Scientists believe that the first people to populate North America migrated from Asia and are known today as Native Americans. They were followed by the Europeans and Africans. English settlers established 13 colonies, territories separated from but subject to a ruling power. Even- tually, the settlers broke ties with Great Britain to form the United States of America. Canada also ended ties with Great Britain to become a democracy. The physical features of both nations include high mountain chains in the west, plains in the central area, and lower mountains in the east. The Rocky Moun- tains form the continental divide, a boundary that separates rivers flowing toward opposite sides of a continent. The variety of ecosystems includes arctic tun- dra, several types of forests, grasslands, and desert scrub. While Canada has a colder climate than the United States, both countries have climate differences between east and west. The United States has over 275 million people, whereas Canada has approximate- ly 31 million. At least three fourths of people in both countries live in urban areas. The standard of living, a measurement based on available education, housing, health care, and nutrition, is considered high in both nations. Ameri- cans and Canadians have long life expectancies and extensive education sys- tems, which contribute to high rates of literacy, or the ability to read and write. Technological development has made high-tech industries an influential part of both economies. The United States and Canada are two of the world’s largest ener- gy producers and consumers. Although the United States has an abundance of fossil fuels, it still must import energy, whereas Canada is self-sufficient in its energy needs.


1 - Name two features shared by the United States and Canada.
2 - Map Skills: Which oceans border the United States and Canada?

Profile of the United States


The United States is the world’s fourth largest country in area and the third largest in population. It has a higher gross national product (GNP) than any other country. GNP is the total value of goods and services that a country produces in a year. One reason for the wealth of the United States is that it is rich in natural resources. Farmers grow crops on the country’s rich soils. Forests supply lumber for housing, furniture, paper, and other products. Mineral resources include fossil fuels— coal, oil, and natural gas. Other mineral riches include copper gold, lead, titanium, uranium and zinc. The United States built transportation systems to help move raw materials and finished products. In the 1800s, steamboats and canals made water routes faster and cheaper. Later, railroads, automobiles, and an interstate highway system improved travel over land. Communications improved with the invention of the telegraph and telephone. Today people and businesses are commu- nicating using computers, satellites, and other forms of telecommunication, or communication by electronic means. The political system has also been vital to the economic success of the United States. It reflects one of the country’s most important shared values—the belief in individual equality, opportunity, and free- dom. These values are aided by an eco- nomic system of free enterprise, which lets individuals own, operate, and profit from their own businesses.

3 - Name three natural resources that have helped the United States to become wealthy.
4 - Diagram Skills: What four factors have contributed to the economic success of the United States?


The United States is a nation of city dwellers. About 80 percent of the people live in metropolitan areas, cities and their suburbs.The location of a city is important to its growth. But as the nation’s economy changed, so did the factors that made a place a good location.Transportation is one factor. The first U.S. cities were Atlantic Ocean ports, where goods were shipped to and from Europe. As settlers moved inland, they shipped their crops on rivers, and river cities grew. By the mid-1800s, cities were being built along the expanding railroads. Automo- biles gave people more freedom of move- ment. Many people and businesses moved from cities to suburbs, areas on the outer edges of cities.
As transportation improved, people had more choices about where they would live and work. Many people moved to cities in the South and West, where winters are warmer than in the Northeast. Cities like New York and Chicago remained important because of their many jobs and different activities. Farms, towns, and cities all have a part in the nation’s econo- my. Each depends on the others. There is a hierarchy, or rank- ing, of places according to their function. Smaller places serve a small area, while larger cities may serve the entire country and even much of the world.


5 - Why did the first U.S. cities develop near the Atlantic Ocean?
6 - Diagram Skills: Which place serves the smallest area?