Original publication: March 2018
Author: Diána Haase, Research Administrator, with the contribution of Veronika Gálová (intern)
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This briefing was prepared to provide information for the visit to Boston (Massachusetts) and Washington, DC from 7 to 11 May 2018 of a delegation from the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development (REGI).

  1. Political-administrative system

The United States of America (the US) is the third largest country in the world, based on population and land area. Approximately 42 % of the total population lives in predominantly urban areas (mid-range among OECD countries). The US has no official national language at federal level, but English has a de facto official status in the country and an official status in 32 of the 50 states; Hawaiian is an official language in the state of Hawaii, and 20 indigenous languages are official in Alaska. The currency in use is the United States dollar (USD).

Table 1: Key data

The population of Boston grew faster than other cities in the north-eastern United States, at a high rate given that it is a geographically constrained historic city.

The US is made up of 50 states and one district, the capital is Washington, DC. Massachusetts (officially called a commonwealth) is one of the 6 New England states located in the north-east corner of the US. The state is bordered to the north by Vermont and New Hampshire, to the east and south-east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by Rhode Island and Connecticut, and to the west by New York. In terms of total area it is the seventh smallest state; the capital is Boston.

Map 1: Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The US is a constitutional federal republic with a strong democratic tradition. The legislative branch consists of a bicameral Congress: the Senate (100 seats with two representatives from each of the 50 states serving a six-year term with one third of membership renewed every two years) and the House of Representatives (435 directly elected members serving two-year terms). The Republican Party has majorities in both chambers of Congress at the time of writing. The power of the executive branch is vested in the President (together with the Vice President, both serving a four-year term, eligible for a second term), who is both head of state and head of government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. There are 15 executive departments (each led by a Cabinet member) that carry out the day-to-day administration of the federal government. The Cabinet (an advisory body made up of the heads of the 15 executive departments) is appointed by the President, and is approved by the Senate. The President receives advice and support from the so-called Executive Office of the President (EOP). Six distinct areas are covered currently by the EOP offices, including the Office of Management and Budget, the Council of Economic Advisers and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Powers not granted to the federal government are divided between states and local governments. Each state has a written constitution, and all state governments are modelled after the federal government (having an executive, legislative, and judicial branch), but they vary greatly with regard to the executive structure. The executive branch is headed by a directly elected governor in every state. All 50 states have legislatures that are made up of elected representatives. All states, with the exception of Nebraska, have a bicameral legislature made up of two chambers: a smaller upper house (always called the Senate) and a larger lower house (most often called the House of Representatives, as is the case in Massachusetts). Local governments generally include two tiers: counties (in some states divided into townships), and municipalities, or cities/towns. State constitutions define the ways municipalities are structured and named. The local government in Boston consists of the mayor and the City Council (13 members).

Table 1: Political summary

Link to the full publication: http://bit.ly/617-466

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