Sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the United States government

Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the United States government. The various U.S. territories differ from the U.S. states and Native American tribes in that they are not sovereign entities. (Each state has individual sovereignty by which it delegates powers to the federal government; each federally recognized tribe possesses limited tribal sovereignty as a “dependent sovereign nation”.) They are classified by incorporation and whether they have an “organized” government through an organic act passed by Congress. All U.S. territories are part of the United States (because they are under U.S. sovereignty), but the unincorporated territories are not considered to be integral parts of the United States, and the Constitution of the United States applies only partially in those territories.

The U.S. currently has fourteen territories in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Five territories (American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are permanently inhabited, unincorporated territories; the other nine are small islands, atolls and reefs with no native (or permanent) population. Of the nine, only one is classified as an incorporated territory (Palmyra Atoll). Two additional territories (Bajo Nuevo Bank and Serranilla Bank) are claimed by the United States but administered by Colombia. Territories were created to administer newly acquired land, and most eventually attained statehood. Others, such as the Philippines, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, later became independent.

Many organized incorporated territories of the United States existed from 1789 to 1959. The first were the Northwest and Southwest territories and the last were the Alaska and Hawaii territories. Thirty-one territories (or parts of territories) became states. In the process, some less-populous areas of a territory were orphaned from it after a statehood referendum. When a portion of the Missouri Territory became the state of Missouri, the remainder of the territory (the present-day states of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, most of Kansas, Wyoming, and Montana, and parts of Colorado and Minnesota) became an unorganized territory.

Politically and economically, the territories are underdeveloped. People in U.S. territories cannot vote for the President of the United States, and they do not have full representation in the U.S. Congress. Territorial telecommunications and other infrastructure is generally inferior to that of the continental United States and Hawaii, and American Samoa’s Internet speed was found to be slower than several Eastern European countries. Poverty rates are higher in the territories than in the states

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