How Many States Are There In The United States - 50 or 52?
How Many States Are There in the United States?

Located in North America, the United States of America (the US) is roughly the same size as Europe. The country is subdivided into states, territories, and minor islands. States are the major subdivisions and are bestowed several powers and responsibilities by the US Constitution.

What are the official definitions? How many states in total?

Geographically (and as a general reference), the United States of America includes all areas considered to be under the sovereignty of the United States but does not include leased areas.

On May 14, 1959, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names issued the following definitions based partially on the Alaska Omnibus Bill, which defined the Continental United States as "the 49 States on the North American Continent and the District of Columbia..." The Board reaffirmed these definitions on May 13, 1999.

United States: The 50 States, plus the District of Columbia – or Washington D.C

Continental United States: The 49 States (including Alaska, excluding Hawaii) are located on the continent of North America, and the District of Columbia.

Conterminous United States: The 48 States and the District of Columbia; that is, the United States prior to January 3, 1959 (Alaska Statehood), wholly filling an unbroken block of territory and excluding Alaska and Hawaii. Although the official reference applies the term "conterminous," many use the word "contiguous," which is almost synonymous and better known.

Number Of States In The US

Currently, the US has 50 states as well as a federal district, minor islands, and five main territories. Of these 50 states, 48 of them are contiguous, that is, they are connected directly. These 48 states all exist in the central region of North America between Mexico and Canada. Examples of these states include Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, Oregon, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. The other two states are Alaska and Hawaii. Alaska lies on the northwestern portion of North America while Hawaii is located on an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean.

- Delaware is the oldest state in the country. It was established on December 7, 1787, and the youngest state is Hawaii which was founded on August 21, 1959.

- The largest state by total area is Alaska with 665,384 square miles while the smallest is the state of Rhode Island with a total area of only 1,545 square miles.

- By population, California is the most populous state with about 39,536,653 people while the least populous state is Wyoming with only 579,315 people.

How Many States Are There In The United States - 50 or 52?
A map showing the United States. Photo: Worldatlas.

What is the 50th state to join the union?

The Admission Act was enacted on March 18, 1959, by Congress, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower then signed a proclamation naming Hawaii as the 50th state on August 21, 1959.

Since then, there have been few attempts to add a 51st state, although Puerto Rico has considered a referendum to become a state.

Hawaii received a big assist from Alaska in its drive toward statehood. It took Alaska 13 years to become a state, with the approval of Congress, after it passed its referendum in the wake of World War II. That came only after Hawaii, which was seen as a GOP-leaning state, was added to the bargain.

Hawaii took a different path because it had a tradition of independence and a Republican presence. There were also southern politicians who were concerned about adding the territory’s multiethnic population to the Union.

The Democrats during the 1950s favored Alaska as the 49th state, while the Republicans wanted Hawaii admitted by itself. The reason for this political investment in the issue of statehood was the face that each new state gets two U.S. senators and at least one new House member, and the admission of a new state can swing votes in Congress.

Two powerful Democratic politicians, Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn, adopted a strategy to get Alaska admitted first, which led to the Republicans to lobby for Hawaii as the 50th state.

How Many People Are There in the United States: Population Today How Many People Are There in the United States: Population Today

The Constitution is vague about the whole process of how a territory becomes a state, delegating the task to Congress. In Article IV, Section 3, Congress is given the power to decide what states and territories are, but state legislatures would have to approve any act that would combine two existing states or form a new state from parts of other states. (So reuniting Pennsylvania and New Jersey, or Virginia and West Virginia, would be a difficult task.)

After Hawaii became the 50th state in August 1959, the controversy over its admission didn’t go away; there are still those in Hawaii who want to see the state become an independent nation again.

Territories of the US

Aside from the 50 states, the US owns 14 territories. Of these territories, only five have permanent civilian populations. These five territories are American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam. All of the territories lie on the Pacific Ocean except for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Navassa Island, and Puerto Rico, which are in the Caribbean. Only the territory of Palmyra Atoll is incorporated, that is, the US constitution is applied fully. Of the 14 territories, ten of them are unorganized (do not have an Organic Act) while the remaining four are organized.

Dependent areas: American Samoa, Baker Island, Guam, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palmyra Atoll, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Wake Island.

Washington, D.C.

As mentioned previously, the US has one federal district that is neither a state nor a territory. The District of Columbia does not have representatives in the Senate although it has representation in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. The US Congress, as outlined in the constitution, has exclusive jurisdiction over the district. However, it has a mayor and council that makes some decisions under the 1973 District of Columbia Home Rule Act, although Congress can intervene and overturn decisions.

READ MORE: How Many People Are There in the United States: Population Today

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