::U.S. state


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A state of the United States of America is one of the 50 constituent political entities that shares its sovereignty with the United States federal government. Due to the shared sovereignty between each U.S. state and the U.S. federal government, an American is a citizen of both the federal republic and of his or her state of domicile.<ref>See the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.</ref> State citizenship and residency are flexible and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons covered by certain types of court orders (e.g., paroled convicts and children of divorced spouses who are sharing custody). States range in population from just under 600,000 (Wyoming) to over 38 million (California).

States are divided into counties or county-equivalents, which may be assigned some local governmental authority but are not sovereign. County or county-equivalent structure varies widely by state. Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia use the official title of Commonwealth rather than State.

State governments are allocated power by the people (of each respective state) through their individual constitutions. By ratifying the United States Constitution, the states transferred certain limited sovereign powers to the federal government. Historically, the tasks of law enforcement, public education, public health, transportation, and infrastructure have generally been considered primarily state responsibilities, although all of these now have significant federal funding and regulation as well.

Over time, the U.S. Constitution has been amended, and the interpretation and application of its provisions have changed. The general tendency has been toward centralization and incorporation, with the federal government playing a much larger role than it once did. There is a continuing debate over states' rights, which concerns the extent and nature of the states' powers and sovereignty in relation to the federal government as well as the rights of individual persons. Debates over states' rights were a contributing factor to the outbreak of the American Civil War.

The United States Congress may admit new states on an equal footing with existing ones; this last happened in 1959 with the admission of Alaska (Jan. 3) and Hawaii (Aug. 21). The U.S. Constitution is silent on the question of whether states have the power to leave, or secede from, the Union, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled<ref name="books.google.com">Aleksandar Pavković, Peter Radan, Creating New States: Theory and Practice of Secession, p. 222, Ashgate Publishing, 2007.</ref><ref name="Texas v. White">Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1868) at Cornell University Law School Supreme Court collection.</ref> unilateral secession to be unconstitutional, a position driven in part by the outcome of the American Civil War.

U.S. state sections
Intro  Map  Federal power  Governments  Relationships  Admission into the Union  Secession  Commonwealths  Origins of states' names  Geography  See also  References  Further reading  External links