Skip to main content
Select Source:

Micronesia, Federated States of



CAPITAL: Palikir, Pohnpei Island

FLAG: Adopted in 1978, the flag is light blue, bearing four five-pointed stars arranged in a diamond in the center.

ANTHEM: Patriots of Micronesia (adopted in 1991).

MONETARY UNIT: The US dollar is the official medium of exchange.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: British units are used, as modified by US usage.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Federated States of Micronesia Day, 10 May; Independence Day, 3 November; Christmas Day, 25 December.

TIME: In Pohnpei and Kosrae, 10 pm = noon GMT; in Yap and Truk, 9 pm = noon GMT.


The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is located in the western Pacific Ocean within the Carolinian archipelago. The four states consist of 607 islands with a total area of 7,866 sq km (3,037 sq mi), comprising 702 sq km (271 sq mi) of land, and 7,164 sq km (2,766 sq mi) of lagoons. Comparatively, the area occupied by the FSM is slightly less than four times the size of Washington, DC. Kosrae, the smallest and easternmost state, consists of five closely situated islands. Pohnpei consists of the single large island of Pohnpei and 25 smaller islands within a barrier reef, in addition to 137 outer islands, of which the major atolls are Mokil, Pingelap, Kapingamarangi, Nukjuoro, and Ngatik. Truk includes the large Truk lagoon, enclosing 98 islands, and major outer island groups, including the Mortlocks, Halls, Western, and Namwunweito islands. Yap, the westernmost state, consists of 4 large islands and 7 smaller islands surrounded by barrier reefs, in addition to 134 outer islands, of which the largest groups are Ulithi and Woleai. The cumulative coastline distance is 6,112 km (3,798 mi).

The capital city of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palikir, is located on the island of Pohnpei.


The 607 islands constituting the four states include large, mountainous islands of volcanic origin and coral atolls. Kosrae is largely mountainous, with two peaks, Fenkol (634 m/2,080 ft) and Matanti (583 m/1,913 ft). Pohnpei contains a large volcanic island, with the highest elevation that of Mt. Totolom (791 m/2,595 ft). Truk contains 14 islands that are mountainous and of volcanic origin. Yap contains four large high islands, with the peak elevation that of Mt. Tabiwol (178 m/584 ft). The outer islands of all states are mostly coral atolls. Though the country is not generally known to have major earthquakes, a 6.6 magnitude quake occurred on Yap on 16 January 2005.


The climate is maritime tropical, with little seasonal or diurnal variation in temperature, which averages 27°c (80°f). The islands are subject to typhoons. The short and torrential nature of the rainfall, which decreases from east to west, results in an annual average of 508 cm (200 in) in Pohnpei and 305 cm (120 in) in Yap.


There is moderately heavy tropical vegetation, with tree species including tropical hardwoods on the slopes of the higher volcanic islands and coconut palms on the coral atolls. The only native land mammal is the tropical bat. A rich marine fauna inhabits the open sea, reefs, lagoons, and shore areas.


Solid waste disposal in urban areas is a continuing problem and the land is threatened by toxic pollutants from mining operations. Micronesia's water supply is also threatened by industrial and agricultural pollutants. Population increases in urban areas. Untreated sewage and contaminants from industrialized countries in the region add to the problem of water pollution.

United Nations (UN) research shows that global warming and the rise of sea levels are a threat to Micronesia's forests, agricultural areas, and water supply. Pollution from industrial and agricultural sources also threatens the nation's mangrove areas. The fish population is endangered by waterborne toxins and explosives used in commercial fishing. The country also has a problem with the degeneration of its reefs due to tourism. In 1984, the government established an FSM Environmental Protection Board.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included six types of mammals, eight species of birds, two types of reptiles, six species of fish, four types of mollusks, and four species of plants. Threatened species include the chuuk flying-fox, the chuuk monarch, and the Mortlock Islands flying-fox. The Kosrae crake and the Kosrae mountain starling have become extinct.


The population of Federated States of Micronesia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 108,000, which placed it at number 177 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 40% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 102 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 2.1%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 115,000. The overall population density was 154 per sq km (400 per sq mi). The majority of the population lives in the coastal areas of the high islands, leaving the mountainous interiors largely uninhabited.

The UN estimated that 22% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.17%. The capital city, Palikir, Pohnpei Island, had a population of 7,000 in that year. Population estimates for other large urban areas included 53,700 in Truk; 34,486 in Pohnpei; 13,900 in Yap; and 7,317 in Kosrae.


No significant permanent emigration has occurred; most emigration has been undertaken temporarily for higher education. The total number of migrants in 2000 was 3,000. In 2005, the net migration rate was -21.01, a significant change from 11.65 migrants per 1,000 population in 1999. The government views the emigration levels as too high.


The islanders are classified as Micronesians of Malayo-Mongoloid origins. The people of the Nukuoro and Kapingamarangi atolls in southwestern Pohnpei are of Polynesian descent. In total, there are nine ethnic Micronesian and Polynesian groups. Noncitizens are prohibited from owning land and holding certain occupations. Non-Micronesians are generally not granted citizenship.


English is the official language and is taught in the schools. The indigenous languages are of the Malayo-Polynesian family. Yapese, Ulithian, Woleaian, Trukese, Pohnpeian, and Kosraean are classed as Malaysian. Kapingamarangi and Nukuoro, spoken on two isolated atolls of the same names in Pohnpei, are Polynesian languages.


Roman Catholicism and Protestantism have been widely accepted throughout the country following their introduction by missionaries in the 1880s. Protestantism is predominant in Kosrae. The largest Protestant denomination is the United Church of Christ. Others include Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Mormon, the Salvation Army, Jehovah's Witness, and Assemblies of God. Roman Catholics are dominant on Chuuk and Yap. There is a small Buddhist community of Pohnpei. There are also a small number of Baha'is in the country. The constitution provides for religious freedom and a bill of rights specifically prohibits the establishment of a state religion.


As of 2002, there were 240 km (149 mi) of roadways on the major islands, of which 42 km (26 mi) are paved. Over 90% of all vehicles are located on the main islands of Pohnpei, Moen (in Truk), Kosrae, and Yap. The state of Yap provides public bus transportation, primarily used by students. International shipping services are provided by eight companies, some of them Japanese. There are commercial harbor facilities at Kolonia, Moen, Okat, and Colonia. The Federated States of Micronesia's merchant fleet, as of 2005, consisted of two vessels (one cargo and one passenger/cargo of 1,000 GRT or more) totaling 2,423 GRT. Interisland shipping service is provided by six government-owned vessels. In 2005, there were an estimated six airports, all of which had paved runways. International and interstate scheduled airline services are provided by Continental/Air Micronesia, Air Nauru, and Pacific Missionary Aviation.


The Carolinian archipelago was sighted by European navigators in the 16th century. In 1686 the Spanish captain Francisco Lezcano named Yap Island "La Carolina" after King Charles II of Spain; the name was later generalized to the islands as a whole. Until the end of the 19th century, the islands were under Spanish colonial administration. In 1899 following the Spanish-American War, Spain sold the islands to Germany. Japanese administration commenced at the end of World War I, and in 1947, following World War II, the four states of the FSM came under US administration as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Beginning in the 1960s, the people of Micronesia began making clear their desire for political independence. The United States, ever interested in maintaining good relations with the strategically significant Pacific islands, gave in to such demands and helped Micronesia to form a consultative body, called the Congress of Micronesia, in 1967. The congress declared the area sovereign in 1970. The history of the FSM as a political entity began on 12 July 1978, when a constitution drafted by a popularly elected constitutional convention was adopted; it went into effect on 10 May 1979. The government of the FSM and the government of the United States executed a Compact of Free Association in October 1982; in November 1986, that compact went into effect. Under the Compact of Free Association, the United States is responsible for defense and security issues. The UN Security Council voted in December 1990 to terminate the FSM's status as a UN Trust Territory. A new capital was built about 10 km (6 mi) southwest of Kolonia in the Palikir Valley; it has served the FSM since 1990.

The FSM became an independent state and joined the UN in September 1991. John R. Haglelgam of Yap was elected FSM's president in 1987. In May 1991 Bailey Olter of Pohnpei defeated Haglelgam in the presidential election. Olter was reelected to a second term in 1995, as was vice president Jacob Nena. On 18 July 1996 Olter suffered a stroke and underwent treatment in Texas. Nena served as acting president while Olter was incapacitated. When Olter was unable to resume his duties, Nena became the FSM's fourth president on 8 May 1997. In a new election Leo A. Falcam, of Pohnpei, was elected vice president. In the May 1999 elections Falcam was elected president and Redley Killion, of Chuuk, was elected vice president. Joseph J. Urusemal was elected president in 2003, and Redley Killion vice president.

