InfoUSA Logo - U.S. Department of Statespacing image SEARCH >spacing imageSITE MAP >
U.S. LIFE  navigation seperator image  U.S. EDUCATION  navigation seperator image  U.S. GOVERNMENT  navigation seperator image  U.S. MEDIA  navigation seperator image  U.S. ECONOMY  navigation seperator image  QUIZZES   navigation seperator image  GUIDED TOURS

U.S.LIFE > People > Diversity > Diversity in America

spacer image spacer image spacer image
spacer image spacer image spacer image

Diversity in America

spacer image

Faith       Family       Charity       Education       Facts and Figures

spacer image

"America is a nation of nations, made up of people from every land, of every race and practicing every faith. Our diversity is not a source of weakness; it is a source of strength, it is a source of our success."

-- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell

The people of the United States represent an array of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, all of whom help to make up the complex picture of what it means to be an American. The United States is often characterized as a nation of immigrants. Its rich heritage - often referred to as a "melting pot" - is in part due to successive waves of immigrants from around the world. The United States has welcomed more immigrants than any other country -- more than 50 million in all -- and today welcomes almost 700,000 persons a year. Americans have of necessity placed great value on diversity; ethnic groups have renewed and celebrated their heritage; and the children of immigrants often grow up experiencing the languages, traditions and cultures of both their American and foreign heritages.

This enrichment through diversity thrives in America. But before this mosaic of cultures found a home, the question certainly might have been asked, "Can a nation made of such varied backgrounds even hope to succeed?" As the American example shows, the answer is a resounding "yes."

The triumph of the American experience owes its success to many factors. Among them is, of course, the vision of the nation's founding fathers in establishing a government of, by and for the people. When they established a democracy they provided a constitution that guaranteed certain freedoms like freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.

America's founders established a society that would embrace diversity and celebrate the differences that various cultures would bring to the United States. But, as different as the many cultures, religions and ethnic backgrounds of the American mosaic are, there is a core of values that all share. This is the glue that has led to the success of the American experiment.

Among those shared values are education, faith, family and charity. And those shared values which have contributed so much to the fabric and strength within America, also inform our efforts in reaching out and finding common ground with cultures from other shores. We invite you to explore with us the shared values which make America strong and proud, which enrich our society, and which serve as a foundation for open dialogue with other peoples.

Back to Top

Colin Powell

spacer image

Diverse Peoples, Diverse Faiths

Religion has played a significant role in every aspect of American life and culture. The United States has always been a country of diverse peoples and faiths. From English Protestant reformers fleeing religious persecution at home, to Spanish and French Catholic colonizers, traders and missionaries, to Dutch Reformists, Anglicans, Quakers and others, even in the earliest days American colonies were home to a range of different faiths.

Today, this rich tapestry of religious belief is woven with ever more threads. The United States now contains some 2,000 religious denominations. Americans are Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, Zoroastrians or Sikhs, among many other faiths. More than 60 percent of Americans associate themselves with a specific religious denomination. Within these divisions lie a multitude of beliefs, sects and practices, making America a true microcosm of the world's religious diversity.

According to Dr. Diana L. Eck, renowned author and member of the faculty of divinity at Harvard University:

"Just as our religious traditions are dynamic, so is the very idea of America. The motto of the Republic, E pluribus Unum,' From Many, One,' is not an accomplished fact but an ideal that Americans must continue to claim. The story of America's many peoples and the creation of one nation is an unfinished story in which the ideals articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are continually brought into being. Our pluribus is more striking than ever - our races and faces, our jazz and qawwali music, our Haitian drums and Bengali tablas, our hip-hop and bhangra dances, our mariachis and gamelans, our Islamic minarets and Hindu temple towers, our Mormon temple spires and golden gurdwara domes. Amid this plurality, the expression of our unum, our oneness, will require many new voices, each contributing in its own way."

(Source: The Religious Landscape of the United States, U.S. Society & Values, Electronic Journal of the U.S. Information Agency, Volume 2, Number 1, March 1997)

Freedom of Religion - An "Unalienable Right"

James Madison, one of the United States' Founding Fathers, was a strong supporter of the right of every citizen to practice his or her faith according to "conviction and conscience." "This right," Madison wrote in 1785, "is in its nature an unalienable right."

Freedom of religion is a tenet so fundamental to the political and social fabric of the United States that it has been enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. According to the First Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

This principle, as well as other principles outlined in Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, guarantees that all Americans - regardless of their religious beliefs - share the same rights to religious freedom as everyone else in this country. The principle of the right to freedom of liberty and conscience remains one of the guiding principles of American politics, thought and law, and is deeply ingrained in American society.

The Muslim Americans featured on these pages have found that they can practice their faith within and among the vast tapestry of religions in the United States.

Facts About Religion in America:

· In 1997, 163 million Americans (63%) identified themselves as being affiliated with a specific religious denomination.

· There are almost half a million churches, temples and mosques in the United States today (

· There are 1, 209 mosques in the United States - more than 60 percent of which were founded in the last 20 years (U.S. Department of State, 2001).

· There are over 400 Islamic schools (126 full time), three colleges, 400 associations, an estimated 200,000 businesses and over 200 publications, journals and weekly newspapers (Council on Islamic Education, 1998).

Back to Top

Praying Muslin Men in Michigan

spacer image

Whatever your faith, America's character begins in the home, where children learn proper standards of conduct, principled values, and the importance of service. Families provide children the encouragement, support, and love they need to become confident, compassionate, and successful members of society.

The family is the center of American life. Whatever we partake in outside our homes - at work, at school, at play, in our communities - we turn to our families for support and guidance.

