The American economy is a dynamic, free-market system that is constantly evolving out of the choices and decisions made by millions of citizens who play multiple, often overlapping roles as consumers, producers, investors and voters. The United States is generally described as a mixed economy, which is to say that even though the great majority of productive resources are privately owned, the federal government does play an important part in the marketplace.

By any standard, the American economy that has evolved over less than 250 years has been immensely successful. With less than 5 percent of the world's population, the United States in the early 1990s produced about 25 percent of the world's output. The U.S. economy is more than twice as large as the next largest economy, that of Japan. By conventional measures, U.S. productivity and standard of living remain among the highest in the industrial world -- although other nations have experienced higher rates of growth in recent decades.