telephones, and
sometimes cable and
Internet services are available to all but the
most remote regions.
Suburban tract housing in
Northern Kentucky near Cincinnati, Ohio
About half of
Americans now live in what is known as the suburbs. The
suburban nuclear family has been identified as part of the "American
Dream": a married couple with children owning a house in the suburbs.
This archetype is reinforced by mass media, religious practices, and
government policies and is based on traditions from Anglo-Saxon
cultures. One of the biggest differences in suburban living as
compared to urban living; is the housing occupied by the families. The
suburbs are filled with single-family homes separated from retail
districts, industrial areas, and sometimes even public schools.
However, many American suburbs are incorporating these districts on
smaller scales, attracting more people to these communities.[citation
Housing in urban areas may include more apartments and semi-attached
homes than in the suburbs or small towns. Aside from housing, the
major differences from suburban living are the density and diversity
of many different subcultures, and retail and manufacturing buildings
mixed with housing in urban areas.
Automobiles and commuting
Further information: Technological and industrial history of the
United States and Passenger vehicles in the United States
"Pony car": 1965
Ford Mustang "fastback", introduced in September 1964
for the 1965 model year
Due to the low overall population density and urban sprawl, the United
States is one of the few developed nations where most people commute
The rise of suburbs and the need for workers to commute to cities
brought about the popularity of automobiles. In 2001, 90% of Americans
drove to work by car. Lower energy and land costs favor the
production of relatively large, powerful cars. The culture in the
1950s and 1960s often catered to the automobile with motels and
drive-in restaurants. Outside of the relatively few urban areas, it is
considered a necessity for most
Americans to own and drive cars. New
City is the only locality in the
United States where more than
half of all households do not own a car.
In the 1950s and 1960s subcultures began to arise around the
modification and racing of American automobiles and converting them
into hot rods. Later, in the late-1960s and early-1970s Detroit
manufacturers began making muscle cars and pony cars to cater to the
needs of wealthier
Americans seeking hot rod style, performance and
Social class and work
Main article: Social class in the United States
Lady Justice Shelby County Courthouse, Memphis, Tennessee, United
Americans in the 21st century identify themselves as
middle class, American society and its culture are considerably
fragmented. Social class, generally described as a
combination of educational attainment, income and occupational
prestige, is one of the greatest cultural influences in America.
Nearly all cultural aspects of mundane interactions and consumer
behavior in the U.S. are guided by a person's location within the
country's social structure.
Distinct lifestyles, consumption patterns and values are associated
with different classes. Early sociologist-economist Thorstein Veblen,
for example, said that those at the very top of the social ladder
engage in conspicuous leisure and conspicuous consumption.
Upper-middle-class persons commonly identify education and being
cultured as prime values. Persons in this particular social class tend
to speak in a more direct manner that projects authority, knowledge
and thus credibility. They often tend to engage in the consumption of
so-called mass luxuries, such as designer label clothing. A strong
preference for natural materials and organic foods and a strong health
consciousness tend to be prominent features of the upper middle class.
American middle-class individuals in general value expanding one's
horizon, partially because they are more educated and can afford
greater leisure and travels. Working-class individuals take great
pride in doing what they consider to be "real work" and keep very
close-knit kin networks that serve as a safeguard against frequent
Hours worked in different countries according to UN data in a CNN
Americans and many of those in the middle class may also
face occupation alienation. In contrast to upper-middle-class
professionals who are mostly hired to conceptualize, supervise, and
share their thoughts, many
Americans have little autonomy or creative
latitude in the workplace. As a result, white collar professionals
tend to be significantly more satisfied with their work. More
recently,[when?] those in the center of the income strata, who may
still identify as middle class, have faced increasing economic
insecurity, supporting the idea of a working-class majority.
Political behavior is affected by class; more affluent individuals are
more likely to vote, and education and income affect whether
individuals tend to vote for the Democratic or Republican party.
Income also had a significant impact on health as those with higher
incomes had better access to health care facilities, higher life
expectancy, lower infant mortality rate and increased health
consciousness. This is particularly noticeable with
black voters who are often socially conservative, yet overwhelmingly
United States occupation is one of the prime factors of social
class and is closely linked to an individual's identity. The average
work week in the U.S. for those employed full-time was 42.9 hours long
with 30% of the population working more than 40 hours a week. The
Average American worker earned $16.64 an hour in the first two
quarters of 2006. Overall
Americans worked more than their
counterparts in other developed post-industrial nations. While the
average worker in
Denmark enjoyed 30 days of vacation annually, the
average American had 16 annual vacation days.
In 2000 the average American worked 1,978 hours per year, 500 hours
more than the average German, yet 100 hours less than the average
Czech. Overall the U.S. labor force is one of the most productive in
the world, largely due to its workers working more than those in any
other post-industrial country (excluding South Korea). Americans
generally hold working and being productive in high regard; being busy
and working extensively may also serve as the means to obtain
Race and ancestry
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to
reflect recent events or newly available information. (August 2013)
Main article: Race in the United States
The plurality (not majority) ethnic background in each county in the
US in 2000:
German English Norwegian Dutch Finnish Irish French Italian
African American Puerto Rican
Race in the
United States is based on physical characteristics &
skin color and has played an essential part in shaping American
society even before the nation's conception. Until the civil rights
movement of the 1960s, racial minorities in the
United States faced
institutionalized discrimination and both social and economic
marginalization. Today the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of
the Census recognizes four races, Native American or American Indian,
African American, Asian and White (European American). According to
the U.S. government, Hispanic
Americans do not constitute a race, but
rather an ethnic group. During the 2000 U.S. Census, Whites made up
75.1% of the population; those who are Hispanic or Latino constituted
the nation's prevalent minority with 12.5% of the population. African
Americans made up 12.3% of the total population, 3.6% were Asian
American and 0.7% were Native American.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the
United States Constitution—ratified
on Dec 6, 1865—abolished slavery in the United States. The northern
states had outlawed slavery in their territory in the late-eighteenth
and early-nineteenth century, though their industrial economies relied
on raw materials produced by slaves. Following the Reconstruction
period in the 1870s, racist legislation emerged in the Southern states
Jim Crow laws
Jim Crow laws that provided for legal segregation. Lynching
was practiced throughout the U.S., including in the Northern states,
until the 1930s, while continuing well into the civil rights movement
in the South.
Americans were earlier marginalized as well during a
significant proportion of U.S. history. Between 1882-1943 the United
States instituted the
Chinese Exclusion Act
Chinese Exclusion Act barring all Chinese
immigrants from entering the United States. During the Second World
War, roughly 120,000 Japanese Americans, 62% of whom were U.S.
citizens, were imprisoned in Japanese internment camps by the U.S.
government following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, an American Military
Base, by Japanese troops.
American children of many ethnic backgrounds celebrate noisily in a
1902 Puck cartoon.
Due to exclusion from or marginalization by earlier mainstream
society, there emerged a unique subculture among the racial minorities
in the United States. During the 1920s,
Harlem, New York
Harlem, New York became home
to the Harlem Renaissance. Music styles such as jazz, blues, rap, rock
and roll, and numerous folk-songs such as
Blue Tail Fly (Jimmy Crack
Corn) originated within the realms of African-American culture, and
were later adopted by the mainstream. Chinatowns can be found in
many cities across the country and Asian cuisine has become a common
staple in mainstream America. The Hispanic community has also had a
dramatic impact on American culture. Today, Catholics are the largest
religious denomination in the
United States and outnumber Protestants
in the Southwest and California. Mariachi music and Mexican
cuisine are commonly found throughout the Southwest, and some Latin
dishes, such as burritos and tacos, are found practically everywhere
in the nation.
Economic variance and substantive segregation, is commonplace in the
United States. Asian
Americans have median household income and
educational attainment exceeding that of other races. African
Americans, Hispanics and Native
Americans have considerably lower
income and education than do White
Americans or Asian
Americans. In 2005, the median household income of Whites was
62.5% higher than that of African Americans, nearly one-quarter of
whom live below the poverty line. 46.9% of homicide victims in the
United States are African-American.
Median household income along ethnic lines in the United States
After the attacks by Muslim terrorists on September 11, 2001,
discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. rose
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
reported an increase in hate speech, cases of airline discrimination,
hate crimes, police misconduct, and racial profiling.
Death and funerals
This section may stray from the topic of the article. Please help
improve this section or discuss this issue on the talk page. (January
Mount Auburn Cemetery
It is customary for
Americans to hold a wake in a funeral home within
a couple days of the death of a loved one. The body of the deceased
may be embalmed and dressed in fine clothing if there will be an
open-casket viewing. Traditional Jewish and Muslim practice include a
ritual bath and no embalming. Friends, relatives and acquaintances
gather, often from distant parts of the country, to "pay their last
respects" to the deceased. Flowers are brought to the coffin and
sometimes eulogies, elegies, personal anecdotes or group prayers are
recited. Otherwise, the attendees sit, stand or kneel in quiet
contemplation or prayer. Kissing the corpse on the forehead is typical
among Italian Americans and others.
Condolences are also offered
to the widow or widower and other close relatives.
Tomb of the Unknowns
Tomb of the Unknowns crack can be seen underneath the words "An
American" and above the word "Soldier."
A funeral may be held immediately afterwards or the next day. The
funeral ceremony varies according to religion and culture. American
Catholics typically hold a funeral mass in a church, which sometimes
takes the form of a
Requiem mass. Jewish
Americans may hold a service
in a synagogue or temple. Pallbearers carry the coffin of the deceased
to the hearse, which then proceeds in a procession to the place of
final repose, usually a cemetery. The unique
Jazz funeral of New
Orleans features joyous and raucous music and dancing during the
Mount Auburn Cemetery
Mount Auburn Cemetery (founded in 1831) is known as "America's first
garden cemetery." American cemeteries created since are
distinctive for their park-like setting. Rows of graves are covered by
lawns and are interspersed with trees and flowers. Headstones,
mausoleums, statuary or simple plaques typically mark off the
Cremation is another common practice in the United
States, though it is frowned upon by various religions. The ashes of
the deceased are usually placed in an urn, which may be kept in a
private house, or they are interred. Sometimes the ashes are released
into the atmosphere. The "sprinkling" or "scattering" of the ashes may
be part of an informal ceremony, often taking place at a scenic
natural feature (a cliff, lake or mountain) that was favored by the
A so-called death industry has developed in the
United States that has
replaced earlier, more informal traditions. Before the popularity of
funeral homes, people usually held wakes in the
Parlour rooms of
private houses.
Marriage and divorce
Main articles: Marriage in the
United States and
Divorce in the United
See also: Cohabitation in the United States
Marilyn Monroe signing divorce papers with celebrity attorney Jerry
Marriage laws are established by individual states. The typical
wedding involves a couple proclaiming their commitment to one another
in front of their close relatives and friends, often presided over by
a religious figure such as a minister, priest, or rabbi, depending
upon the faith of the couple. In traditional Christian ceremonies, the
bride's father will "give away" (hand off) the bride to the groom.
Secular weddings are also common, often presided over by a judge,
Justice of the Peace, or other municipal official. Same-sex marriage
is legal in all states.
Polygamy is universally banned.
Divorce is the province of state governments, so divorce law varies
from state to state. Prior to the 1970s, divorcing spouses had to
allege that the other spouse was guilty of a crime or sin like
abandonment or adultery; when spouses simply could not get along,
lawyers were forced to manufacture "uncontested" divorces. The
no-fault divorce revolution began in 1969 in California; New York and
South Dakota were the last states to begin allowing no-fault divorce.
No-fault divorce on the grounds of "irreconcilable differences" is now
available in all states. However, many states have recently required
separation periods prior to a formal divorce decree.
State law provides for child support where children are involved, and
sometimes for alimony. "Married adults now divorce two-and-a-half
times as often as adults did 20 years ago and four times as often as
they did 50 years ago... between 40% and 60% of new marriages will
eventually end in divorce. The probability within... the first five
years is 20%, and the probability of its ending within the first 10
years is 33%... Perhaps 25% of children ages 16 and under live with a
stepparent." The median length for a marriage in the U.S. today is
11 years with 90% of all divorces being settled out of court.
Main articles: Racism,
Racism in the United States, and Race in the
Internment of Japanese
Americans forced relocation and incarceration
in camps in the interior of the country of between 110,000 and 120,000
people of Japanese ancestry who lived on the Pacific coast. Sixty-two
percent of the internees were
United States citizens.
Americans (non-Hispanic/Latino and Hispanic/Latino) are the
racial majority and have a 72% share of the U.S. population, according
to the 2010 US Census. Hispanic and Latino
Americans comprise 15%
of the population, making up the largest ethnic minority. Black
Americans are the largest racial minority, comprising nearly 13% of
the population. The White, non-Hispanic or Latino population
comprises 63% of the nation's total.
