U.S. Economy

Those levels of production, consumption, and spending make the U.S. economy by far the largest economy the world has ever

U.S. Economy



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litical, social, and intellectual activity of the nation. Most communication media in the United States are privately owned and operate independently of government control.

The Federal Communications Commission must license all radio and television broadcasting stations in the United States. In 1997, 1,285 television broadcasters were in operation. All states had television stations, and more than 40 percent of the stations were concentrated in nine states: Texas, California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and North Carolina. A rapidly growing number of U.S. households (estimated at 64 million in 1997) subscribed to cable television. An estimated 98.3 percent of U.S. households had at least one television set. Telephone communication changed as cellular phones allowed people to communicate via telephone while away from their homes and businesses or while traveling. There were 69 million cellular phones in use in 1998.

There were 1,489 daily newspapers published in the United States in 1998, 8 fewer than the year before. Daily newspapers had a circulation of approximately 60.1 million copies in 1998. The top daily newspapers in the United States according to circulation were the Wall Street Journal (published in New York City), USA Today (published in Arlington, Virginia), the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, each with a circulation in excess of 1 million. Other leading newspapers included the Washington Post, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Dallas Morning News, the Boston Globe, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Nearly 21,300 periodicals were published in 1997. These ranged from specialized journals reaching only a small number of professionals to major newsmagazines such as Time, with a circulation of 4.1 million a week, and Newsweek, with a circulation of 3.2 million a week. Other mass publications with vast audiences included the weekly TV Guide, reaching 13.2 million readers, and the monthly Readers Digest, with a circulation of 15.1 million copies.


One of the most far-reaching technological advances of the late 20th century took place in the field of computer science. Computers developed from large, cumbersome, and expensive machines to relatively small and affordable devices. The development of the personal computer (PC) in the 1970s made it possible for many individuals to own computers and allowed even small businesses to use computer technology in their operations. The U.S. Bureau of the Census estimates that jobs in the computer industry are growing at the fastest rate of any employment area, with job openings for computer specialists expected to double from 1996 to 2006.

The Internet began in the 1960s as a small network of academic and government computers primarily involved in research for the U.S. military. Originally limited to researchers at a handful of universities and government facilities, the Internet quickly became a worldwide network providing users with information on a range of subjects and allowing them to purchase goods directly from companies via computer. By 1999, 84 million U.S. citizens had access to the Internet at home or work. More and more Americans were paying bills, shopping, ordering airline tickets, and purchasing stocks via computer over the Internet.

This article was written by Michael Watts, with the exception of the Chief Goods and Services of the U.S. Economy section, which he reviewed.


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