Photos of American Samoa

A humpback whale breaching; its name in Samoan is i'a manu. Image courtesy of the US National Park Service.

Introduction

Background

Tutuila -- the largest island in American Samoa -- was settled by 1000 B.C., and the island served as a refuge for exiled chiefs and defeated warriors from the other Samoan islands. The Manu’a Islands, which are also now part of American Samoa, developed a traditional chiefdom that maintained autonomy by controlling oceanic trade. In 1722, Dutch explorer Jacob ROGGEVEEN was the first European to sail through the Manu’a Islands, and he was followed by French explorer Louis Antoine DE BOUGAINVILLE in 1768. Whalers and missionaries arrived in American Samoa in the 1830s, but American and European traders tended to favor the port in Apia -- now in independent Samoa -- over the smaller and less-developed Pago Pago on Tutuila. In the mid-1800s, a dispute arose in Samoa over control of the Samoan archipelago, with different chiefs gaining support from Germany, the UK, and the US. In 1872, the high chief of Tutuila offered the US exclusive rights to Pago Pago in return for US protection, but the US rejected this offer. As fighting resumed, the US agreed to the chief’s request in 1878 and set up a coaling station at Pago Pago. In 1899, with continued disputes over succession, Germany and the US agreed to divide the Samoan islands, while the UK withdrew its claims in exchange for parts of the Solomon Islands. Local chiefs on Tutuila formally ceded their land to the US in 1900, followed by the chief of Manu’a in 1904. The territory was officially named “American Samoa” in 1911.

The US administered the territory through the Department of the Navy. In 1949, there was an attempt to organize the territory, granting it formal self-government, but local chiefs helped defeat the measure in the US Congress. Administration was transferred to the Department of the Interior in 1951, and in 1967, American Samoa adopted a constitution that provides significant protections for traditional Samoan land-tenure rules, language, and culture. In 1977, after four attempts, voters approved a measure to directly elect their governor. Nevertheless, American Samoa officially remains an unorganized territory, and people born in American Samoa are US nationals rather than US citizens.

 

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand

Geographic coordinates

14 20 S, 170 00 W

Area

total: 224 sq km

land: 224 sq km

water: 0 sq km

note: includes Rose Atoll and Swains Island

comparison ranking: total 216

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

116 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical marine, moderated by southeast trade winds; annual rainfall averages about 3 m; rainy season (November to April), dry season (May to October); little seasonal temperature variation

Terrain

five volcanic islands with rugged peaks and limited coastal plains, two coral atolls (Rose Atoll, Swains Island)

Elevation

highest point: Lata Mountain 964 m

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

Natural resources

pumice, pumicite

Land use

agricultural land: 24.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 15% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 9.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 75.5% (2018 est.)

other: 0% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2022)

Natural hazards

cyclones common from December to March

volcanism: limited volcanic activity on the Ofu and Olosega Islands; neither has erupted since the 19th century

Geography - note

Pago Pago has one of the best natural deepwater harbors in the South Pacific Ocean, sheltered by shape from rough seas and protected by peripheral mountains from high winds; strategic location in the South Pacific Ocean

People and Society

Population

total: 43,895

male: 21,804

female: 22,091 (2024 est.)

comparison rankings: female 211; male 211; total 211

Nationality

noun: American Samoan(s) (US nationals)

adjective: American Samoan

Ethnic groups

Pacific Islander 88.7% (includes Samoan 83.2%, Tongan 2.2%, other 3.3%), Asian 5.8% (includes Filipino 3.4%, other 2.4%), mixed 4.4%, other 1.1% (2020 est.)

note: data represent population by ethnic origin or race

Languages

Samoan 87.9% (closely related to Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages), English 3.3%, Tongan 2.1%, other Pacific Islander 4.1%, Asian languages 2.1%, other 0.5% (2020 est.)

note: most people are bilingual

Religions

Christian 98.3%, other <1%, unaffiliated <1% (2020 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 25.3% (male 5,738/female 5,387)

