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Virgin Islands

Facts About the Virgin Islands

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.
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
Capital: Charlotte Amalie
Currency: 1 United States dollar (US$) = 100 cents

Geography of the Virgin Islands

Location: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico
Geographic coordinates: 18 20 N, 64 50 W
total: 352 sq km
land: 349 sq km
water: 3 sq km
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.)
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 of the Virgin Islands

Population: 108,708 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  27.27% 
15-64 years:  63.92%
65 years and over:  8.81%
Population growth rate: 1.06% 
Birth rate: 15.9 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 5.47 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 0.12 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 9.43 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  78.27 years
male:  74.38 years
female:  82.39 years 
Total fertility rate: 2.25 children born/woman 
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

Virgin Islands Economy

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, textiles, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and watch assembly. 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. The government is working to improve fiscal discipline, support construction projects in the private sector, expand tourist facilities, and protect the environment.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $1.8 billion (2000 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $15,000 (2000 est.)
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: $364.4 million (1990 est.)
Industries: tourism, petroleum refining, watch assembly, rum distilling, construction, pharmaceuticals, textiles, electronics
Electricity – production: 1.02 billion kWh (1999)
Electricity – production by source:
fossil fuel:  100%
hydro:  0%
nuclear:  0%
other:  0% (1999)
Electricity – consumption: 948.6 million kWh (1999)
Agriculture – products: fruit, vegetables, sorghum; Senepol cattle
Exports – commodities: refined petroleum products
Exports – partners: US, Puerto Rico
Imports – commodities: crude oil, foodstuffs, consumer goods, building materials
Imports – partners: US, Puerto Rico
Currency: 1 United States dollar (US$) = 100 cents

Map of the Virgin Islands