The first Compact of Free Association between the FSM and the United States expired in 2001. Prior to beginning negotiations and before any other assistance was considered, the United States requested a full accounting of the approximately $3 billion in US funding provided to FSM since 1986. During further discussions of the compact in 2000, the United States suggested that restrictions on Micronesian immigration might be tied to future funding. In May 2003, after four years of discussion, negotiators agreed upon an amended document providing 20 years of ongoing assistance in the amount of approximately $76 million per year; US president George W. Bush signed the compact in December 2003. The payments were to be made according to a schedule of reduced annual grants, with the goal that FSM would establish trust funds and attain greater financial independence. In 2005, the US Government Accounting Office (GAO) expressed concern that FSM was handling the funds without sufficient accountability and oversight, and went so far as to suspend some funds earmarked for education in Chuuk because they were misused.

Faichuk has been seeking independence from Chuuk since the 1960s. In March 2005 a congressional bill was introduced formally seeking that Faichuk become the fifth state of the FSM.

Beginning in the late-1990s and continuing into the new millennium, global warming and the possibility of rising sea levels have raised concern over the long-term prospects for the islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has suggested that the sea could rise by about. 5 m (18 in) by 2100, but that figure could be much lower or higher. The existence of low-lying nations such as FSM would be threatened by any rise in sea level.


The national executive branch includes the president and vice president, elected by the congress from its membership, who serve a four-year term and may not be from the same state. The principal officers of the executive branch are appointed by the president, with the advice and consent of congress. The judiciary consists of a Supreme Court that applies criminal and civil laws and procedures closely paralleling those of the United States. The legislature consists of a unicameral congress of 14 senators. Of the senators, four are elected at large on the basis of state equality and ten on the basis of population apportionment, with five from Truk, three from Pohnpei, and one each from Yap and Kosrae. The four at-large senators serve four-year terms and the remaining senators serve two-year terms. Congressional elections were held in all four states (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap) to fill the ten two-year seats in March 2005. The next elections for the legislature were scheduled to be held in March 2007; elections for president were scheduled for May 2007.


There are no formal political parties.


The state executive branch consists of state governors and lieutenant-governors, popularly elected for four-year terms. The state legislative branch consists of members popularly elected on the basis of proportional representation, numbering 20 in Pohnpei, 30 in Truk, 13 in Kosrae, and 9 in Yap. Municipalities are districts composed of a number of small communities (sections), some of which may be located in different islands.

Municipal government is considered by many to be the most important level of government in Micronesia. The leaders of local bodies are generally tribal chiefs, who are considered by a sizable body of Micronesians to be more important figures than nationally elected politicians. The Council of Chiefs can veto any legislation it considers detrimental to traditional ways.


The national judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, headed by a chief justice, and such subordinate courts as are established by statute. Justices are appointed by the president, with the advice and consent of Congress, and serve for life. The Supreme Court has both trial and appellate divisions. It may review cases heard in state or local courts if they require interpretation of the constitution, national law, or treaties, and it may hear appeals from the highest state court where permitted by a state's constitution.

State and municipal court systems have been established in each of the states. State courts have jurisdiction over all matters not within the exclusive jurisdiction of the national courts. Municipal courts have jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters arising within their municipalities.

The Micronesian constitution and judicial system are modeled after those of the United States. The civil and criminal laws also parallel those of the United States.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the government respects this provision in practice.


The Federated States of Micronesia maintains no armed forces. External security is the responsibility of the United States.


The FSM became a member of the United Nations on 17 September 1991; it is a part of ESCAP and serves on nonregional specialized agencies such as the FAO, the World Bank, the IFC, IMF, UNESCO, and the WHO. The FSM participates in the ACP Group, the Asian Development Bank, G-77, the Pacific Island Forum, Sparteca, and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

The FSM and the United States signed the Compact of Free Association on 3 November 1986. Amendments to the compact went into effect on 1 May 2004. Under these amendments, the United States has full authority and responsibility for the defense of the FSM and promises to provide $92 million in assistance over 20 years.

In environmental cooperation, the FSM is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


Other than US payments, the Micronesian economy is markedly underdeveloped. A clothing plant in Yap employs 500 workers in the country's largest private-sector industrial enterprise. The subsistence economy is thought to generate about 25% of GDP, but statistics from the government are incomplete and unreliable.

In 1993, the United States, whose aid constitutes a large share of GDP, enlisted the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in a plan to devise and implement an economic development scheme for the country. In 1995, an economic summit was convened to discuss some solutions. Privatization was high on the list of recommendations and Yap has already initiated a plan to reduce government employment by 37%. The ADB-led summit also recommended resources be spent in the development of fisheries and tourism, two sectors with substantial potential. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, licensing fees paid by foreign fisherman for tuna fishing in Micronesia's exclusive economic zone have provided $1824 million annually.

The Second National Development Plan, for the years 199296, featured as its primary objective decreasing dependence on aid and, at the same time, making better use of its aid. As of 2005, little progress had been made, however. It was estimated that after US-led grants end, per-capita GDP could drop to below $500.

The economy underwent a recess in 2004, contracting by 3.3%, down from positive growth figures in 2003 (3.2%), and 2002 (0.8%). The inflation rate was relatively stable, and at 1.5% in 2004; inflation did not pose a problem to the overall economy. There are no recent official numbers for the unemployment rate, but it is estimated to hover somewhere around 22%. US assistance remains the major source of income for this tiny country and the local private sector is fragile and with few future perspectives. The country's isolated position and its poor infrastructure will continue to hinder its long-term growth prospects.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2005 Micronesia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $277.0 million. GDP was supplemented by grant aid, averaging perhaps $100 million annually. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $2,000. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 1%. The average inflation rate in 2001 was 2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 50% of GDP, industry 4%, and services 46%.

It was estimated that in 2002 about 26.7% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In 2003 the government reported that Micronesia's national labor force was estimated at about 23,190 in 1994 (the latest year for which data was available). Two-thirds of the workforce in 2002 were government employees. The unemployment rate in FSM was 22% in 2000, up from 16% in 1994. The unemployment rate varied by state, with the highest rate on Chuuk, at 34%, followed by Kosrae (17%), Pohnpei (12%), and Yap (4%). While unemployment remains high, the economy faced shortages of skilled workers, since over 44% of the population was under 16 years of age.

The law provides the right to form or join unions, and government employees are granted the right to form associations to proffer their views. However, no such associations have been formed as of 2002. The country is not affiliated with the International Labour Organization (ILO).

While labor laws are applied mostly without variance in all four states, the minimum wage varies from state to state. Minimums for government-employed workers in 2002 ranged from $0.80 per hour for Yap to $2.00 per hour in Pohnpei. Only Pohnpei had a minimum wage for private sector workers. In 1999, it stood at $1.35 an hour. There is no minimum working age for children and many children assist their families in subsistence farming activities.


Agricultural production has traditionally been for subsistence and was based on a system of shifting cultivation in the high islands. Staple crops include taros, sweet potatoes, bananas, cassavas, and breadfruit. Yams are grown on Pohnpei, Kosrae, Yap, and Fais islands. Other vegetables, such as cucumbers, eggplant, head cabbage, Chinese cabbage, bell peppers, green onions, and tomatoes, are also produced. Other fruits include mangoes, papayas, pandanus, pineapples, lemons, and limes, with oranges and tangerines also produced on Kosrae. The ubiquitous coconut palm is used for a wide range of subsistence purposes, and copra is the main cash crop and the nation's leading export. Crop production in 2004 included (in thousands of tons): coconuts, 140; cassava, 11.8; and bananas, 2. Black and white peppers were introduced to Micronesia in 1938, but pepper growing only began in Pohnpei (the FSM's most important pepper-producing island) in 1960. Rich volcanic soil and heavy rainfall make gourmet Pohnpei peppers highly regarded.


Livestock in 2005 included some 13,900 head of cattle, 32,000 pigs, and 4,000 goats. Pigs, traditionally kept by many households for ceremonial purposes, are being upgraded through the introduction of improved strains. Two pig farms operate on Pohnpei. The largest cattle herd is on Pohnpei Island. Eggs are produced commercially and limited success has been achieved by commercial poultry chicken projects in the states of Pohnpei and Chuuk. Chickens are kept by many households. Goat projects are also operating in Kosrae and Chuuk. A few head of water buffalo are privately raised on Pohnpei and on Pata in Chuuk. In the mid-1990s, the government started encouraging domestic feed production in order to decrease the reliance on imported feed meal.


