Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as “Washington”, “the District”, or simply “D.C.”, is the capital of the United States.
The signing of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of a capital district located along the Potomac River on the country’s East Coast. The U.S. Constitution provided for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress and the District is therefore not a part of any state. The states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which included the pre-existing settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria. Named in honor of President George Washington, the City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital. In 1846, Congress returned the land originally ceded by Virginia; in 1871, it created a single municipal government for the remaining portion of the District.
Washington had an estimated population of 681,170 as of July 2016. Commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city’s population to more than one million during the workweek. The Washington metropolitan area, of which the District is the principal city, has a population of over 6 million, the sixth-largest metropolitan statistical area in the country.
All three branches of the federal government of the United States are centered in the District – the Congress, President, and Supreme Court. Washington is home to many national monuments and museums, which are primarily situated on or around the National Mall. The city hosts 176 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many international organizations, trade unions, non-profit organizations, lobbying groups, and professional associations.
A locally elected mayor and a 13‑member council have governed the District since 1973. However, the Congress maintains supreme authority over the city and may overturn local laws. D.C. residents elect a non-voting, at-large congressional delegate to the House of Representatives, but the District has no representation in the Senate. The District receives three electoral votes in presidential elections as permitted by the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1961.
In 2012, the federal government accounted for about 29% of the jobs in Washington, D.C. This is thought to immunize Washington to national economic downturns because the federal government continues operations even during recessions. Many organizations such as law firms, independent contractors (both defense and civilian), non-profit organizations, lobbying firms, trade unions, industry trade groups, and professional associations have their headquarters in or near D.C. to be close to the federal government.
Tourism is Washington’s second largest industry. Approximately 18.9 million visitors contributed an estimated $4.8 billion to the local economy in 2012. The District also hosts nearly 200 foreign embassies and international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Pan American Health Organization. In 2008, the foreign diplomatic corps in Washington employed about 10,000 people and contributed an estimated $400 million annually to the local economy.
The District has growing industries not directly related to government, especially in the areas of education, finance, public policy, and scientific research. Georgetown University, George Washington University, Washington Hospital Center, Children’s National Medical Center and Howard University are the top five non-government-related employers in the city as of 2009. According to statistics compiled in 2011, four of the largest 500 companies in the country were headquartered in the District. In the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index, Washington was ranked as having the 12th most competitive financial center in the world, and fifth most competitive in the United States (after New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston).