North America Economy

The North American subcontinent comprises Canada, Mexico, Greenland and the United States of America (USA. See other country abbreviations on It is limited to the south with Central America on the border between Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, to the north with the Arctic Glacial Ocean, to the east with the Atlantic Ocean and to the west with the Pacific.

In the northern region belonging to Canada there are a large number of islands and the largest island in the world, Greenland which belongs to Denmark (country of Europe). Other islands that are part of the American continent, but belong to other countries are Bermuda (United Kingdom) and the overseas territory of Saint Pierre and Miquelon (French). The Hawaii, which is in the Pacific Ocean belongs to the United States.

According to, as of 2021, there are a total of 24 countries in North America. Commonly, the term “North American” is used to designate citizens of the United States only, applying the “Canadian” or “Canadian” gentile to the inhabitants of Canada, and “Mexican” to those of Mexico. As a peculiarity, the North American territory presents a very symmetrical division between its States.

At first the population of North America was made up of Indians who mainly inhabited the western territory of the USA, Eskimos, in the coldest areas of Canada and Alaska (USA) and the Aztecs in Mexico. Due to the colonization process, the miscegenation of the local people occurred with the colonizers mainly European, and more characteristic in Canada making it one of the culturally rich countries.

The Canadian population is made up of descendants of French, English, Spanish and Dutch people. For this reason, the most widely spoken languages across Canadian territory are English and French.

The territory of the North American subcontinent is quite extensive, with a wide variation in temperature. In the north, in the most northern regions of Canada and in Alaska the climate is extremely cold with snow covered soil all year round in some regions. In the south, in regions of Mexico and the USA, we find deserts such as the Sonora Desert in southwestern North America and the Death Valley Desert in the USA.

As for the relief, the North American subcontinent has extensive mountain ranges such as the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains that form part of the Western Cordilleras, and also, three regions of plains, the first on the Atlantic coast, the second the Central and the third, the so-called “Canadian shield”. The Grand Canyon, a large gorge originating on the Colorado River, can reach some points, more than 1600m deep.

The largest cities in North America are concentrated around the Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario): a group of five lakes located between Canada and the USA. Other important rivers in the region are the Mississippi rivers, which cross the USA from north to south, and the Rio Grande in Mexico. In Canadian hydrography, countless lakes stand out, some of which remain frozen all year round (Glacial lakes). Adding more than two million lakes, or 7.6% of Canada’s territory.

The indented coast of North America features important peninsulas such as California and Florida in the USA and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. An interesting curiosity is that the California Peninsula belongs to the Pacific Tectonic plate that moves in the opposite direction to the North American plate, which leads some scientists to say that one day the California Peninsula will no longer be part of the American continent. This characteristic explains, for example, the large number of earthquakes that exist at the site, caused by the movement of the plates.

As for flora, the tundra in the Canadian region stands out, the taiga and the conifer forest further south and the steppes and grasslands in the center of the continent. In northern Mexico and part of the Western Chains, typical desert vegetation predominates.

Country Central government debt’s share of GDP (percent) Assistance per person (US dollars) Service sector’s share of GDP (percent)
Antigua and Barbuda 89.5 (2018) 97 (2017) 68.0 (2018)
Bahamas 63.3 (2018) 15 (1995) 74.9 (2017)
Barbados 125.7 (2018) 58 (2010) 74.9 (2016)
Belize 95.2 (2018) 91 (2017) 62.9 (2017)
Costa Rica 53.5 (2018) 20 (2017) 68.3 (2018)
Dominica 74.1 (2018) 253 (2017) 55.1 (2018)
Dominican Republic 50.5 (2018) 11 (2017) 58.9 (2018)
El Salvador 67.1 (2018) 24 (2017) 60.3 (2018)
Grenada 63.5 (2018) 54 (2017) 66.7 (2018)
Guatemala 24.7 (2018) 22 (2017) 62.9 (2018)
Haiti 33.3 (2018) 89 (2017) 60.0 (2016)
Honduras 40.2 (2018) 48 (2017) 57.1 (2018)
Jamaica 94.4 (2018) 20 (2017) 59.2 (2018)
Canada 89.9 (2018) 66.7 (2015)
Cuba 62 (2017) 70.8 (2017)
Mexico 53.6 (2018) 6 (2017) 60.2 (2018)
Nicaragua 37.2 (2018) 90 (2017) 50.2 (2018)
Panama 39.5 (2018) 10 (2017) 65.1 (2018)
Saint Kitts & Nevis 60.5 (2018) 565 (2013) 63.9 (2018)
Saint Lucia 64.3 (2018) 71 (2017) 75.1 (2018)
St. Vincent & the Grenadines 74.5 (2018) 67 (2017) 62.3 (2018)
Trinidad & Tobago 45.1 (2018) 3 (2010) 57.1 (2018)
USA 104.3 (2018) 77.4 (2017)

Central American Economy

The Central America is the smallest subcontinent to be part of America and is divided into two parts, island and continental. The continental portion is an isthmus, a narrow strip of land surrounded by water on the sides that connects two large tracts of land, and has a mountain range that cuts it in a south-north direction. This part was colonized almost entirely by Spaniards, who influenced the language that is spoken until today. The only country not colonized by Spaniards was Belize, which owes its colonization to the English and, therefore, speaks its language. The main countries are: Panama, Guatemala and Costa Rica. The island part in turn is divided into large Antilles and small Antilles and was colonized by French, English, Spanish and Dutch. The Greater Antilles are the largest islands in the Caribbean and include the countries: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Haiti. Caribbean Sea, which constitute small overseas countries and territories. The Central American economy still suffers from the colonial heritage, still maintaining primary activity as the main economic engine.


The primary sector, agriculture and extraction, focused on the production of tropical crops, is primarily responsible for the economy and for employing most of the labor in Central American countries. Agriculture is practiced in the subsistence models or in the plantations model. Subsistence agriculture, practiced on small farms, aims to feed the producer and his family, generating a small commercial surplus for the domestic market and is the main responsible for the population’s food supply. Despite practicing this model, Central America suffers from land concentration and, many times, countries are forced to import food from other locations, being subject to fluctuations in the international market. Plantations, practiced on large properties, aim to supply the foreign market, mainly the USA and Europe, and are practiced by large transnational corporations or by large landowners. The main products of plantations are tropical crops, such as sugar cane, throughout the island, banana, across the east coast of the continental portion, tobacco in Cuba, cotton, on the west coast of the island portion, coffee, in the upper parts of El Salvador, in addition to corn, in the highlands of Guatemala. Herds are predominantly of cattle, pigs and horses, being raised extensively, mainly in the north of the mainland.

Mining and Industry

Central America has few ores in its subsoil, with significant extraction of bauxite in Jamaica and oil in the Caribbean Sea. The industries are almost nonexistent in Central America and are mainly linked to the processing of agricultural products for export and food products for the domestic market.

Services and trade

The tertiary sector, services and commerce, has some importance in the subcontinent. Panama is one of the few countries that does not have its economy fully tied to agricultural products. This is mainly due to the Panama Canal, one of the main shipping routes in the world, which generates great wealth for the Panamanian state. In addition to the canal, Panama is a tax haven- countries or territories with a favorable tax system and bank secrecy, where it is not necessary to specify the origin of the money -, which leads to a large influx of foreign capital to that country. In addition to Panama, the Netherlands Antilles, Cayman Islands, Bermuda and British Virgin Islands are also tax havens in Central America. Tourism is a major driver of Central American economies. The main attractions are the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean Sea and the luxury resorts located on the islands of the subcontinent.

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