The Danes secured control over the southern Virgin Islands of Saint Thomas, Saint John, and Saint Croix during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Sugarcane, produced by African slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish holdings, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.



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: 1,910 sq km
land: 346 sq km
water: 1,564 sq km

Area - comparative

twice the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km


188 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


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


mostly hilly to rugged and mountainous with little flat land


mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Crown Mountain 474 m

Natural resources

sun, sand, sea, surf

Land use

agricultural land: 11.5%
arable land 2.9%; permanent crops 2.9%; permanent pasture 5.7%
forest: 57.4%
other: 31.1% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

1 sq km (2012)

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

People and Society

Population growth rate

-0.62% (2016 est.)


102,951 (July 2016 est.)


noun: Virgin Islander(s) (US citizens)
adjective: Virgin Islander

Ethnic groups

black 76%, white 15.6%, Asian 1.4%, other 4.9%, mixed 2.1%
note: 17.4% self-identify as latino (2010 est.)


English 71.6%, Spanish or Spanish Creole 17.2%, French or French Creole 8.6%, other 2.5% (2010 est.)


Protestant 59% (Baptist 42%, Episcopalian 17%), Roman Catholic 34%, other 7%

Age structure

0-14 years: 17.2% (male 8,933/female 8,776)
15-24 years: 9.32% (male 4,316/female 5,279)
25-54 years: 38.51% (male 17,850/female 21,795)
55-64 years: 14.72% (male 7,284/female 7,873)
65 years and over: 20.25% (male 9,402/female 11,443) (2016 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 61.2%
youth dependency ratio: 32.8%
elderly dependency ratio: 28.4%
potential support ratio: 3.5% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 45.6 years
male: 45.9 years
female: 45.3 years (2016 est.)

Birth rate

10.2 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

8.9 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

-7.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Population distribution

while overall population density throughout the islands is relatively low, concentrations appear around Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas and Christiansted on St. Croix


urban population: 95.3% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 0.25% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

CHARLOTTE AMALIE (capital) 52,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.82 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.82 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 0.87 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 6.5 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 80 years
male: 77 years
female: 83.2 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.73 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Drinking water source

urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population
urban: 0% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 0% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 96.4% of population
rural: 96.4% of population
total: 96.4% of population
urban: 3.6% of population
rural: 3.6% of population
total: 3.6% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths


Major infectious diseases

note: active local transmission of Zika virus by Aedes species mosquitoes has been identified in this country (as of August 2016); it poses an important risk (a large number of cases possible) among US citizens if bitten by an infective mosquito; other less common ways to get Zika are through sex, via blood transfusion, or during pregnancy, in which the pregnant woman passes Zika virus to her fetus (2016)


Country name

conventional long form: United States Virgin Islands
conventional short form: Virgin Islands
former: Danish West Indies
abbreviation: USVI
note: the myriad islets, cays, and rocks surrounding the major islands reminded Christopher COLUMBUS in 1493 of Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virgin followers (Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Virgenes), which over time shortened to the Virgins (las Virgenes)

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

presidential democracy; a self-governing territory of the US


name: Charlotte Amalie
geographic coordinates: 18 21 N, 64 56 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

none (territory of the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 3 islands at the second order; Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas


none (territory of the US)

National holiday

Transfer Day (from Denmark to the US), 31 March (1917)


22 July 1954 - the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands functions as a constitution for this territory of the US; revised 1962, 2000 (2016)

Legal system

US common law


18 years of age; universal; note - island residents are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections


see United States

Executive branch

chief of state: President Barack H. OBAMA (since 20 January 2009); Vice President Joseph R. BIDEN (since 20 January 2009)
head of government: Governor Kenneth MAPP (since 5 January 2015), Lieutenant Governor Osbert POTTER (since 5 January 2015)
cabinet: Territorial Cabinet appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate
elections/appointments: president and vice president indirectly elected on the same ballot by an Electoral College of 'electors' chosen from each state; president and vice president serve a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); under the US Constitution, residents of the Virgin Islands do not vote in elections for US president and vice president; however, they may vote in the Democratic and Republican presidential primary elections; governor and lieutenant governor directly elected on the same ballot by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 4 November 2014 (next to be held in November 2018)
election results: Kenneth MAPP elected governor; percent of vote in runoff - Kenneth MAPP (independent) 63.9%, Donna CHRISTIAN-CHRISTIANSEN (Democratic Party) 36.1%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Senate (15 seats; members directly elected in single- and multi-seat constituencies by simple majority popular vote to serve 2-year terms)
elections: last held on 4 November 2014 (next to be held on 8 November 2016)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA
note: the Virgin Islands directly elects 1 member by simple majority vote to serve a 2-year term as a delegate to the US House of Representatives; the delegate can vote when serving on a committee and when the House meets as the Committee of the Whole House, but not when legislation is submitted for a “full floor” House vote; election of delegate last held on 4 November 2014 (next to be held on 8 November 2016)

Political pressure groups and leaders


Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands (consists of the chief justice and 2 associate justices); note - court established by US Congress in 2004 and assumed appellate jurisdiction in 2007
judge selection and term of office: justices appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Virgin Islands Senate; justices initially serve renewable 10-year terms; chief justice elected to position by peers for a 3-year term
subordinate courts: Superior Court (Territorial Court renamed in 2004); US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (has appellate jurisdiction over the District Court of the Virgin Islands; it is a territorial court and is not associated with a US federal judicial district); District Court of the Virgin Islands

Political parties and leaders

Democratic Party [Arturo WATLINGTON]
Independent Citizens' Movement or ICM [Usie RICHARDS]
Republican Party [Gary SPRAUVE]

International organization participation

AOSIS (observer), Interpol (subbureau), IOC, UPU, WFTU (NGOs)

Diplomatic representation from the US

none (territory of the US)

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (territory of the US)

Flag description

white field 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 its right talon and three arrows in the left with a superimposed shield of seven red and six white vertical stripes below a blue panel; white is a symbol of purity, the letters stand for the Virgin Islands

National anthem

name: "Virgin Islands March"
lyrics/music: multiple/Alton Augustus ADAMS, Sr.
note: adopted 1963; serves as a local anthem; as a territory of the US, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is official (see United States)


Industrial production growth rate


Economy - overview

Tourism, trade, and other services are the primary economic activities, accounting for nearly 60% of the Virgin Island's GDP and about half of total civilian employment. The islands host nearly 3 million tourists per year, mostly from visiting cruise ship

Federal programs and grants, totaling $241.4 million in 2013, contributed 19.7% of the territory’s total revenues. The economy declined in 2013, due to decreases in exports resulting from the loss of refined oil products. Nevertheless, the economy remains

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$3.792 billion (2013 est.)
$4.143 billion (2012 est.)
$4.288 billion (2011 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate)

$5.075 billion (2013)

GDP - real growth rate

-5.4% (2013 est.)
-13.8% (2012 est.)
-7.5% (2011 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$36,100 (2013 est.)
$39,300 (2012 est.)
$40,500 (2011 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 63.6%
government consumption: 28%
investment in fixed assets: 6.1%
investment in inventories: NA%
exports of goods and services: 69.3%
imports of goods and services: -66.9% (2013)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2%
industry: 20%
services: 78% (2012 est.)

Agriculture - products

fruit, vegetables, sorghum; Senepol cattle


tourism, watch assembly, rum distilling, construction, pharmaceuticals, electronics

Labor force

50,580 (2012 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 1%
industry: 19%
services: 80% (2003 est.)

Unemployment rate

13% (2014)

Population below poverty line

28.9% (2002 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%


revenues: $1.223 billion
expenditures: $1.551 billion (2013)

Taxes and other revenues

24.1% of GDP (2013)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-6.5% of GDP (2013)

Public debt

45.9% of GDP (2014)

Fiscal year

1 October - 30 September

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

3.1% (2012)


$2.627 billion (2013)
$3.339 billion (2012)

Exports - commodities



$2.694 billion (2013)
$3.056 billion (2012)

Imports - commodities

foodstuffs, consumer goods, building materials

Debt - external


Exchange rates

the US dollar is used


Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Electricity - access

population without electricity: 10,295
electrification - total population: 91%
electrification - urban areas: 91%
electrification - rural areas: 80% (2012)

Electricity - production

700 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

600 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

300,000 kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

100% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

111,500 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

119,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

9.4 million Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 76,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 73 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: modern system with total digital switching, uses fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay
domestic: full range of services available
international: country code - 1-340; submarine cable connections to US, the Caribbean, Central and South America; satellite earth stations - NA (2015)

Broadcast media

about a dozen TV broadcast stations including 1 public TV station; multi-channel cable and satellite TV services are available; 24 radio stations (2009)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 57,000
percent of population: 54.8% (July 2015 est.)



2 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 2
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)


total: 1,260 km (2008)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, Cruz Bay, Frederiksted, Limetree Bay


Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the US

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international