The fifty states of the United States are a well-known fact. What is somewhat less well-known is the specific concept of a state, let alone what other nations have stated. This is partly because the word state has two separate, related meanings.
First, state might mean nation or country, especially when used in a global context, as in the first meaning. Sovereign states include, but are not limited to, the member nations of the United Nations.
According to the second definition, a state is an administrative division that functions independently but is still technically part of its parent country.
For instance, states in the United States have a lot of power since they choose their officials and may pass whatever laws they choose.
Still, they are not sovereign or self-ruling because they are part of a bigger country (the United States) whose laws precede state laws. Almost every nation-state on the planet uses some kind of administrative division.
However, few governments officially recognize such divisions as states. State, province, parish, territory, department, district, prefecture, krais, oblast, okrug, and countless more names and forms are used for administrative divisions.
13 nations outside the United States also have individual states:
- New Zealand
- South Sudan
States of Australia, Austria, and Brazil
There are six different states that make up Australia. New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. Like the federal government, state governments are divided into three branches under their constitutions (legislative, executive, and judiciary).
There are 10 territories in Australia, each with a smaller say in national affairs than the states. Seven are overseas possessions like Christmas Island and the Coral Sea Islands, while the eighth is the Australian Capital Territory, which acts much like Washington, DC in the United States.
Austria’s structure is less complex, with only nine Bundesländer (German for “federal states”) and no other territories. Twenty-six states plus the federal district of Brasilia (which, again, looks like Washington, D.C.) make up Brazil.
States of Germany, India, and Malaysia
Berlin, Hamburg, and Bremen are sometimes referred to as Stadtstaaten (city-states) and are three of Germany’s 16 states (also known as Bundesländer or simply Länder (states in German)) (which includes Bremerhaven). The remaining thirteen are Flächenländer (area states).
There are a total of 28 states in India, plus another eight union territories (one of which is the capital territory and three of which are partial states) governed by an administrator appointed by the president and more than two dozen autonomous administrative divisions, smaller regions within the states to which they have been granted autonomy.
There are 13 states (or Negeri) that make up Malaysia, 11 of which are located on the Malay peninsula and 2 in Borneo. There are also 3 federal territories. Seven sultans, one raja, and one Yang di-Pertua Besar (Supreme Ruler of All Malaysia) control nine of the 13 states.
States of Mexico, Micronesia, and Myanmar
There are 31 states in Mexico, with Mexico City as the federal capital. Each state in Mexico has its legislature and constitution and may create its laws so long as they do not violate the country’s laws.
This model is very similar to the organizational structure of the United States. Micronesia adopts a basic method of arranging its numerous separate islands into four states, organized in a fairly horizontal row.
There is additional complexity to the system in Myanmar. There are 21 different regions in the nation, although only seven are considered states. Seven regions, five SEZs, one U.T., and 1 S.R. make up the remaining administrative subdivisions.
The predominant ethnic group in Myanmar’s states and regions (named divisions until 2010) distinguishes them from one another; the majority population in one may be Burman/Bamar, while the majority population in another may be made up of one of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities.
States of South Sudan, Palau, South Sudan, and New Zealand
One of the most uncommon uses of the word state is seen in New Zealand, where the nation is split into regional councils and territorial authority rather than states.
New Zealand, however, also counts the Cook Islands and Niue as self-governing states in free association with New Zealand, an arrangement that seems to integrate the two definitions of “state” to form a third.
In contrast, Nigeria went with a more conventional plan, adopting a structure with 36 states and one federal capital territory, much like the United States and Mexico. There are only 16 states in Palau, and they are all autonomous with their constitutions and the ability to choose their presidents.
South Sudan is committed to statehood, although in recent years, it has tried out several arrangements. The nation has 10 states between the years 2011 and 2014. However, as of January 1, 2015, a portion of the government adopted a system with 21 states.
While not everyone in power was happy about it, the nation became not 21 but 28 separate states in 2015 and 2016.
In January 2017, then-President Kiir issued a decree that made some minor adjustments to the divisions, resulting in a system of 32 states.
Also See: Welfare States 2022
By February 2020, South Sudan, Sudan, and Kenya had signed a peace accord restoring the original system of 10 states, plus two administrative areas on land claimed by South Sudan and either Kenya or Sudan and one area with special administrative status considered to be part of both South Sudan and Sudan.
The United States administrative divisions
There are 50 states plus D.C. that make up the USA. Each of the 50 states in the United States is governed independently and has its constitution. This explains why abortion and e-cigarette legislation is treated differently depending on where you live.
Further, there might be large differences in the quality of life in different states. This is seen as a drawback of a federal system and is a worry for any nation with administrative divisions.
|Australia||6 states and 10 territories, including one capital territory||26177.4130|
|Austria||9 states (Bundesländer)||8939.6170|
|Brazil||26 states (estados) and 1 federal/capital district||215313.4980|
|Germany||16 states (Bundesländer), including 3 Stadtstaaten (city-states) and 13 Flächenländer (area states)||83369.8430|
|India||28 states (pradesh), 8 union territories, and 25 autonomous administrative divisions||1417173.1730|
|Malaysia||13 states (Negeri) and 3 federal territories||33938.2210|
|Mexico||31 states (estados) and 1 federal capital district||127504.1250|
|Myanmar||7 states, 7 regions, 5 self-administered zones, 1 union territory, 1 self-adminstered region||54179.3060|
|New Zealand||2 states "in free association" alongside several territories and regions"||5185.2880|
|Nigeria||36 states and 1 capital territory||218541.2120|
|South Sudan||10 states, with as many as 32 in the past||10913.1640|
|United States||50 states and 1 capital territory||338289.8570|