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U.S. Virgin Islands

Facts & Figures


Status: Territory

Governor: Kenneth Mapp (2015)

Capital (2010 est.): Charlotte Amalie (on St. Thomas), 18,481

Land area: 135 sq mi (349 sq km); total area: 136 sq mi (352 sq km)

Population (2014 est.): 104,170 (growth rate: –0.56%); birth rate: 10.49/1000; infant mortality rate: 6.79/1000; life expectancy: 79.75; density per sq mi: 804

Languages: English 74.7%, Spanish or Spanish Creole 16.8%, French or French Creole 6.6%, other 1.9%

Ethnicity/race: black 76.2%, white 13.1%, Asian 1.1%, other 6.1%, mixed 3.5%

Religions: Protestant 59% (Baptist 42%, Episcopalian 17%), Roman Catholic 34%, other 7%

Literacy rate: 90-95% (2005 est.)

Monetary unit: U.S. dollar

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Major sources and definitions

The Virgin Islands, consisting of nine main islands and some 75 islets, were explored by Columbus in 1493. They were originally inhabited by the Carib Indians. Since 1666, England has held six of the main islands; the remaining three (St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John), as well as about 50 of the islets, were eventually acquired by Denmark, which named them the Danish West Indies. In 1917, these islands were purchased by the U.S. from Denmark for $25 million.

Congress granted U.S. citizenship to Virgin Islanders in 1927. Universal suffrage was given in 1936 to all persons who could read and write English. The governor was elected by popular vote for the first time in 1970; previously he had been appointed by the U.S. president. A unicameral 15-person legislature serves the Virgin Islands, and congressional legislation gave the islands a nonvoting representative in Congress. Residents of the islands substantially enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by mainlanders, but they may not vote in presidential elections.

Tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for most of the GDP and 70% of employment. All goods made in the Virgin Islands qualify for duty-free entry into the United States.

See also Encyclopedia: Virgin Islands .

U.S. Territories and Outlying Areas

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