North America, the third largest continent; 24 million km2, 520 million residents (2006). According to ABBREVIATIONFINDER, 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 Countryaah – 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.
|Independent states||Capital city||Population (1000) approximately 1997||Area (km2)|
|Antigua and Barbuda||St. John’s||64||442|
|Costa Rica||San José||3370||51100|
|Dominican Rep.||Santo Domingo||8090||48440|
|El Salvador||San Salvador||5790||21041|
|St. Christopher and Nevis||Basseterre||45||262|
|St. Vincent and the Grenadines||Kingstown||118||389|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Port of Spain||1270||5124|
|Anguilla (GB)||The Valley||11||96|
|British Virgin Islands||Road Town||18||130|
|Cayman Islands (GB)||George Town||35||259|
|Puerto Rico (USA)||San Juan||3800||9104|
|St. Pierre and Miquelon (F)||St. Pierre||7||242|
|Turks and Caicos Islands (GB)||Grand Turk||14||497|
|US Virgin Islands||Charlotte Amalie||97||342|
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, NAFTA.