Inshore marine resources of the reefs and lagoons are harvested mainly for subsistence. The FSM's exclusive economic zone covers some 2.6 million sq km (1 million sq mi) of ocean which contain the world's most productive tuna fishing grounds. Although the FSM now has sole ownership of tuna stocks capable of a sustained yield of well over 100,000 tons per year, there is virtually no national participation in its exploitation. The total catch in 2003 was 32,191 tons, including 23,788 tons of skipjack tuna, 5,708 tons of yellowfin tuna, and 994 tons of bigeye tuna. The tuna catch is valued at about $200 million annually. The Micronesian Maritime Authority and the National Fisheries Corporation assist in the development and promotion of commercial fisheries. Pohnpei and Kosroe have embarked on the construction of cold storage and tuna processing plants, and the Yap Fishing Corporation began upgrading its fleet. Total fisheries exports were valued at $19 million in 2003.


The nation has abundant forestry resources, particularly on the high islands, consisting of approximately 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) of forests. Two privately owned commercial sawmills are operated on Pohnpeione in Kitti logging mangrove cedar and one in Kolonia utilizing upland timber. Exploitation of the nation's forestry resources is limited and virtually all lumber used in construction is imported ($2.1 million in 2004). Mangrove timber is used for handicrafts and furniture making.


There were deposits of phosphates on Fais Island in Yap and bauxite in Pohnpei, Truk, and Yap, but there was no commercial exploitation. Clays, coral, sand, rock aggregate, and quarry stone works supplied construction materials.


The nation is dependent on imported petroleum, which supplied about 80% of the total energy requirements. Fuel wood for household use provided most of the remainder. Diesel fuel, which accounted for over two-thirds of petroleum imports, was used primarily for electrical generation and ship services. In 2002, Micronesia produced 192 million kWh, with demand that year at 178.6 million kWh. Electricity was generated by government power stations located in each state center. About half the electricity produced was used by the government. Small quantities of electricity are produced in outer island communities.


Manufacturing activity is nearly nonexistent and accounts for only a fraction of a percent of GDP. Cottage industries involving handicrafts and small-scale processing are carried out in all states and constitute an important source of income for those not integrated into the monetary economy. In Truk, a small industries center, a garment factory, a coconut-processing plant, a boatbuilding plant, and a breadfruit flour plant were in operation; in Pohnpei, a coconut processing and soap and oil plant, a feedmill, an ice production plant, a brick-manufacturing plant; in Yap, a cottage industries program; and in Kosrae, a small industries center and a wood-processing plant. In late 1999, a tuna processing plant opened in Majuro.

In 2000, the industry had a 4% share in the economy, with services accounting for 46%, and agriculture for 50%. More than two-thirds of the country's labor force are employed by the government.


There are no institutions for advanced instruction or research and development in science and technology. (The College of Micronesia (COM), which has five campus locations, does not provide advanced degrees). A medical school was established in Pohnpei in 1987.


Domestic commercial activity is dominated by wholesale and retail trade, which is highly localized in the four state centers of Kolonia, Tofol, Moen, and Colonia. Nearly half of the population is employed in subsistence farming and fishing. The country relies heavily on imports of food and manufactured goods.


The FSM sustains a severe trade deficit. Exports include agricultural products (coconuts, bananas, betel nuts, cassava, and sweet potatoes), pigs, chickens, and re-exports of fish. Copra, formerly the country's largest export crop, suffered a severe decline in the late 1990s.

In 2000, exports totaled $22 million (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $149 million. In 2004, most of the exports went to Japan, the United States, and Guam. Imports primarily came from the United States, Australia, and Japan.


Foreign receipts are predominantly grants and rental payments from the United States and aid from other sources. Economic aid totaled $77.4 million in 1995.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that the purchasing power parity of Micronesia's exports was $22 million while imports totaled $149 million resulting in a trade deficit of $127 million.

Exports of goods and services totaled $40 million in 2004, same as in 2003. Imports grew from $172 million in 2003, to $184 million in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative, and on a downward pathfrom -$131 million in 2003 to -$145 million in 2004. A similar trend was registered for the current account balance, which deteriorated from $2 million in 2003 to - $25 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) decreased to $55 million in 2004, covering less than four months of imports.


Commercial banking operations are regulated by the FSM Banking Board. There are two foreign commercial banks: the Bank of Hawaii, with branches in Pohnpei, Yap and Kosrae; and the Bank of Guam, with branches in Pohnpei and Truk. There is also a domestic Bank of the FSM that operates branches throughout the islands. The FSM Development Bank commenced operations in 1982. It provides loans for projects that meet criteria based on the government's development priorities and is authorized to provide loan guarantees to other financial institutions in the FSM. However, it can only make loans of up to $200,000 because of capital limitations. The FSM Employees Credit Union was chartered in 1986. Tradable securities are not issued by the FSM government, state governments, or enterprises residing in the FSM. The currency is the US dollar.

In 1996, national and state governments considered measures designed to cope with the winding down of US funding under the Compact of Free Association (under which payments were scheduled to end in 2001). The restructuring of national government was underway as of 2005, with the aim of reducing the number of employees and departments. In 2003 the compact with the United States was amended to provide an additional 20 years of assistance by the United States. The FSM government was charged to seek ways to improve basic infrastructure through private-sector investment; infrastructure improvements should in turn encourage growth of the private sector. In 1999, the FSM Trust Fund was established to foster financial independence. The International Monetary Fund reported that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $21.2 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $115.3 million.


The Public Service System administers life insurance and workers' compensation programs. In 1984, a government employee group health insurance program was instituted, and in 1987, a retirement pension programfor both state and national government employeeswas initiated.


The state and national governments had a series of surpluses in the late 1980s, followed by years of deficits in the early 1990s. Government revenues remained nearly constant during the 1990s, while spending was unrestrained. By the late 1990s, the deficits had come under control.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 1998 Micronesia's central government took in revenues of approximately $161 million and had expenditures of $160 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $1 million. Total external debt was $53.1 million.


National taxes on wages and salaries are levied, as well as a business gross receipts tax. The states are constitutionally limited in the types of taxes they may impose; they may levy sales taxes on alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and cigarettes. The municipal governments usually levy head taxes and boat license and business license fees.

An important tax revenue service is from the sale of tuna fishing rights, which rose from $12.7 million in 1990 to $18.2 million in 1994. In 1999, FSM, Palau, and the Republic of Marshall Islands agreed to cooperate in policing illegal fishing in the region.


As of 1988, specific duties were levied on cigarettes, beer and malt beverages, wine, distilled alcohol, and gasoline and diesel fuel. Ad valorem duties were levied as follows: tobacco, 50%; perfumes, cosmetics, and toiletries, 25%; soft drinks, 2% per 12 fl oz; foodstuffs for human consumption, 1%; and all other products, 3%. Micronesia's import taxes are among the lowest in the Pacific.


There is little foreign private investment. The Foreign Investment Act of 1997 was enacted to prohibit foreign investment in specific business activities, namely arms manufacture, minting of coins or printing of currency notes, and nuclear power or radioactivity-related businesses. The Act also restricts investment by foreigners in banking, telecommunications, fishing, air transport, and shipping.


The first national development plan (198589) was the initial stage of the government's 15-year program designed to achieve national self-sufficiency. Funds accruing under the Compact of Free Association were required for implementing the plan, and rephasing of the plan was necessary. A multi-million dollar US-implemented capital improvement plan was completed in the early 2000s. It included new airports, docks, water and sewage systems, paved roads, and hospitals. Under the terms of the Compact of Free Association, the United States provided $1.3 billion from 19862001 in grant aid.

A Second National Development Plan covering the years 199296 sought to diversify Micronesia's economy; mainly to wean it from dependence on US aid. Little was accomplished. In late 1999, representatives of the United States and Micronesia began negotiations aimed at renewing some provisions of the Compact of Free Association. The Amended Compact of Free Association with the United States, which provided that aid to Micronesia would continue until 2023 and would be consolidated through a trust fund to provide annual payouts in perpetuity after that year. The country's medium-term perspectives were bleak though, due to its isolation and poorly developed infrastructure, and due to the reduction in 2003 of US assistance.


The extended family and clan system, headed by traditional leaders or chiefs, is retained in varying degrees, especially in the outer islands. A social insurance system includes old age, disability, and survivor benefits. Employees contribute 6% of their earnings; employers make a 6% payroll contribution. The basic retirement pension benefit is 16.5% of the first $10,000 and marginal rates beyond that level. Survivor payments totaled 60% of the descendant's pension.

In spite of constitutional safeguards, sex discrimination and violence against women are serious problems. Women's roles within the family remain essentially the traditional ones. Sexual abuse and domestic violence are increasing. Women, however, face no discrimination in education. In 2004, women were well represented in middle and lower levels of government and generally received equal pay for equal work.