15-64 years: 66% (male 14,291/female 14,679)

65 years and over: 8.7% (2024 est.) (male 1,775/female 2,025)

2023 population pyramid:
2023 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 52.3

youth dependency ratio: 41.9

elderly dependency ratio: 10.4

potential support ratio: 9.6 (2021)

Median age

total: 30 years (2024 est.)

male: 29.4 years

female: 30.6 years

comparison ranking: total 141

Population growth rate

-1.54% (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 235

Birth rate

15.7 births/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 102

Death rate

6.3 deaths/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 145

Net migration rate

-24.8 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 229

Urbanization

urban population: 87.2% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.26% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

49,000 PAGO PAGO (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.07 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.88 male(s)/female

total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2024 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 9.7 deaths/1,000 live births (2024 est.)

male: 11.7 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 7.6 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 136

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 75.8 years (2024 est.)

male: 73.4 years

female: 78.5 years

comparison ranking: total population 122

Total fertility rate

2.06 children born/woman (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 97

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 99.8% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0.2% of population (2020 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 99% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 1% of population (2020 est.)

Literacy

total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Environment

Environment - current issues

limited supply of drinking water; pollution; waste disposal; coastal and stream alteration; soil erosion

Climate

tropical marine, moderated by southeast trade winds; annual rainfall averages about 3 m; rainy season (November to April), dry season (May to October); little seasonal temperature variation

Land use

agricultural land: 24.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 15% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 9.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 75.5% (2018 est.)

other: 0% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 87.2% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.26% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Revenue from forest resources

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 167

Revenue from coal

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 83

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 18,989 tons (2016 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: American Samoa

conventional short form: American Samoa

former: Eastern Samoa

abbreviation: AS

etymology: the meaning of Samoa is disputed; some modern explanations are that the "sa" connotes  "sacred" and "moa" indicates "center," so the name can mean "Holy Center"; alternatively, some assertions state that it can mean "place of the sacred moa bird" of Polynesian mythology; the name, however, may go back to Proto-Polynesian (PPn) times (before 1000 B.C.); a plausible PPn reconstruction has the first syllable as "sa'a" meaning "tribe or people" and "moa" meaning "deep sea or ocean" to convey the meaning "people of the deep sea"

Government type

unincorporated, unorganized Territory of the US with local self-government; republican form of territorial government with separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches

Dependency status

unincorporated, unorganized Territory of the US; administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department of the Interior

Capital

name: Pago Pago

geographic coordinates: 14 16 S, 170 42 W

time difference: UTC-11 (6 hours behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

note: pronounced pahn-go pahn-go

Administrative divisions

none (territory of the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 3 districts and 2 islands* at the second order; Eastern, Manu'a, Rose Island*, Swains Island*, Western

Independence

none (territory of the US)

National holiday

Flag Day, 17 April (1900)

Constitution

history: adopted 17 October 1960; revised 1 July 1967

amendments: proposed by either house of the Legislative Assembly; passage requires three-fifths majority vote by the membership of each house, approval by simple majority vote in a referendum, approval by the US Secretary of the Interior, and only by an act of the US Congress; amended several times, last in 2021

Legal system

mixed legal system of US common law and customary law

Citizenship

see United States
Note: in accordance with US Code Title 8, Section 1408, persons born in American Samoa are US nationals but not US citizens

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Joseph R. BIDEN Jr. (since 20 January 2021)

head of government: Governor Lemanu Peleti MAUGA (since 3 January 2021)

cabinet: Cabinet consists of 12 department directors appointed by the governor with the consent of the Legislature or Fono

elections/appointments: president and vice president indirectly elected on the same ballot by an Electoral College of 'electors' chosen from each state to serve a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); under the US Constitution, residents of unincorporated territories, such as American Samoa, do not vote in elections for US president and vice president; however, they may vote in Democratic and Republican presidential primary elections; governor and lieutenant governor directly elected on the same ballot by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 3 November 2020 (next to be held in November 2024)

election results:
Lemanu Peleti MAUGA elected governor in first round; percent of vote - Lemanu Peleti MAUGA (independent) 60.3%, Gaoteote Palaie TOFAU (independent) 21.9%, I'aulualo Fa'afetai TALIA (independent) 12.3%

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Legislature or Fono consists of:
Senate (18 seats; members indirectly selected by regional governing councils to serve 4-year terms)
House of Representatives (21 seats; 20 members in single- and multi-seat constituencies directly elected by simple majority popular vote and 1 decided by public meeting on Swains Island; members serve 2-year terms)

elections: Senate - last held on 3 November 2020 (next to be held in November 2024)
House of Representatives - last held on 3 November 2020 (next to be held on 5 November 2024)

election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - independent 18; composition - men 17, women 1; percentage women 5.6%

House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; composition - men 20, women 1; percentage women 4.8%; total Legislature percentage women 5.1%

note: American Samoa elects 1 member by simple majority popular vote to serve a 2-year term as a delegate to the US House of Representatives; the delegate can vote when serving on a committee and when the House meets as the Committee of the Whole House, but not when legislation is submitted for a “full floor” House vote; election of delegate last held on 3 November 2020 (next to be held in November 2022); Amata Coleman RADEWAGEN elected delegate; Amata Coleman RADEWAGEN (Republican Party) 83.5%, Oreta CHRICHTON (Democratic Party) 14.4%, Meleagi SUITONU-CHAPMAN (Democratic Party) 2.1%

Judicial branch

highest court(s): High Court of American Samoa (consists of the chief justice, associate chief justice, and 6 Samoan associate judges and organized into trial, family, drug, and appellate divisions); note - American Samoa has no US federal courts

judge selection and term of office: chief justice and associate chief justice appointed by the US Secretary of the Interior to serve for life; Samoan associate judges appointed by the governor to serve for life

subordinate courts: district and village courts

Political parties and leaders

Democratic Party [T'ia REID, chairman]
Republican Party [Taulapapa William SWORD, chairman]

International organization participation

AOSIS (observer), Interpol (subbureau), IOC, PIF (observer), SPC

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (territory of the US)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (territory of the US)

Flag description

a large white triangle edged in red that is based on the fly side and extends to the hoist side and is charged with an eagle, all on a blue field; the red, white, and blue colors are those traditionally used by both the United States and Samoa; the brown and white American bald eagle flies toward the hoist side and carries 2 traditional Samoan symbols of authority, a war club known as a "fa'alaufa'i" (upper; left talon), and a coconut-fiber fly whisk known as a "fue" (lower; right talon); the combination of symbols broadly mimics that seen on the US Great Seal and reflects the relationship between the US and American Samoa

National symbol(s)

a fue (coconut fiber fly whisk; representing wisdom) crossed with a to'oto'o (staff; representing authority); national colors: red, white, blue

National anthem

name: "Amerika Samoa" (American Samoa)

lyrics/music: Mariota Tiumalu TUIASOSOPO/Napoleon Andrew TUITELELEAPAGA

note: local anthem adopted 1950; as a territory of the United States, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is official (see United States)

Economy

Economic overview

tourism, tuna, and government services-based territorial economy; sustained economic decline; vulnerable tuna canning industry; large territorial government presence; minimum wage increases to rise to federal standards by 2036

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$658 million (2016 est.)
$674.9 million (2015 est.)
$666.9 billion (2014 est.)

note: data are in 2016 dollars

comparison ranking: 211

Real GDP growth rate

1.74% (2022 est.)
-0.78% (2021 est.)
4.41% (2020 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 175

Real GDP per capita

$11,200 (2016 est.)
$11,300 (2015 est.)
$11,200 (2014 est.)

comparison ranking: 136

GDP (official exchange rate)

$871 million (2022 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

-0.5% (2015 est.)
1.4% (2014 est.)

comparison ranking: 4

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 27.4% (2012)

industry: 12.4% (2012)

services: 60.2% (2012)

comparison rankings: services 125; industry 199; agriculture 23

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 66.4% (2016 est.)

government consumption: 49.7% (2016 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 7.3% (2016 est.)

investment in inventories: 5.1% (2016 est.)

exports of goods and services: 65% (2016 est.)

imports of goods and services: -93.5% (2016 est.)

