County (United States)

County
Also known as:
Parish (Louisiana)
Borough (Alaska)
Usa counties large.svg
CategorySecond-level administrative division
LocationStates, territories and federal district of the United States of America
Number3,242 (including 135 county equivalents in the 50 states & DC, and 100 county equivalents in the U.S. territories)
PopulationsGreatest: Los Angeles County, California—10,170,292 (2015)
Least: Kalawao County, Hawaii—89 (2015)
8 entities[a] (county equivalents)—0 (2018)
Average: 103,554 (2017)
AreasLargest: San Bernardino County, California—20,057 sq mi (51,950 km2)
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, Alaska (county equivalent)—145,505 sq mi (376,860 km2)
Smallest: Kalawao County, Hawaii—12 sq mi (31 km2)
Independent City of Falls Church, Virginia (county equivalent)—2 sq mi (5.2 km2)
Smallest (including territories): Kingman Reef (county equivalent)—0.01 sq mi (0.026 km2)[1][2]
Average: 1,208 sq mi (3,130 km2)
GovernmentCounty commission, Board of Supervisors (AZ, CA, IA, MS, VA, WI) County council (WA), Commissioners' Court (TX), Board of chosen freeholders (NJ), Fiscal Court (KY), Police Jury (LA)
County executive, County mayor, County judge, County manager, Sole commissioner
SubdivisionsTownship
Hundred

In the United States of America, an administrative or political subdivision of a state is a county, which is a region having specific boundaries and usually some level of governmental authority.[3] The term "county" is used in 48 U.S. states, while Louisiana and Alaska have functionally equivalent subdivisions called parishes and boroughs respectively.[3]

Most counties have subdivisions which may include municipalities and unincorporated areas. Others have no further divisions, or may serve as a consolidated city-county. Some municipalities are in multiple counties; New York City is uniquely partitioned into multiple counties, referred to at the city government level as boroughs.

The federal government of the United States uses the term "county equivalent" to describe non-county administrative or statistical areas that are comparable to counties. Louisiana parishes; the organized boroughs of Alaska; the District of Columbia; and the independent cities of the states of Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, and Nevada are equivalent to counties for administrative purposes. Alaska's Unorganized Borough is divided into 10 census areas that are statistically equivalent to counties. As of 2018, there are currently 3,142 counties and county-equivalents in the 50 states and District of Columbia.[4] If the 100 county equivalents in the U.S. territories are counted, then the total is 3,242 counties and county-equivalents in the United States.[5][6]

The number of counties per state ranges from the 3 counties of Delaware to the 254 counties of Texas.

Counties have significant governmental functions in all states except Rhode Island and Connecticut, where county governments have been abolished but the entities remain for administrative or statistical purposes. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has removed most government functions from eight of its 14 counties.

The county with the largest population, Los Angeles County (10,170,292),[7] and the county with the largest land area, San Bernardino County, border each other in Southern California (however four boroughs in Alaska are larger in area than San Bernardino).

Territories of the United States do not have counties (except for American Samoa, which does have them)[8]; instead, the United States Census Bureau divides them into county equivalents. While America Samoa does have its own counties, the U.S. Census Bureau counts American Samoa's districts and atolls as county-equivalents.[5][6]

History

Counties were among the earliest units of local government established in the Thirteen Colonies that would become the United States. Virginia created the first counties in order to ease the administrative workload in Jamestown. The House of Burgesses divided the colony first into four "incorporations" in 1617 and finally into eight shires (or counties) in 1634: James City, Henrico, Charles City, Charles River, Warrosquyoake, Accomac, Elizabeth City, and Warwick River.[9] America's oldest intact county court records can be found at Eastville, Virginia, in Northampton (originally Accomac) County, dating to 1632.[10] Maryland established its first county, St. Mary's, in 1637, and Massachusetts followed in 1643. Pennsylvania and New York delegated significant power and responsibility from state government to county governments and thereby established a pattern for most of the United States, although counties remained relatively weak in New England.[11]

When independence came, "the framers of the Constitution did not provide for local governments. Rather, they left the matter to the states. Subsequently, early state constitutions generally conceptualized county government as an arm of the state." In the twentieth century, the role of local governments strengthened and counties began providing more services, acquiring home rule and county commissions to pass local ordinances pertaining to their unincorporated areas.[12]

In some states, these powers are partly or mostly devolved to the counties' smaller divisions usually called townships, though in New York, New England and Wisconsin they are called "towns". The county may or may not be able to override its townships on certain matters, depending on the state constitution.

The newest county in the United States is the city and county of Broomfield, Colorado, established in 2001 as a consolidated city-county.[13][14] The newest county-equivalents are the Alaskan boroughs of Skagway established in 2007, Wrangell established in 2008, and Petersburg established in 2013.[15]

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Qraflıq (ABŞ)
Bân-lâm-gú: Kūn (Bí-kok)
беларуская: Акруга (ЗША)
български: Окръг (САЩ)
Ελληνικά: Κομητεία (ΗΠΑ)
한국어: 군 (미국)
hrvatski: Okruzi SAD-a
Bahasa Indonesia: Wilayah (Amerika Serikat)
ქართული: ოლქი (აშშ)
latviešu: Apgabals (ASV)
മലയാളം: കൗണ്ടി
norsk nynorsk: County i USA
русский: Округ (США)
Simple English: County (United States)
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Okrug (Sjedinjene Države)
svenska: USA:s countyn
українська: Округ (США)
Tiếng Việt: Quận của Hoa Kỳ
中文: 县 (美国)