Virgin Islands

(territory of the US)

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Background: During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.


Location: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico

Geographic coordinates: 18 20 N, 64 50 W

Map references: Central America and the Caribbean

  total: 352 sq km
  land: 349 sq km
  water: 3 sq km

Area - comparative: twice the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 188 km

Maritime claims
  exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
  territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: subtropical, tempered by easterly trade winds, relatively low humidity, little seasonal temperature variation; rainy season May to November

Terrain: mostly hilly to rugged and mountainous with little level land

Elevation extremes
  lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
  highest point: Crown Mountain 474 m

Natural resources: sun, sand, sea, surf

Land use
  arable land: 15%
  permanent crops: 6%
  permanent pastures: 26%
  forests and woodland: 6%
  other: 47% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: several hurricanes in recent years; frequent and severe droughts and floods; occasional earthquakes

Environment - current issues: lack of natural freshwater resources

Geography - note: important location along the Anegada Passage - a key shipping lane for the Panama Canal; Saint Thomas has one of the best natural, deepwater harbors in the Caribbean


Population: 120,917 (July 2000 est.)

Age structure
  0-14 years: 27.8% (male 17,258; female 16,359)
  15-64 years: 63.72% (male 35,026; female 42,021)
  65 years and over: 8.48% (male 4,435; female 5,818) (2000 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.07% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 15.96 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 5.36 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: 0.12 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio
  at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
  under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
  15-64 years: 0.83 male(s)/female
  65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
  total population: 0.88 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 9.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth
  total population: 78.11 years
  male: 74.2 years
  female: 82.25 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.27 children born/woman (2000 est.)

  noun: Virgin Islander(s)
  adjective: Virgin Islander

Ethnic groups: black 80%, white 15%, other 5% (Note: West Indian (45% born in the Virgin Islands and 29% born elsewhere in the West Indies) 74%, US mainland 13%, Puerto Rican 5%, other 8%)

Religions: Baptist 42%, Roman Catholic 34%, Episcopalian 17%, other 7%

Languages: English (official), Spanish, Creole

  definition: NA
  total population: NA%
  male: NA%
  female: NA%


Country name
  conventional long form: Virgin Islands of the United States
  conventional short form: Virgin Islands
  former: Danish West Indies

Data code: VQ

Dependency status: organized, unincorporated territory of the US with policy relations between the Virgin Islands and the US under the jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department of the Interior

Government type: NA

Capital: Charlotte Amalie

Administrative divisions: none (territory of the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are three islands at the second order; Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas

National holiday: Transfer Day, 31 March (1917) (from Denmark to US)

Constitution: Revised Organic Act of 22 July 1954

Legal system: based on US laws

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal; note - indigenous inhabitants are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections

Executive branch
  chief of state: President William Jefferson CLINTON of the US (since 20 January 1993); Vice President Albert GORE, Jr. (since 20 January 1993)
  head of government: Governor Dr. Charles Wesley TURNBULL (since 5 January 1999) and Lieutenant Governor Gererd LUZ James II (since 5 January 1999)
  cabinet: NA
  elections: US president and vice president elected on the same ticket for four-year terms; governor and lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms; election last held 3 November 1998 (next to be held NA November 2002)
  election results: Dr. Charles Wesley TURNBULL elected governor; percent of vote - Dr. Charles W. TURNBULL (Democrat) 58.9%, former Governor Roy L. SCHNEIDER (ICM) 41.1%

Legislative branch: unicameral Senate (15 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
  elections: last held 3 November 1998 (next to be held NA November 2000)
  election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Democratic Party 6, Republican Party 2, ICM 2, independents 5 (Note: the Virgin Islands elect one representative to the US House of Representatives; election last held 3 November 1998 (next to be held NA November 2000); results - Dr. Donna GREEN (Democrat) 80%, Victor O. FRAZER (ICM) 20%)

Judicial branch: US District Court, judges are appointed by the president; Territorial Court, judges appointed by the governor

Political parties and leaders: Democratic Party [James O'BRYAN, Jr.]; Independent Citizens' Movement or ICM [Virdin C. BROWN]; Republican Party [James OLIVER]

International organization participation: ECLAC (associate), Interpol (subbureau), IOC

Diplomatic representation in the US: none (territory of the US)

Diplomatic representation from the US: none (territory of the US)

Flag description: white, with a modified US coat of arms in the center between the large blue initials V and I; the coat of arms shows a yellow eagle holding an olive branch in one talon and three arrows in the other with a superimposed shield of vertical red and white stripes below a blue panel


Economy - overview: Tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for more than 70% of GDP and 70% of employment. The islands normally host 2 million visitors a year. The manufacturing sector consists of petroleum refining, textile, electronics, pharmaceutical, and watch assembly plants. The agricultural sector is small, with most food being imported. International business and financial services are a small but growing component of the economy. One of the world's largest petroleum refineries is at Saint Croix. The islands are subject to substantial damage from storms.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $1.8 billion (1999 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: NA%

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $15,000 (1999 est.)

GDP - composition by sector
  agriculture: NA%
  industry: NA%
  services: NA%

Population below poverty line: NA%

Household income or consumption by percentage share
  lowest 10%: NA%
  highest 10%: NA%

Inflation rate (consumer prices): NA%

Labor force: 47,443 (1990 est.)

Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 1%, industry 20%, services 79% (1990 est.)

Unemployment rate: 4.9% (March 1999)

  revenues: $364.4 million
  expenditures: $364.4 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1990 est.)

Industries: tourism, petroleum refining, watch assembly, rum distilling, construction, pharmaceuticals, textiles, electronics

Industrial production growth rate: NA%

Electricity - production: 1.019 billion kWh (1998)

Electricity - production by source
  fossil fuel: 100%
  hydro: 0%
  nuclear: 0%
  other: 0% (1998)

Electricity - consumption: 948 million kWh (1998)

Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1998)

Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1998)

Agriculture - products: fruit, vegetables, sorghum; Senepol cattle

Exports: $NA

Exports - commodities: refined petroleum products

Exports - partners: US, Puerto Rico

Imports: $NA

Imports - commodities: crude oil, foodstuffs, consumer goods, building materials

Imports - partners: US, Puerto Rico

Debt - external: $NA

Economic aid - recipient: $NA

Currency: 1 United States dollar (US$) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: US currency is used

Fiscal year: 1 October - 30 September


Telephones - main lines in use: 58,000 (1995)

Telephones - mobile cellular: 2,000 (1992)

Telephone system
  domestic: modern, uses fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay
  international: submarine cable and satellite communications; satellite earth stations - NA

Radio broadcast stations: AM 5, FM 11, shortwave 0 (1998)

Radios: 107,000 (1997)

Television broadcast stations: 2 (1997)

Televisions: 68,000 (1997)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 2 (1999)


Railways: 0 km

  total: 856 km
  paved: NA km
  unpaved: NA km

Ports and harbors: Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, Cruz Bay, Port Alucroix

Merchant marine: none (1999 est.)

Airports: 2 (Note: international airports on Saint Thomas and Saint Croix (1999 est.))

Airports - with paved runways
  total: 2
  1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 (1999 est.)


Military - note: defense is the responsibility of the US

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international: none


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