U.S. circuit judges Robert A. Katzmann, Damon J. Keith, and Sonia
Sotomayor at a 2004 exhibit on the Fourteenth Amendment, Thurgood
Marshall, and Brown v. Board of Education
A man holding a sign that reads "deport all Iranians" and "get the
hell out of my country" during a protest of the
Iran hostage crisis
Iran hostage crisis in
Washington, D.C. in 1979.
Throughout most of the country's history following independence from
Great Britain, the majority race in the
United States has been
Caucasian, and the largest racial minority has been African-Americans.
This relationship has historically been the most important one since
the founding of the United States. Currently, most African-Americans
are descendants of African slaves imported to the United States,
though some are more recent immigrants or their descendants. Slavery
existed in the
United States at the time of the country's formation in
the 1770s. The U.S. banned importation of slaves in 1808. Slavery was
partially abolished by the
Emancipation Proclamation issued by
Abraham Lincoln in 1862 for slaves in the Southeastern
United States during the Civil War. Slavery was rendered illegal by
the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States
Jim Crow Laws
Jim Crow Laws prevented full use of African American
citizenship until the 20th century. The
Civil Rights Movement in the
1960s and the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed official or legal
segregation in public places or limited access to minorities.
Relations between white
Americans and other racial or ethnic groups
have been a source of tension at various times in U.S. history. With
the advent of European colonization, and continuing into the early
years of the republic, relations between whites and Native American
was a significant issue. In 1882, in response to Chinese immigration
due to the Gold Rush and the labor needed for the Transcontinental
Railroad, the U.S. signed into law the
Chinese Exclusion Act
Chinese Exclusion Act which
banned immigration by Chinese people into the U.S. In the late 19th
century, the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S., fueled
largely by Mexican immigration, generated debate over policies such as
English as the official language and reform to immigration policies.
A huge majority of
Americans of all races disapprove of racism.
Americans continue to hold negative racial/ethnic
stereotypes about various racial and ethnic groups. Professor Imani
Perry, of Princeton University, has argued that contemporary racism in
United States "is frequently unintentional or unacknowledged on
the part of the actor", believing that racism mostly stems
unconsciously from below the level of cognition.
Drugs and alcohol
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improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
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Further information: History of
United States drug prohibition
"Just Say No" paraphernalia at the Reagan Library display
American attitudes towards drugs and alcoholic beverages have evolved
considerably throughout the country's history. In the 19th century,
alcohol was readily available and consumed, and no laws restricted the
use of other drugs. Attitudes on drug addiction started to change,
resulting in the Harrison Act, which eventually became proscriptive.
A movement to ban alcoholic beverages, called the Temperance movement,
emerged in the late 19th century. Several American Protestant
religious groups and women's groups, such as the Women's Christian
Temperance Union, supported the movement. In 1919, Prohibitionists
succeeded in amending the Constitution to prohibit the sale of
alcohol. Although the Prohibition period did result in lowering
alcohol consumption overall, banning alcohol outright
proved to be unworkable, as the previously legitimate distillery
industry was replaced by criminal gangs that trafficked in alcohol.
Prohibition was repealed in 1933. States and localities retained the
right to remain "dry", and to this day, a handful still do.
Vietnam War era, attitudes swung well away from
prohibition. Commentators noted that an 18-year-old could be drafted
to war but could not buy a beer.
Since 1980, the trend has been toward greater restrictions on alcohol
and drug use. The focus this time, however, has been to criminalize
behaviors associated with alcohol, rather than attempt to prohibit
consumption outright. New York was the first state to enact tough
drunk-driving laws in 1980; since then all other states have followed
suit. All states have also banned the purchase of alcoholic beverages
by individuals under 21.
Just Say No
Just Say No to Drugs" movement replaced the more liberal ethos of
the 1960s. This led to stricter drug laws and greater police latitude
in drug cases. Drugs are, however, widely available, and 16% of
Americans 12 and older used an illicit drug in 2012.
Since the 1990s, marijuana use has become increasingly tolerated in
America, and a number of states allow the use of marijuana for medical
purposes. In most states marijuana is still illegal without medical
prescription. Since the 2012 general election, voters in the District
of Columbia and the states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine,
Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington approved the
legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
classified as illegal under federal law.
De Tocqueville first noted, in 1835, the American attitude towards
helping others in need. A 2011
Charities Aid Foundation
Charities Aid Foundation study found
Americans were the first most willing to help a stranger and
donate time and money in the world at 60%. Many low-level crimes are
punished by assigning hours of "community service", a requirement that
the offender perform volunteer work; some high schools also
require community service to graduate. Since US citizens are required
to attend jury duty, they can be jurors in legal proceedings.
United States Armed Forces, U.S. Soldier's Creed,
Culture of the
United States Army,
Culture of the United
Culture of the
United States Air Force,
Culture of the
United States Army Air Forces, and
Culture of the
United States Marine
Service members of the U.S. at an
American football event, L-R: U.S.
Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Army personnel.
From the time of its inception the military played a decisive role in
the history of the United States. A sense of national unity and
identity was forged out of the victorious First Barbary War, Second
Barbary War, and the War of 1812. Even so, the Founders were
suspicious of a permanent military force and not until the outbreak of
World War II
World War II did a large standing army become officially established.
The National Security Act of 1947, adopted following
World War II
World War II and
during the onset of the Cold War, created the modern U.S. military
framework; the Act merged previously Cabinet-level Department of War
and the Department of the Navy into the National Military
Establishment (renamed the Department of Defense in 1949), headed by
the Secretary of Defense; and created the Department of the Air Force
and National Security Council.
The U.S. military is one of the largest militaries in terms of number
of personnel. It draws its manpower from a large pool of paid
volunteers; although conscription has been used in the past in various
times of both war and peace, it has not been used since 1972. As of
United States spends about $550 billion annually to
fund its military forces, and appropriates approximately
$160 billion to fund Overseas Contingency Operations. Put
United States constitutes roughly 43 percent of the
world's military expenditures. The U.S. armed forces as a whole
possess large quantities of advanced and powerful equipment, along
with widespread placement of forces around the world, giving them
significant capabilities in both defense and power projection.
There is and has been a strong military culture among those on active
duty, those in the Reserve and National Guard, those retired from the
military, and honorably discharged veterans who never served long
enough on active duty and/or in the Reserve or National Guard to
qualify for military retirement pay and benefits.
Main article: Gun culture in the United States
Navy Junior ROTC cadets from Hamilton High School, Ohio, practice
marksmanship at the Fire Arms Training Simulator at the Naval Station
In sharp contrast to most other developed nations, firearms laws in
United States are permissive and private gun ownership is common;
almost half of American households contain at least one firearm.
In fact, there are more privately owned firearms in the United States
than in any other country, both per capita and in total. Just as
freedom of religion is considered to be guaranteed by the First
Amendment, considerable freedom to possess firearms is often
considered by the people and the courts to be guaranteed by the Second
Civilians in the
United States possess about 42% of the global
inventory of privately owned firearms. Rates of gun ownership
vary significantly by region and by state; gun ownership is most
common in Alaska, the Mountain States, and the South, and least
prevalent in Hawaii, the island territories, California, and the
Northeast megalopolis. Gun ownership tends to be more common in rural
than in urban areas.
Hunting, plinking and target shooting are popular pastimes, although
ownership of firearms for purely utilitarian purposes such as personal
protection is common as well. In fact, personal protection was the
most common reason given for gun ownership in a 2013 Gallup poll of
gun owners, at 60%. Ownership of handguns, while not uncommon, is
less common than ownership of long guns. Gun ownership is considerably
more prevalent among men than among women; men are approximately four
times more likely than women to report owning guns.
In the federal government of the United States, responsibilities that
are usually in a cultural minister's portfolio elsewhere are divided
among the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the
Federal Communications Commission, the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of
the Interior, the U.S. Department of State, the National Endowment for
the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S.
Commission of Fine Arts, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian
Institution, and the National Gallery of Art. However, many state and
city governments have a department dedicated to cultural affairs.
The Hollywood cinema industry has been very influential on American
culture, and to some extent in global culture through transmission of
American movies overseas and as other film cultures like Bollywood
have striven to emulate the American model.
United States has influenced the cultures of many other countries,
but as countries around the world become more inter-connected and
inter-dependent, the general cultural trends (of the US and other
countries) head towards multiculturalism and sociocultural
1950s American automobile culture
Culture of the Southern United States
Etiquette in North America
Folklore of the United States
Philanthropy in the United States
Stereotypes of Americans
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