A sense of community is important to all Americans. Regardless of whether they are celebrating Independence Day in a small town or organizing a block party in an urban neighborhood - regardless of whether they are helping to deliver food and medical assistance to the elderly, coaching their children's sports teams, donating books and furniture to the local community fundraising auction or helping recently arrived immigrants learn English as a Second Language - Americans are active in their communities in many different ways, and on many different levels.

Back to Top

spacer image

spacer image

As in the Muslim world, the spirit of giving, and of giving back to the community, are important guiding principles for many Americans.

"People ask me, what can I do to help? Well, if you're dedicating your time to volunteer work, you're already helping. And I ask America, young and old alike, to dedicate at least two years of your life, 4,000 hours over your lifetime, to service to your fellow man, to service to your nation, by serving somebody else." -- President George W. Bush

Americans are avid volunteers and contributors to charitable causes. According to Brian O'Connell, founding president of Independent Sector and professor of public service at Tufts University (Medford, MA):

"Volunteering obviously begins with the individual -- the golden rule [of] lending a hand. The hundred million Americans who volunteer are involved in an extraordinary array of acts of compassion and service. They inform, protest, assist, teach, heal, build, advocate, comfort, testify, support, solicit, donate, canvass, demonstrate, guide, feed, monitor and in many other ways serve people, communities and causes.

"Beyond all the indications of the good that results when so many people do so many good things, it is important to recognize what all these efforts mean to the kind of people we are. All of this voluntary participation strengthens us as a nation, strengthens our communities, and strengthens and fulfills us as individual human beings."

(Source: Brian O'Connell, "America's Voluntary Spirit," U.S. Society & Values, USIA Electronic Journal , Vol. 3, No. 2, September 1998)

Charitable giving in America - facts and figures:

· Forty-four percent of the adult U.S. population, or 83.9 million Americans, volunteered in 2000. In 1998, over half of all American adults spent a total of 20 billion hours volunteering for charitable organizations (Source: Independent Sector; Philanthropy in the American Economy, a report by the Council of Economic Advisers).

· Three out of four Americans regularly contribute money to charitable causes. This is true of people at all income levels. In 1998, 70 percent of American households gave to a cause. (Source: Brian O'Connell, "America's Voluntary Spirit," U.S. Society & Values, USIA Electronic Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2, September 1998; Philanthropy in the American Economy, a report by the Council of Economic Advisers).

· In 1999, Americans gave over $190 billion in charitable contributions. (Philanthropy in the American Economy, a report by the Council of Economic Advisers).

· Foundations and business corporations provide only 10 percent of all charitable contributions. The vast majority of charitable giving - 85 percent in 1998 - comes directly from U.S. citizens. (see sources, above).

· American charitable giving has more than doubled since 1980. (Philanthropy in the American Economy, a report by the Council of Economic Advisers).

· Corporate donations have also increased, growing by 35 percent between 1995 and 1999. (Philanthropy in the American Economy, a report by the Council of Economic Advisers).

· Religious groups received nearly half (44 percent) of all charitable donations in 1998, or $77 billion. Educational causes are the second largest recipient at $25 billion. (Philanthropy in the American Economy, a report by the Council of Economic Advisers).

· A recent survey found that most Americans give to charities and causes in order to assist others in need. Also cited was giving as a way to "to give back to society." (Philanthropy in the American Economy, a report by the Council of Economic Advisers).

Back to Top

spacer image

spacer image

All American children are guaranteed a free education through high school and fully one third of all Americans graduate from a college or university.

America is known for making its universities available to people from all countries in order to share and spread human knowledge and build greater understanding among peoples and cultures. Tens of thousands of Muslims from around the world have attended and graduated from American universities and colleges.

It is the firm belief of all Americans that education is at the core of communication and understanding, of development and progress, and of original and independent thinking.

Some facts about education in the United States:

· In 2001, an estimated 33.6 million children enrolled in public schools in the United States, kindergarten through grade eight, with secondary school enrollment estimated at 13.6 million. Approximately 11 percent of American children attend private schools.

· In 2001, there were more than three and a half million elementary and secondary school teachers employed in the United States - an increase of nearly 30 percent over a decade ago.

· 84 percent of Americans hold a high school diploma. More than a quarter of all Americans have completed four years or more of college or university. Six percent hold a master's degree.

· Total expenditures on education in the 2000-2001 school year totaled $700 billion dollars. Most of this was spent by elementary and secondary schools, with about 40 percent going to colleges and universities.

(Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Office of Educational Research & Improvement, U.S. Department of Education)

· There are over 400 Islamic schools (126 full time) and three Islamic colleges in the U.S. (Council on Islamic Education, 1998)

Council of American Muslims for Understanding and the United States Department of State underwrites and provides content for this site.

Back to Top

spacer image

spacer image

Facts and Figures
· In 2000, 28.4 million or 10.4 percent of the U.S. population are native to countries outside of the United States. This is an increase from 7.9 percent in 1990. An additional 14.8 million Americans had two parents who were born outside the United States, while another 12.7 million had at least one foreign-born parent. (U.S. Census Bureau statistics, 2001).

· Most of the foreign-born residents living in the United States in March 2000 came from Latin America (14.5 million). 7.2 million were from Asia, 4.4 million from Europe, 0.7 from Canada, with the rest coming from elsewhere in the world. (US Census Bureau statistics, 2001).

· Almost 47 million - or 18 percent - of Americans over the age of five speak a language other than English at home (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000).

Back to Top

spacer image


InfoUSA is maintained by the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), U.S. Department of State

Information on this section is not intended to constitute advice nor is it to be used as a substitute for specific counsel from a licensed professional. You should not act (or refrain from acting) based upon information in this section without independently verifying the original source information and, as necessary, obtaining professional advice regarding your particular facts and circumstances.