Agricultural products

bananas, coconuts, vegetables, taro, breadfruit, yams, copra, pineapples, papayas; dairy products, livestock

Industries

tuna canneries (largely supplied by foreign fishing vessels), handicrafts

Labor force

17,850 (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 209

Budget

revenues: $249 million (2016 est.)

expenditures: $262.5 million (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-2.1% (of GDP) (2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 106

Public debt

12.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 196

Taxes and other revenues

37.8% (of GDP) (2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 16

Exports

$409 million (2022 est.)
$332 million (2021 est.)
$427 million (2020 est.)

note: GDP expenditure basis - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 192

Exports - partners

Australia 33%, South Korea 16%, Taiwan 8%, Kuwait 8%, Senegal 5% (2022)

note: top five export partners based on percentage share of exports

Exports - commodities

animal meal, packaged medicine, machinery, refined petroleum, insulated wire (2022)

note: top five export commodities based on value in dollars

Imports

$677 million (2022 est.)
$694 million (2021 est.)
$686 million (2020 est.)

note: GDP expenditure basis - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 197

Imports - partners

Malaysia 27%, Singapore 24%, Fiji 12%, South Korea 9%, Taiwan 9% (2022)

note: top five import partners based on percentage share of imports

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, fish, cars, paper containers, wood (2022)

note: top five import commodities based on value in dollars

Exchange rates

the US dollar is used

Energy

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 48,000 kW (2022 est.)

consumption: 157.326 million kWh (2022 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 13.975 million kWh (2022 est.)

comparison rankings: transmission/distribution losses 21; consumption 195; installed generating capacity 194

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 97.1% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

solar: 2.9% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

Petroleum

refined petroleum consumption: 3,000 bbl/day (2022 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

391,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 391,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 191

Energy consumption per capita

89.105 million Btu/person (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 59

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 10,000 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 22 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 190

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 2,250 (2009 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 4 (2009 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 224

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: American Samoa Telecommunications Authority, ASTCA, supplies telecommunication services to the residents of the American Samoan islands, a territory of the United States, which are found in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean; the primary system between the islands consists of fiber-optic cables and satellite connections; over Independence Day weekend 2021, the undersea fiber-optic cable linking the Tutuila and Manu’a Islands failed, completely stranding the Manu’a Islands from all telecommunication services; telecommunication services were restored to the people of Manu’a islands through microwave link between Tutuila to the Manu’a Islands; the link is now providing a steady 1Gbps backhaul most of the time of the year with 600Mbps at four 9’s availability, over this extremely long distance (2022)

domestic: nearly 22 per 100 fixed-line tele density (2021)

international: country code - 1-684; landing points for the ASH, Southern Cross NEXT and Hawaiki  providing connectivity to New Zealand, Australia, American Samoa, Hawaii, California, and SAS connecting American Samoa with Samoa; satellite earth station - 1 (Intelsat-Pacific Ocean) (2019)

Broadcast media

3 TV stations; multi-channel pay TV services are available; about a dozen radio stations, some of which are repeater stations

Internet users

total: 18,135 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 40.3% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 213

Transportation

Airports

3 (2024)

comparison ranking: 192

Roadways

total: 241 km (2016)

comparison ranking: total 207

Ports

total ports: 1 (2024)

large: 0

medium: 0

small: 1

very small: 0

ports with oil terminals: 1

key ports: Pago Pago Harbor

Military and Security

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the US