North America, the third largest continent; 24 million km2, 520
million residents (2006). The continent includes the mainland and the islands
from the Bering Strait in the west to the Strait of Denmark in the east,
including Central America to the Panama Canal, most of the islands in the
Caribbean and a few in the Atlantic Ocean. In some places, the term North
America is used synonymously with the predominantly English-speaking Anglo -
America (USA and Canada), while Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean are
grouped with South America in the predominantly Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking
Latin America. A table of North American countries, capitals, population and
area can be found on
Countries in North America.
Greenland is thus geographically part of North America, but otherwise closely
linked to Europe.
North America is sparsely populated; most of Greenland and Canada are
uninhabited, and even in the United States, which accounts for more than half of
the continent's population, there are vast wastelands in Alaska and the western
mountain ranges. In Canada, the United States and Mexico, 75% of the population
lives in cities; in Central America and the Caribbean, the degree of
urbanization is smaller and the population density greater, especially in Puerto
Rico and other island states.
||Population (1000) approximately 1997
|Antigua and Barbuda
|St. Christopher and Nevis
|St. Vincent and the Grenadines
|Trinidad and Tobago
||Port of Spain
|British Virgin Islands
|Cayman Islands (GB)
|Puerto Rico (USA)
|St. Pierre and Miquelon (F)
|Turks and Caicos Islands (GB)
|US Virgin Islands
Due to immigration, previously also imports of slaves, population growth has
at times been very large. The combined effect of the massive immigration,
especially to the United States, and the decimation of the native population is
evident in the ethnic composition of the population. Where Indians in
particular, but also Inuit and Aleutians in pre-Columbian times inhabited most
of the continent, these now constitute only a minority in a population that in
the United States and Canada is predominantly of European and to a lesser extent
of Asian and African descent. The largest Native American touches are found in
Central America. The descendants of African slaves dominate several Caribbean
islands, but most African Americans are found in the United States, where the 33
million. blacks represent a significant minority of 12%.
Countries such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic and several Central Americans
belong to the group of poor developing countries. North America thus houses both
some of the world's richest societies and some of the poorest, and even in the
high-income countries the United States and Canada, there is a poor minority of
10-15%. Compared to the USA and Canada, the rest of the countries now have a
significantly higher population growth, and from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico,
Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic have emigrated to major American cities
since the 1950's.
Agriculture is in most places the largest industry in terms of area, but is
otherwise run very differently on the basis of both economic and natural
conditions. Central America and the Caribbean are characterized by
self-sufficient small farms in addition to export-oriented plantations. Opposite
this is the United States' mechanized large-scale agriculture, which is one of
the world's largest suppliers of soy, wheat, maize and beef. Other
market-oriented and capital-intensive farms are found in Canada (especially
wheat) and Mexico (beef cattle).
Forests cover a third of North America, and forestry is of great importance
in the northern coniferous forest region and on several coastal plains, while
fishing is an important occupation in Greenland, Alaska, British Columbia and
the Canadian Atlantic provinces.
North America as a whole is well supplied with metals, hydropower, coal, oil
and natural gas. The largest producers are the United States, Canada and Mexico.
At the same time, however, the United States must supplement production with
overseas imports in addition to supplies from Canada (iron, oil, natural gas,
electricity), Mexico (oil), Trinidad and Tobago (oil) and Jamaica (aluminum).
As the world's leading industrial nation, the United States is a leader in
almost every industry. Through investment and ownership, American companies also
dominate production and trade throughout the continent; after 1959, however, not
in Cuba. Since the 1960's, a large part of wage-heavy production has thus been
moved to free zones, which offer favorable conditions for investors and
increasingly characterize the industry in Central America, the Caribbean and
northern Mexico. Many of the smaller states are also trying to attract capital
through a targeted investment in tourism and offshore banking in varying degrees
of value (Cayman Islands, Bahamas, etc.).
However, the majority of capital movements and trade in North America take
place between the United States, Canada and Mexico, which in 1993 expanded
cooperation with the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement,