Alaska is the largest state in the U.S., and also the least densely
populated. It was purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867 for about
two cents per acre. After several administrative changes, Alaska became
an official territory of the U.S. in 1912, and the 49th state of the
United States in 1959.
Alaska is divided into Boroughs in lieu of counties. Eighteen organized
boroughs cover the most densely populated parts of the state. The
Municipality of Anchorage is the most populous borough, followed by the
Fairbanks North Star Borough. Alaskan land that falls outside the 18
organized boroughs is referred to as belonging to the "Unorganized
Borough." It covers over half of Alaska's area, which is larger than
any other US state. Only 13% of Alaskans reside in the Unorganized
Oil production is a major part of the economy of Alaska. One attractive
feature to being a resident of the state is the "Permanent Fund," which
determines where the revenues from energy production are appropriated.
Each year, 5% of the dividends are distributed equally to all
To qualify for this payment, one must have lived in the state for a
minimum of 12 months, maintain constant residency and not be subject to
court judgments or criminal convictions. Alaska also does not collect
sales tax or individual income tax from its residents, another perk of
living in this state.
Darkness and Daylight
Due to its unique location on the map, Alaska has periods where the sun
doesn't set at night, and other times when the sun doesn't rise in the
mornings. This state has the longest day of the year in the U.S., when
there is no sunset for 82 days in the summer. The longest night occurs
with no sunrise for 67 days in the winter.
The extended period of darkness in particular takes a toll on the
psychological well-being of many Alaskan residents. Many people have
found that light therapy, antidepressants, or vacationing to sunnier
places during the winter can help to counteract the negative effects of
the extended darkness.
Alaska has an ongoing substance abuse problem, especially among the
rural communities. A significant number of Alaska Natives were
introduced to alcohol in the 1950's. By the 1970's, alcoholism
had become a leading cause of death among Alaska Natives. The suicide
rate among this population also had a dramatic increase in the 1970's,
and continues to be a large problem today.
The current suicide rate in Alaska is four times the national average,
and 80% of these suicides are alcohol related. Many of the rural
communities have outlawed the importation of alcoholic beverages, but
this has not remedied the problem.
Alaska has the highest rate of sexual assault in the United States.
Domestic abuse and other violent crimes are also at very high levels.
This is thought to be due to a high incidence of alcohol abuse. The
rate of incarceration in Alaska is 357 per 100,000 people, which is
lower than the U.S. rate of 502.