Minorities generally do not face discrimination or prejudice. Noncitizens, however, are prohibited from owning land. Human rights are generally respected.


There are hospitals in each state center. In 1986, a community health center was established in Pohnpei and in 1987, a medical school was started. In the outer islands, primary medical services are provided through dispensaries staffed by health assistants. In 1982, a superdispensary was initiated in the Lower Mortlock Islands to serve 3,769 people scattered on seven atolls. Tertiary medical treatment is provided through patient referral to hospitals in Guam and Hawaii. All of Micronesia had access to safe water and sanitation. In 2004, there were an estimated 60 physicians per 100,000 population.

The infant mortality rate in 2005 was 30.21 per 1,000 live births, and the life expectancy was 69.75 years. In the same year, the general mortality rate was 6 deaths per 1,000 people and the fertility rate was 3.9 children per woman. The maternal mortality rate was 121 per 100,000 live births. Immunization rates for Micronesian children under one year of age were as follows: measles, 80%; tuberculosis, 50%; polio, 77%; and diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, 78%. Although polio has been eradicated, there have been cases of tuberculosis, and measles. Anemia was seen in 33% of children under the age of five.


At the 2000 census, there were 15,273 occupied households, with about 44.4% on Chuuk, 35.8% on Pohnpei, 12.9% on Yap, and 6.9% on Kosrae. The average number of members per household was 6.8. About 26.8% of households had nine or more members. An estimated 30% of the housing stock was built in 1993 or later, with another 8.8% of all housing built in 1969 or earlier. Materials for housing construction are generally imported. Metal sheeting and concrete are the most common materials for walls and roofs. About 53.6% of all households had electricity and 50% had access to piped water. Only 25% of all households have access to improved sanitation systems.


The state governments are responsible for the provision of education. Elementary education is compulsory up to the eighth grade or until age 15. In 1986 there were 142 primary schools, nine of them private, with 968 teachers and 23,636 pupils. Secondary education was provided through five public high schools (one in each state center and one in Falalop on the Ulithi atoll, serving Yap's outer islands) and five private secondary schools (two in Truk and three in Pohnpei).

The only postsecondary institution is the College of Micronesia (COM), which has five campus locations. FSM students are eligible for postsecondary education grants from the US government and attend institutions mainly in Guam, Hawaii, and the US mainland. Vocational education is provided by the Pohnpei Agriculture and Trade School and the Micronesian Occupational College in Palau.

A 2000 census report indicated that of all citizens aged 25 years or older, 12.3% had no formal schooling, 36% had completed only an elementary school education, 32.3% had completed their high school education, and about 18.4% had completed some college education.


Library materials are contained in the primary and secondary schools, and at the College of Micronesia, which holds about 33,000 volumes and serves as the depository for documents from the trust territory government's archives in Saipan. The Pohnpei Public Library has about 30,000 books. A Chuuk Public Library was being organized in 2002. The library of the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia holds 15,000 book volumes. There is a small museum in Kolonia, Pohnpei. The Nan Madol archaeological site was designated a historical landmark in 1986.


The FSM Telecommunications Corp. provides interstate telecommunications via its satellite ground station in each state center and international connections through the Pohnpei and Truk stations. An interstate and international telex service has been available through the Pohnpei station since 1984. Telecommunications services to all inhabited outer islands are provided by radio links with the Pohnpei, Truk, and Yap stations. In 2001, there were 10,100 mainline phones in use nationwide. In 2002, there were an additional 1,800 mobile phones in use nationwide.

Most of the papers and newsletters are sponsored by the state governments. The National Union is published twice monthl). State publications include Mogethin (Yap), Yap Networker, Uss Me Auus, (Truk), Pohnpei Reports, Kaselehile Press Pohnpei State, Sinlaku Sun Times (Kosrae), and Kosrae State Newsletters.

As of 2001, there is one state-owned radio station in each state capital, broadcasting in English and local languages. There is one private radio station owned by a religious group. In 1997, there were 127 radios and 10 television sets per 1,000 population. In 2002, there were 6,000 Internet subscribers.

The constitution provides for free speech and a free press, and the government is said to respect these rights in practice.


There are Community Action Agencies in Yap, Truk, and Pohnpei, which organize youth clubs and community self-help projects. Private institutions, most of them church-affiliated, play an active role in youth and community development. There are sports associations representing such pastimes as weightlifting, lawn tennis, tae kwon do, and track and field. Many municipalities sponsor local women's organizations and community centers. There is a national chapter of the Red Cross Society.


Limited tourist facilities have been developed in each state. Tourist attractions include the spectacular beauty of the high islands; the rich marine environment; World War II artifacts, including sunken Japanese ships in the Truk lagoon; and remains of an ancient culture on Yap Island, including stone platforms and large circular stones used as money. All visitors must have an onward/return ticket and a present proof of citizenship or passport that must be valid for 120 days after leaving Micronesia. A valid entry permit is also necessary if staying for more than 30 days. There are no vaccination requirements unless traveling from an infected area.

In 2003, there were 18,168 tourist arrivals, almost 41% of whom came from the United States. According to the 2005 US Department of State estimates, the daily cost of staying in Yap was us$283; in Chuuk, us$187; and in Pohnpei, us$167.


John Haglelgam, a former senator in the congress, was president of the FSM from 1987 to 1991. Jacob Nena (b.1941) served as the fourth president from 1996 to 1999. Leo Falcam (b.1935) served as the fifth president from 1999 to 2003. He was succeeded by Joseph John Urusemal (b.1952). In 2000, FSM's first five-story building (and first building with an elevator) opened; it was named for Raymond Setik (d.1997), a successful businessman and one of the first members of the legislature in 1979.


The FSM has no territories or colonies.


Hezel, Francis X. The New Shape of Old Island Cultures: A Half Century of Social Change in Micronesia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001.

Karolle, Bruce G. Atlas of Micronesia. 2nd ed. Honolulu, Hawaii: Bess Press, 1993.

Leibo, Steven A. East and Southeast Asia, 2005. 38th ed. Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: Stryker-Post Publications, 2005.

Micronesia: A Guide through the Centuries. Alexandria, Va.: Close Up Foundation, 2000.

Poyer, Lin. The Ngatik Massacre: History and Identity on a Micronesian Atoll. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.

. The Typhoon of War: Micronesian Experiences of the Pacific War. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001.

Rainbird, Paul. The Archaeology of Micronesia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

United States General Accounting Office. Foreign Relations: Migration from Micronesian Nations Has Had Significant Impact on Guam, Hawaii, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Washington, D.C.: The Office, 2001.

Wuerch, Wiliam L. Historical Dictionary of Guam and Micronesia. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1994.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia, Federated States of." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia, Federated States of." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia, Federated States of." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



Major City:

Other Cities:
Chuuk Atoll, Kosrae


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated March 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


After forty years as a United Nations Trust Territory, the Federated States of Micronesia in 1986 emerged as a sovereign nation. The Embassy in Kolonia has the unusual opportunity of shaping this new diplomatic relationship and overseeing US Government activities across a broad expanse of the Pacific. The 607 islands that comprise the Federated States are among the most untouristed, unspoiled sites in the world.



Kolonia, the capital of the state of Pohnpei, is a town of approximately 10,000 which occupies seven square miles at the northern end of Pohnpei Island.


A basic selection of food is available, but high prices and very limited choices. Three fairly large supermarkets are operating in Kolonia along with a few small general stores whose food stocks vary with cargo ship arrival. The selection approximates that of a Seven-Eleven: basic canned goods, cleaning supplies, condiments, and some dairy products, frozen vegetables, and frozen meat and poultry. Locally baked bread is adequate and is supplemented by imported frozen loaves. Steak, hamburger, pork, and chicken are imported from the US, and while of lower quality than found in a normal supermarket, are fully acceptable if the purchaser takes care to inspect it for freezer burn or thawing/refreezing. Fresh tuna and small "reef fish" are for sale in the public market and mangrove crab is frequently offered. Some canned baby foods are available, but the selection is not large. The high humidity wilts crackers and cereals, although chips purchased in metal tins keep well.

Dairy supplies are improving. Imported butter and margarine are in good supply. Ice cream is very popular on Pohnpei, and the stores are careful to keep this in stock. No fresh milk is to be found, but there is an ample supply of California and Australian ultra-high temperature (UHT) milk. A modest number of cheeses are in stock.

Kolonia has only a slim selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Although Pohnpei is lush, cultivation of these crops is rare. Local agriculture revolves around yam, taro, banana and sakau cultivation (the popular local narcotic drink). Sweet potatoes, plantain, pineapple, and green onion can usually be found, while the only fresh green vegetables consistently available are cucumber, Chinese cabbage, bell pepper, and eggplant. Arrangements can also be made with local farmers and the Pohnpei Agricultural and Technical School (PATS) to provide fresh vegetables on a fairly regular basis.

Supply of soft drinks is very good, and Kolonia can boast a respectable variety of imported beers on the shelves. Wine is scarce and expensive, and is stored under inhospitable conditions.

The FSM permits import of fresh produce. Agriculture inspectors tend to admit without problem foods brought from the US mainland in the original packages, e.g. shrink-wrapped, plastic-packaged vegetables and meats. The traveler's assurance that the items originated in the US will usually suffice. Loose vegetables and fruits are usually confiscated. Meat and poultry may be imported from the US mainland, Hawaii and Guam.


Style of dress is very casual. Office attire for men is slacks, with a pullover sport shirt or short-sleeve buttoned shirt. Women wear blouses and skirts or sun dresses. Micronesians consider exposure of women's thighs to be indecent, so short shorts and tight-fitting slacks should not be worn as everyday attire. Bermuda shorts are okay. Standards are changing, however, and expatriate women runners wear jogging shorts on the street without problems. Given the heat and humidity, we strongly recommend that personnel purchase light all-cotton clothing. Lightweight poplin pants and cool shorts are good purchases for casual wear. No dry cleaning nor professional laundry is available on island.

Footwear is also very casual, with sandals and plastic thongs the norm. Good cheap thick-soled thongs can be purchased locally. Lightweight fabric and woven leather shoes are also good choices. The climate makes wearing of hosiery by women impractical.

Since there is little seasonal variation, the same type of attire may be worn year-round. Clothing supply in Kolonia is disappointing, and personnel should bring a full tropical wardrobe with them or plan on making purchases en route, in Honolulu or Manila. Colorful local embroidered skirts and a small but attractive selection of dresses from Bali are sold in local stores, so women will have better luck in local purchases than men.

Children's clothing can be bought locally, but prices are high and selection is poor.

Supplies and Services

Stocks vary from month to month with each arrival of a cargo ship. Store managers are not always consistent in their orders, and are not inclined to maintain large inventories. Local stores sell sundries, cleaning supplies, and other household items, but the selection is very small and supply unpredictable. Prices for these items may be two to three times the US price.

A few pounds of boric acid will be an excellent investment in cockroach control. Pohnpei cockroaches have no immunity to insecticides, and any commercial spray will be effective. Mosquitoes are not a problem in Kolonia. Mosquito coils and netting (15-20 yards for two persons) will come in handy on trips to outlying islands.

Local dressmakers provide simple repairs and make curtains. Local laundromats are available but not a dry cleaning service. A few beauty shops are in operation.

Religious Activities

Catholic and Protestant services are held in English and Micronesian languages. Americans normally attend either the Saturday evening English mass at the Catholic Mission or Sunday morning English nondenominational Protestant service. Individual Protestant denominations represented include Congregationalist, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah's Witnesses, Assembly of God, and Mormon. The Mormon church is particularly well-represented in missionary activities. The Baha'i faith has a mission in Kolonia.


The Seventh Day Adventist School offers kindergarten through high school instruction in English, and has well-kept facilities with US textbooks and US volunteer missionary instructors. Education is best in grades one through six; above that level, the school falls short of the facilities and faculty required to give students an American-equivalent education. Host country and expatriate children alike attend. Extracurricular activities, including sports, are a part of the program. Since places in the school are limited, it is advisable to contact the school in advance to reserve a spot. The Catholic Mission and the Baptist Church operate schools, and standards are said to be adequate. The public schools do not meet US standards. All dependent children currently at post are elementary school age or younger.

Special Educational Opportunities

Although Kolonia hosts the College of Micronesia-FSM, its facilities are poor and most classes are likely to be insufficiently rigorous for American students. The College also offers courses in Pohnpeian and Japanese. Programs for the handicapped are lacking.


Micronesia offers outstanding opportunities for divers and snorkelers. The marine life is unspoiled, and local dive shops give reasonable prices on equipment rental and air refills. Certification classes are offered only once or twice a year, so prospective divers should try to become certified before arrival. Chuuk Lagoon, 425 miles to the west, is world-famous for its diving. More than 100 sunken planes, ships, and submarines are at the bottom of the lagoon, accessible to divers, the result of US Navy bombing raids in World War II. Tuna is abundant in waters off Kolonia, and game fish such as marlin and mahi-mahi are also to be found. Anglers should bring ocean rigs or handlines. Due to unpredictable, often slack winds, only a few sailboats are on the island.

Swimming in the warm, clear water is popular, but the absence of local beaches means that persons must take a boat out to the nearby reef.

For joggers Kolonia offers interesting terrain for early morning and evening runs. The heat of the day makes midday exertion difficult. A basketball league plays on Sundays in the winter months. Baseball is an island-wide passion, and volleyball is also very popular. There are two tennis courts on island, although the public courts are in considerable disrepair.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

The 800-year-old ruins of Nan Madol lie in the south of the island, amid a maze of man-made channels overhung with tropical foliage. The ruins are the remnants of the palace of the Saudeleurs, the ancient chiefs of Pohnpei, and is the island's most noteworthy site. Nan Madol is accessible only by boat. Kepirohi Falls, seventy feet high, is a beautiful sight with a fresh water pool at the base for swimming. Visitors take picnic lunches there and to Liduduhniap Falls, a short drive from Kolonia. Cross-island camping treks through the jungle-like interior are possible, led by guides. Never venture into the interior without a guide.

A favorite activity is spending the weekend on Black Coral or Hegs Island Villa (formerly Joy Island). These are tiny privately-owned islands just off Pohnpei's northern and southern coasts. For a small fee per night, persons receive padded mats, kerosene lamp, and use of a covered wooden cottage. Cooking is by campfire. A small store on the island supplies some essentials, but visitors must bring food, beverages, and cookware. Six miles offshore is Ant Atoll, accurately described by a local writer as "the tropic isle of romantic novels." Permission can be obtained to camp on this palm-shaded island with its white sand beaches.


Kolonia has no movies, theaters, or concerts. A few well-stocked video rental stores are located in Kolonia, and this is the main form of entertainment.

Social Activities

Social life for travelers to Kolonia exists largely within the expatriate community, and consists of casual home dinners, Sunday brunch at the Village Hotel, and shared boating and atoll expeditions. For host-country nationals, socializing is primarily a family and clan event, and invitations to Americans are very rare. But a personable American will find that opportunities arise to become more familiar with the people and partake of generous Micronesian hospitality.


CHUUK ATOLL is a collection of 15 large islands and 80 islets. The district center is on Weno, where visitors can experience island life and culture by browsing through the shop-lined streets. A lovely view of Weno and the lagoon can be seen from the Sapuk Lighthouse, built by the Japanese in the 1930s as a watchtower against the Americans. The abandoned houses of the lighthouse guards are still standing nearby.

Scuba divers wont want to miss a trip to the area, which includes the Truk Lagoon Underwater Fleet. More than 60 submerged vessels and several downed aircraft can be seen in this lagoon, which has become known as the world's largest underwater museum.

Hiking enthusiasts will enjoy a number of trail locations. Tonachau Mountain Iras (229 meters) is believed to be the home of the god Souwoniras and his divine son. The area also contains the Wichon Men's Meeting House, where Weno chiefs are said to have met with Poomey, the eldest of the six brothers who were the first chiefs of Chuuk. The Wichon River and Falls include a bathing pool. Numerous petroglyphs are etched in the basalt above the falls. Nefo Cave is about 10 feet wide, 6 feet high and 78 feet long and contains a gun used by Japanese soldiers to guard entry to the north pass.

KOSRAE is a one of the least developed areas in the Federated States, and so offers a unique chance to enjoy the natural beauty and native culture of the area. The main island is about 42 sq miles with natural features including rainforest areas, a pristine coral reef, and a coast that includes sandy beaches and mangrove swamps. The Blue Hole in the Lelu harbor, traditionally used as a burial place for royalty, offers divers and snorkellers the chance to see coral heads, lionfish, stingrays and barracuda. Lelu Harbor also contains the remains of an American search plane, two Japanese boats and the remains of a whaling ship. Lelu Hill includes caves and tunnels used by the Japanese in WWII.

Hikers may enjoy Mt. Finkol, the highest peak in Kosrae (2,064 ft). The hike requires a guide and the hiker must be in good physical condition. The tour takes about seven to eight hours and offers a spectacular rainforest experience. The Mt. Oma hiking trails feature a wide variety of tropical fauna, flora and cascading waterfalls. Tours are offered for short hikes of about 45 minutes or longer trips of six or seven hours. The Menke Ruins hiking trails pass by the temple of the Goddess of Breadfruit, Sinlaku. Legends say that this is where she spent her last days before fleeing to Yap, before the arrival of the missionaries in 1852. The story tells that Sinkalu saw a brilliant light coming over the horizon of the sea that frightened her, causing her to flee. The Christian missionaries arrived by ship the next morning. This story of the coming of "the light" was part of the early Christian conversion of the natives. A guided tour takes about two hours.

Two waterfalls worthy of note are the Sipyen and Saolong. Both offer bottom pools where swimming is allowed.

For the history minded, the Kosrae State Museum contains ancient artifacts and restored photos of Kosrae history and culture. The Lelu Ruins, the remains of the ancient capital city of the Kosrae rulers, include huge basaltic slabs arranged in 20 ft walls, and the remains of several street paths, living areas, and tombs.


Geography and Climate

The Federated States of Micronesia consists of four states, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae, and covers a wide expanse in the Caroline Islands chain. FSM waters begin just north of the equator and stretch from 136°E to 166°E longitude. Palikir, the capital, is located on Pohnpei Island (previously known as "Ponape") in the Central Pacific at latitude 6° 54 N, longitude 158° 14'E. The post is 3106 miles from Honolulu, 2363 miles from Manila, and 1070 miles from Guam, the closest American territory.

" Micronesia " denotes " small islands," an apt description for the geography of the FSM. Although there are 607 islands within the one million square mile boundaries of the nation, total land area is a modest 270.8 square miles. Only 65 of the islands are inhabited. Pohnpei Island, with 133 square miles of land area, is the largest island in the country and is the site of the U.S. Embassy. Geologically, Pohnpei readily shows its volcanic origins with many hills and cliffs, as well as striking basalt outcroppings such as Sokehs Rock at the entrance to Kolonia Harbor.

Pohnpei Island is lush and thickly forested with tropical foliage. Pohnpei is one of the wettest spots on earth, with an annual rainfall in Kolonia of 200 inches per year. The interior receives as much as 400 inches. January through March are the less rainy months, with steadier rain coming in the summer and fall. High winds may occur in the latter part of the year, but damaging tropical storms generally bypass Pohnpei. The temperature averages a pleasant 81 degrees year-round. Evenings are mild, in the low 70s, and daytime temperatures seldom exceed the upper 80s. Temperatures do not noticeably vary throughout the year. Humidity is high, averaging 89%, and causes rapid growth of mildew and mold in unair-conditioned environments. Air quality is excellent, free of pollutants. Some of the other islands of the FSM, such as Kosrae, are "high islands" like Pohnpei, characterized by hilly terrain and fertile soil. Many other islands are low-lying coral atolls a few feet above sea level covered with coconut palm and scrub vegetation.

As a tropical city, Kolonia has the expected complement of pests: ants, termites, roaches, and centipedes. All of these can be kept under control by regular cleaning and spraying. Geckoes populate the houses and provide a natural insect control service. The island has no venomous snakes, and is malaria-free and rabies-free. Wild deer live in the interior and are hunted by the local population.


Estimated 2000 population of the Federated States is approximately 133,140. Pohnpei State has approximately 34,976 inhabitants, 10,000 of whom reside in Kolonia.

Although most peoples of the FSM share a Micronesian heritage, languages and cultures differ among and within the different states. There are four major languages, Yapese, Chuukese, Pohnpeian, and Kosraean, all part of the Austronesian family. Eleven other languages and dialects are also spoken within the country, including two Polynesian languages. The many linguistic gaps are bridged by English, which is widely spoken and is the official language of the country.

The years of American administration have seen an influx of Western culture that has eroded the traditional cultures of the societies, although traditional leaders and cultural patterns still are influential, especially in the state of Yap. As a rule, the smaller "outer" islands away from the state capitals preserve traditional ways. Due to its scarcity, land is the ultimate denominator of social status in Micronesia. Parcels are passed down through the generations, thus reinforcing the importance of the family to Micronesian society. Social activity in Micronesia revolves around the family and the extended clan, to a degree difficult for outsiders to appreciate.

The Micronesian islands have been fertile fields for missionary activity, with the result that almost all FSM citizens are Christian. A full range of denominations is represented. Kolonia is served by Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, and Seventh-Day Adventist churches, as well as a Baha'i mission. Religion is an important part of the culture, and clergymen are well respected by the inhabitants.

The outside world had little contact with the islands until the mid-19th Century, when American whalers and missionaries entered the region. Spain claimed the Caroline and Mariana Islands in 1885 and retained them until 1899, when Germany purchased most of the island chains in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. Germany, in turn, lost its possessions to Japan in 1914 at the beginning of World War I. The League of Nations formally extended a mandate to Japan in 1920, thus confirming the Japanese conquest, and a new era of colonization. Intensive crop and copra production began, and the islands became exporters of many agricultural products. In 1945, control passed to the United States Navy, which administered the area until formation of the Trusteeship under UN auspices in 1947. The FSM, together with the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Northern Mariana Islands, comprised the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. On November 3, 1986, the Trusteeship era came to a close when the Trusteeship was terminated for the FSM and the Compact of Free Association came into effect. The FSM is now a fully self-governing, sovereign nation in Free Association with the United States.

Public Institutions

The terms of this relationship are contained in the Compact of Free Association, valid for 15 years. The Compact confirms the FSM's authority to manage its domestic affairs and conduct foreign affairs in its own right. The United States retains full authority and responsibility for security and defense issues. Other sections of the Compact outline governmental, legal, and economic relations between the two countries. The Compact is also in effect between the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands and as of October 1, 1994, between the United States and the Republic of Palau.

The Federated States governmental structure is modeled on the United States. The national government is headed by a President and Vice President; the President appoints cabinet members, who administer national affairs. The other two branches, Congress and the Supreme Court, function much as the American institutions, albeit with fewer personnel. The Congress is unicameral, and legislators serve either two-or four-year terms. Two-year senators are elected from districts apportioned on the basis of population. Four-year senators are elected at large, one from each state. The President and Vice President are chosen from the ranks of the at-large senators by a majority vote of Congress. No political parties exist.

Each state is headed by a governor, elected for a four-year term, balanced by a state legislature and a state supreme court. Although this structure parallels the American system, the states have substantially more power than their American counterparts. Compact fund distribution reflects this: 87% of annual Compact assistance is earmarked for the states, the remainder to the national government.

Arts, Science, and Education

The FSM participates with other Micronesian nations and with US territories in the College of Micronesia. This is an umbrella organization which maintains individual institutions throughout the region. Kolonia is home to the College of Micronesia (COM-FSM). COM-FSM offers a two-year academic program leading to an Associate of Arts degree. The focus of its program is teacher training, but studies are offered in a number of other subjects. Outside of the formal educational structure, the FSM is host in any given year to several visiting researchers, particularly in the fields of anthropology, marine resources, and agriculture. Cultural and artistic institutions in the Western sense do not exist in Kolonia, although wood carving and choral singing are popular local forms of artistic expression.

Commerce and Industry

More than half of the population earns a livelihood from subsistence fishing and cultivation. Of those working within the monetized economy, 60% are employed by government. Palikir, as the national capital, has an even higher proportion of government employees, drawn from all four states. Micronesian technical and legal specialists are in short supply, so many professional positions are filled by American contract employees. One of the three Supreme Court Justices, the FSM Deputy Attorney General, and Pohnpei's Attorney General, for example, are United States citizens.

Estimated gross domestic product (GDP) was $263 million in 1999, (per capita GDP = $2,000).

The FSM is working to strengthen local production and exports in the Compact period. Currently, the business sector in the FSM is modest, and centers on small retail establishments selling imported goods. Potential for development of agricultural exports is good in the states of Kosrae and Pohnpei, which produce excellent citrus and world-renowned pepper, respectively. Yap and Chuuk have large fish transshipment facilities, and Chuuk and Pohnpei are exploring possibilities for canning plants. The untouched islands of the FSM are desirable tourist destinations, but this sector remains small in scale. The nation encompasses rich tuna fishing waters. Its multilateral fisheries pact with the U.S. and several bilateral fishing treaties provide a steady flow of tuna licensing fees.

The Compact of Free Association provides the Federated States with $1.3 billion in US economic assistance over a 15-year period, in addition to a number of US federal programs and grants for which the FSM remains eligible. A $20 million Investment Development Fund was also provided by the United States as a means of encouraging joint ventures. The national government has implemented an ambitious National Development Plan to enhance infrastructure and expand local production and social services.


While taxis are available in Kolonia, a personal vehicle is essential. Twenty-five miles of road on the island are paved, thus daily driving presents few challenges. Outside of town, the roads are partially paved (21 miles). Most vehicles on island are Japanese. Reliable repair service is available.

