Factbook: U.S. Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands

(territory of the US)


Location: 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: 352 sq km
land: 349 sq km
water: 3 sq km

Area – comparative: twice the size of Washington, DC

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.)

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: several hurricanes in recent years; frequent and severe droughts, floods, and earthquakes

Environment – current issues: lack of natural freshwater resources

Environment – international agreements:
party to: NA
signed, but not ratified : NA

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


Population: 97,240 (July 1997 est.)
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%

Age structure:
0-14 years: NA
15-64 years : NA
65 years and over: NA

Population growth rate: 0.18% (1997 est.)

Birth rate: 16.72 births/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Death rate: 5.2 deaths/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Net migration rate: -9.7 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth : NA male(s)/female
under 15 years: NA male(s)/female
15-64 years: NA male(s)/female
65 years and over: NA male(s)/female
total population: NA male(s)/female

Infant mortality rate: 12.54 deaths/1,000 live births (1997 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 75.29 years
male: 73.6 years
female: 77.2 years (1997 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.18 children born/woman (1997 est.)

noun : Virgin Islander(s)
adjective: Virgin Islander

Ethnic groups: black 80%, white 15%, other 5%

Religions: Baptist 42%, Roman Catholic 34%, Episcopalian 17%, other 7%

Languages: English (official), Spanish, Creole

Literacy: NA


Country name:
conventional long form : Virgin Islands of the United States
conventional short form: Virgin Islands
former: Danish West Indies

Data code: VQ

Dependency status: organized, unincorporated territory of the US; administered by the Office of Territorial and International Affairs, US Department of the Interior

Government type: NA

National capital: Charlotte Amalie

Administrative divisions: none (territory of the US)

National holiday: Transfer Day, 31 March (1917) (from Denmark to US)

Constitution: Revised Organic Act of 22 July 1954

Legal system: based on US laws

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal; note – indigenous inhabitants are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections

Executive branch:
chief of state : President of the US William Jefferson CLINTON (since 20 January 1993); Vice President Albert GORE, Jr. (since 20 January 1993)
head of government: Governor Dr. Roy L. SCHNEIDER (since 5 January 1995) and Lieutenant Governor Kenneth E. MAPP (since 5 January 1995)
cabinet: NA
elections : governor and lieutenant governor of the Virgin Islands elected by popular vote for four-year terms; election last held 22 November 1994 (next to be held NA November 1998)
election results: Dr. Roy L. SCHNEIDER elected governor of the Virgin Islands; percent of vote – Roy L. SCHNEIDER (ICM) 54.7%, former Lieutenant Governor Derek HODGE 42.6%

Legislative branch: unicameral Senate (15 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
elections: last held 5 November 1996 (next to be held NA November 1998)
election results: percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – independents 6, Democrats 5, Republicans 2, Independent Citizens Movement 2
note: the Virgin Islands elects one representative to the US House of Representatives; elections last held 19 November 1996 (next to be held NA November 1998); results – Dr. Donna GREEN (ICM) 51.5%, Victor O. FRAZER (independent) 48.5%

Judicial branch: US District Court, handles civil matters over $200,000, felonies (persons 15 years of age and over), and federal cases; judges are appointed by the president; Territorial Court, handles civil matters of unlimited cash amount; felonies, small claims, juvenile, domestic, misdemeanors, and traffic cases; judges appointed by the governor

Political parties and leaders: Democratic Party, Marilyn STAPLETON; Independent Citizens’ Movement (ICM), Virdin C. BROWN; Republican Party, Charlotte-Poole DAVIS

International organization participation: ECLAC (associate), IOC

Diplomatic representation in the US: none (territory of the US)

Diplomatic representation from the US: none (territory of the US)

Flag description: white 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 one talon and three arrows in the other with a superimposed shield of vertical red and white stripes below a blue panel


Economy – overview: Tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for more than 70% of GDP and 70% of employment. The number of US tourists in the first five months of 1996 was down by 55% from the same period in 1995, the lingering result of the fierce hurricanes of 1995. Unemployment rose sharply in 1996. The manufacturing sector consists of textile, electronics, pharmaceutical, and watch assembly plants. The agricultural sector is small, 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. A major economic problem at the beginning of 1997 was the more than $1 billion in governmental arrears, in income tax refunds, payments to vendors, and overdue wages.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $1.2 billion (1987 est.)

GDP – real growth rate: NA%

GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $12,500 (1987 est.)

GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services : NA%

Inflation rate – consumer price index: NA%

Labor force:
total: 47,443 (1990 est.)
by occupation: agriculture, industry, services, other (1990 est.)

Unemployment rate: 6.2% (March 1994)

revenues: $364.4 million
expenditures : $364.4 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1990 est.)

Industries: tourism, petroleum refining, watch assembly, rum distilling, construction, pharmaceuticals, textiles, electronics

Industrial production growth rate: 12% (year NA)

Electricity – capacity: NA kW

Electricity – production: 990 million kWh (1994)

Electricity – consumption per capita: 9,565 kWh (1995 est.)

Agriculture – products: truck garden products, fruit, vegetables, sorghum; Senepol cattle

total value: $1.8 billion (f.o.b., 1992)
commodities : refined petroleum products
partners: US, Puerto Rico

total value: $2.2 billion (c.i.f., 1992)
commodities: crude oil, foodstuffs, consumer goods, building materials
partners: US, Puerto Rico

Debt – external: $NA

Economic aid: $NA

Currency: 1 United States dollar (US$) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: US currency is used

Fiscal year: 1 October – 30 September


Telephones: 60,000 (1990 est.)

Telephone system:
domestic : modern, uses fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay
international: submarine cable and satellite communications; satellite earth stations – NA

Radio broadcast stations: AM 4, FM 8, shortwave 0 (1988)

Radios: 105,000 (1992 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 4 (1988 est.)

Televisions: 65,000 (1992 est.)


Railways: 0 km

total : 856 km
paved: NA km
unpaved : NA km

Ports and harbors: Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, Cruz Bay, Port Alucroix

Merchant marine: none

Airports: 2
note: international airports on Saint Thomas and Saint Croix (1996 est.)

Airports – with paved runways:
total: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2


Military – note: defense is the responsibility of the US

Transnational Issues

Disputes – international: none