Transportation between Kolonia and the other states and neighboring countries is by Continental Air Micronesia jet. Protestant Missionary Airlines runs weekly propeller flights to the nearby islands of Mokil and Pingelap. Travel to outer islands is also accomplished by government-owned "field trip" ships, which ply regular routes out of the state capitals.


Telephone and Telegraph

Telephones are available on Pohnpei Island. Connections with the United States are excellent and cost about $2.50-$3.00 per minute ($2.00 per minute on Sunday). AT&T calling cards are accepted in the FSM, but cost more than using the local service. Kolonia can be dialed directly from the United States, using the sequence 011-691-320-(local number). Telex communications are equally reliable, and are billed at about $2.50$3.00 per minute outgoing.

Radio and TV

A local AM and an FM radio station broadcast music and occasional news, primarily in Pohnpeian. A short-wave radio is needed to stay in touch with world affairs. Radio Australia comes in clearly, and Voice of America, Armed Forces Radio, and BBC are not hard to raise. Kolonia has a cable television company, which broadcasts copies of Los Angeles and San Francisco TV tapes with a one-week delay in addition to HBO, Disney Channel and VH-1 channels. They also broadcast CNN and ESPN live. Basic monthly rate is $20.00 ($10.00 extra for HBO or Disney). The broadcast system is the same as the United States, so no special set is needed.

Newspapers, Magazines

The Guam Pacific Daily News is sold in one outlet; copies are received one to three days after publication date. No bookstores are found on island.

Health and Medicine

Medical facilities

Health care facilities in the FSM consist of hospitals on each of the four major islands and a few scattered clinics. These facilities sometimes lack basic supplies and medicines, and the quality of health care is variable. Doctors and hospitals may expect immediate cash payment for health services.

Community Health

While great improvements in the quality of the water supply were made from 1992-1994, individuals are cautioned not to drink the tap water. Local standards of community health are variable, and sanitation practices in stores and restaurants are in general far below American standards. Public health measures are few. Tuberculosis, leprosy, and venereal disease are common, but post personnel who have no intimate contact with the population have no cause for concern. There is no AIDS in Pohnpei, but two cases have been reported in other states of the FSM.

Preventive Measures

If you have no distiller, boil water for 10 minutes before drinking. Some Americans choose to take their chances with occasional gastrointestinal distress. No local milk is available, but there is an steady supply of potable ultra-high temperature (UHT) milk from California and Australia. Vegetables should be rinsed with treated water.

Travelers should have up-to-date immunizations. Since hepatitis B is endemic in the Pacific islands, some personnel have chosen to be vaccinated against this disease at their own expense. This disease is transmitted solely by blood exchange and sexual contact; nonetheless, the possibility, however remote, of an emergency blood transfusion has prompted a few persons to seek out the vaccine. Gamma globulin shots are recommended. There are two pharmacies on island. The pharmacies can have refills shipped in. It is advisable that families bring a good supply of over-the-counter remedies, since local stores may fail to have even common items, or if available, sell them at high prices.

The island is free of malaria and rabies, as well as other insect-borne diseases. Pests encountered are seldom dangerous. Exceptions are venomous centipedes, which inflict painful stings, and jellyfish, which sometimes drift through local waters.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Proof of citizenship, sufficient funds, and onward/return ticket are required for tourist visits up to 30 days. Visits are extendible for up to 60 days total from the initial entry; this extension is sought after arrival in Micronesia. An entry permit may be needed for types of travel other than tourism); the necessary forms may be obtained from the airlines. There is a departure fee of five U.S. dollars. A health certificate may be required if the traveler is arriving from infected area. Travelers are advised to enter and leave the FSM on a valid U.S. passport. The U.S. Embassy in Kolonia does not issue passports; passports for persons living or traveling in the FSM are issued by the Honolulu Passport Agency. For more information about entry requirements of the Federated States of Micronesia, travelers may consult the Embassy of the Federated States of Micronesia, 1725 N Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20038, tel: (202) 223-4383 or via the Internet at The Federated States of Micronesia also have consulates in Honolulu and Guam.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting the Federated States of Micronesia are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Kolonia, where they may also obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. The U.S. Embassy in Kolonia is located on Kasalehlie Street (the main downtown street). The mailing address is P.O. Box 1286, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia 96941. The telephone number is (691) 320-2187. The fax number is (691) 320-2186.


The FSM permits imports of dogs and cats from the United States and other countries on the "rabies-free" list. For import of animals from other countries, write the mission for information. The dog or cat must have the following: certificate showing the animal's country of origin; certificate of rabies vaccination; certificate showing that the animal has been dipped for parasites within the past five days; certificate affirming that the animal is free from any signs of infectious or communicable disease.

If transiting Honolulu, the pet will have to be in quarantine for the stopover. Pet-owners should avoid Guam, which also quarantines pets, but which has no facilities or procedures for caring for them. Contact the airline for information on procedures and fees. Other animals may enter only upon issuance of a quarantine permit.

As of early 1995, two veterinarians reside in the FSM. Services, including spaying, can be performed. Owners should bring flea collars, worm medicine, vaccine if needed, and any other desired accessories.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The national currency is the US dollar. Kolonia has branches of the Bank of Hawaii and Bank of Guam. Weights and measures follow the American system.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

May 10Constitution Day

July 12 Micronesia Day

Oct. 24 United Nations' Day

Nov. 4Independence Day

Dec. 25 Christmas



Ashby, Gene, A Guide to Ponape (Rainy Day Press, Kolonia, Pohnpei) 1983.

Ashby, Gene (ed.), Micronesian Customs and Beliefs (Rainy Day Press, Kolonia, Pohnpei) 1983.

Kluge, Paul, The Edge of Paradise (University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu) 1991.

McHenry, Donald, Micronesia: Trust Betrayed (Carnegie Endowment, Washington, DC) 1975.

Nevin, David, The American Touch in Micronesia (Norton, New York) 1977.

"New Pacific Nations," National Geographic Magazine, October 1986.

Oceania, A Regional Study. Foreign Area Studies Series, The American University (US Government, Washington, DC) 1984.

Pacific Islands Yearbook (Pacific Publications, Sydney/New York).

Peattie Mark, Nanyo: The Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia, 1885-1945 (University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu) 1988.

Stanley, David, Micronesia Handbook: Guide to an American Lake (Moon Publications, Chico, CA) 1985.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia." Cities of the World. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia." Cities of the World. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia." Cities of the World. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



Federated States of Micronesia



The Federated States of Micronesia forms (with Palau) the archipelago of the Caroline Islands, and lies about 800 kilometers (497 miles) east of the Philippines. The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) consists of 607 islands and includes (from west to east) the states of Yap, Chuuk (formerly Truk), Pohnpei (formerly Ponape), and Kosrae. Micronesia covers about 702 square kilometers of land (271 square miles), has a coastline of 6,112 kilometers (3,798 miles) and is scattered over more than 2.7 million square kilometers (1 million square miles) of the ocean. Micronesia's largest island cluster is Pohnpei (163 islands), with an area of 344 square kilometers (133 square miles), while the smallest cluster is Kosrae (5 islands), spanning 110 square kilometers (42.5 square miles). The islands include a variety of terrains, ranging from mountainous islands to low, coral atolls and volcanic outcrops.


The population of Micronesia was estimated at 134,597 in July 2001, up 18 percent from 114,000 in 1998. The current annual population growth rate is 3.28 percent, which will result in a population of 176,815 by 2010. The birth rate is 27.09 per 1,000 population, with a fertility rate of 3.83 children per woman. The death rate is 5.95 per 1,000 population. The immigration rate is 11.65 migrants per 1,000 population. The infant mortality rate in July 2000 was 33.48 per 1,000 births (the U.S. rate was 7 per 1,000).

There are 9 ethnic Micronesian and Polynesian groups, spread across the islands. In 1994, around 53,319 people lived in Chuuk; 33,692 in Pohnpei; 11,178 in Yap; and 7,317 in Kosrae. The highest population density was estimated in Chuuk island with 419.8 people per square kilometer (1,087 per square mile) in 1994.


Previously administered by the United States as a Trust Territory of the United Nations, the Federated States of Micronesia became self-governing in domestic matters in 1986, and fully independent in 1991.

The small size of Micronesia, both in terms of geographical area and population size, its remote location, and its lack of commercially viable mineral resources all combine to set limits on the economy. The nation's main assets are its tropical location (which provides good potential for tourism), productive fishing grounds, and reasonably well-educated workforce .

Micronesia's estimated GDP per capita is $2,000, which places it near the top of 45 world economies the World Bank classifies as Lower Middle-Income (coun-tries with GDP per capita in a range from $700-$2,800). Financial support from the United States has been a vital feature of the period since self-government was introduced in 1986, with $1.3 billion allocated over the period from 1986 to 2001, an enormous sum for a community of 134,000almost $100,000 per person. The money has been allocated to improving educational and health provisions, providing infrastructure , training for political and community leaders, bolstering public sector efficiency, and encouraging the private sector . Grants from external sources amounted to some $91.5 million in 1996-97 (equivalent to 43 percent of GDP).

The most significant cash export is fish, which accounted for 82 percent of total exports in 1996. Micronesia has established an exclusive economic zone , which covers an ocean area of more than 2.5 million square kilometers (965,250 square miles) of particularly productive fishing grounds yielding tuna, red snapper, and grouper. Local producers fish these waters, and licenses are granted to foreign fishing fleets to work these waters as well. Other marine resources include phosphate deposits, and there are currently trials under way to see if these deposits on the ocean floor can be exploited commercially.

In the past, copra (the sun-dried white flesh of the coconut, from which coconut oil is extracted) was Micronesia's main cash crop . However, low world prices have led to production plummeting from 8,500 tons in 1979 to 200 in 1992, and it has remained around that level since, although in some years no exports of copra are recorded at all, and this despite a government subsidy to try to maintain production. Copra now makes a small contribution to income in Micronesia, and the economy is no longer buffeted by fluctuations in world copra prices. Also, Micronesia no longer faces a dilemma of whether to continue production in the face of current low prices. Needless to say, the decline in copra production is a particular blow for farmers on the outer islands for whom coconuts have been an important source of income.

The islands all have some tree cover, and timber, including wood from the coconut tree, is used for house construction, furniture, and household utensils. The climate in the Micronesia is tropical, and there is a healthy amount of rainfall. The soil is rich, and fruits indigenous to the islands include bananas, mangos, pineapples, and papayas.

Economic growth in the Micronesia is heavily influenced by changes in global and regional commodity prices and the climate. The nation is mainly made up of small, flat islands, which makes it difficult to support large-scale cultivation. The main form of agriculture is therefore subsistence production. It is difficult for subsistence producers to create a large surplus due to the lack of storage facilities and transportation. The strongest areas for economic growth are tourism, fishing, manufacturing and mining.

The government employed as much as two-thirds of the population before 1997. However, in 1997, the Asian Development Bank approved a loan of $17.68 million for the funding of a program of major economic structural adjustment. This was done in preparation for the ending of U.S. assistance under the Compact of Free Association at the beginning of the 21st century. The reform package included measures for attracting new sources of foreign aid and private investment, for fiscal reform, and for the strengthening of the private sector, as well as severe reductions in the number of public-sector employees. The year 1997 saw the balance of the workforce begin to tilt toward the private sector, and in 1998, government expenditures declined by 27 percent, spurred by continuing privatization . In terms of GDP components, the government's recent efforts to encourage privatization of certain industries seem to be working. Non-market production dropped 4.3 percent as more citizens chose to work in the money economy.

In exchange for allowing the United States exclusive access to its waters, Micronesia receives an annual fixed payment from the U.S. government.


The Federated States of Micronesia emerged as a nation from the former United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) administered by the United States from the end of World War II. The Federated States of Micronesia became self-governing in 1986.

Political legitimacy rests on a majority vote through elections in accordance with the constitution. On May 10, 1979, the locally drafted Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia incorporated the 4 states of Kosrae, Yap, Ponape (later Pohnpei), and Truk (later Chuuk). The Congress includes 14 members, called Senators. The 4 states each elect 1 "Senator-at-Large" for a 4-year term. The remaining 10 Senators are elected for 2-year terms: their seats are distributed in proportion to the population of each state. Each of the 4 states has its own constitution, governor, and legislature. The federal president and vice-president are elected by the Congress from among the 4 "Senators-at-Large." The president of the Federated States of Micronesia since May 1999 has been Leo A. Falcam.

The state governments are fairly autonomous and work like state governments in the United States, with individual executive, legislative, and judicial systems. In each state, traditional leaders work closely with the local governments to maintain cultural traditions.

There are 3 branches of government: an executive branch led by a president who also serves as head of state; a unicameral (single house) legislature elected from the 4 constituent states; and a judicial system that applies criminal and civil laws and procedures closely paralleling those of the United States. Under the Compact of Free Association, the United States is responsible for defence.

The Council of the Micronesian Government Executives aims to facilitate discussion of economic developments in the region and to examine possibilities for reducing the considerable cost of shipping essential goods between the islands.

The main tax that all businesses in Micronesia pay is the Gross Receipts Tax. The tax is assessed on the gross revenues of businesses, which includes all receipts without deductions. The rate is $80 on the first $10,000 of gross revenues and 3 percent of any excess for the calendar year. Businesses with less than $2,000 gross revenue in a year are eligible for a refund of the taxes paid for that year. A Wages and Salaries Tax is assessed on an employee's income. The Social Security Tax requires the employer to pay half of the tax and the employee to pay the other half. The current rate is 4 percent of wages paid by both the employee and the employer.


Micronesia has a total of 240 kilometers (149 miles) of roadways, 42 kilometers (26 miles) of which are paved. Macadam (a mix of small broken stone and concrete or asphalt) and concrete roads are found in the more important islands. Other islands have stone and coral-surfaced roads and tracks. There are no rail lines in the islands.

The country has a total of 6 airports, of which 5 have paved runways. International airports which can accommodate medium-sized jets can be found in Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap, and Kosrae, and there are airstrips in the outer islands of Onoun and Ta in Chuuk. The Federated States of Micronesia is considering expanding air terminals in order to meet the increasing demand for air traffic. The islands are served by Continental Micronesia, Air Nauru, and Continental Airlines (USA). Pacific Missionary Aviation, based in Pohnpei and Yap, provides domestic air services.

There are several ports and harbors, such as Colonia (Yap), Kolonia (Pohnpei), Lele, and Moen. All of the states in the Federated States of Micronesia have deep draft harbors capable of handling almost all commercial shipping needs. Each port is capable of providing containerized cargo handling, as well as some warehousing and transshipment capabilities. All ports offer cold storage

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations a Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Micronesia 11,000 (2001) N/A AM 5; FM 1; shortwave 0 N/A 2 N/A 1 2,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Philippines 1.9 M 1.959 M (1998) AM 366; FM 290; shortwave 3 (1999) 11.5 M 31 3.7 M 33 500,000
Solomon Islands 8,000 658 AM 3; FM 0; shortwave 0 57,000 0 3,000 1 3,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

facilities. Shipping services are available to anywhere in the world on a monthly schedule by PM & O Line, Pacific Micronesia Line, Kyowa Lines, Palau Shipping Lines, Tiger Lines, and Saipan Shipping Company. Freight rates are relatively high, as volume shipping is rarely possible.

The 4 urban centers all have public water and sewer systems. Outside of the urban centers, the populations rely on water catchments (devices for trapping water), wells, and septic tank systems. Charges for water usage range from $1.50 to $5.40 per 6,000 gallons of water. Kosrae does not charge for water and sewerage.

With the exception of some small hydroelectric facilities in Kosrae and Pohnpei, electricity in the Federated States of Micronesia is produced by diesel generators. The principal energy source in Micronesia is imported petroleum. From 1993 to 1997, Micronesia spent $10 to $20 million per year for petroleum products. Power is generally available only in the 4 urban centers. The power system in Pohnpei is operated as a state enterprise fund and is the most reliable system. The other 3 states are moving in a similar direction. The existing power system can accommodate additional users, and the government is willing to provide such means when necessary. Electricity generating costs are $0.19 a kilowatt-hour, while charges range from $.05 a kilowatt-hour to $0.25 a kilowatt-hour.

The telecommunications system in the Federated States of Micronesia is highly developed and offers satellite access for telephone, telex, and facsimile to any location worldwide. There were 8,000 main telephone lines in use in 1995. For domestic purposes, the islands are interconnected by shortwave radiotelephones (used mostly for government business). For international links there are 4 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) satellite earth stations.

The Federated States of Micronesia Postal Service delivers and sends mail by air. The Federated States of Micronesia is part of the U.S. zip code system. Postage rates between the Federated States of Micronesia and the United States are the same as U.S. domestic rates.

There are 5 AM radio stations and 1 FM radio station. The majority of stations broadcast in English. There are 2 broadcasting television stations.


Economic activity in Micronesia consists primarily of subsistence farming and fishing as well as revenues from external licensing (the U.S. government, for example, makes a fixed payment to the Federated States of

Micronesia for exclusive access to its waters). In the financial year ending September 30, 1997, fees from fish-eries licensing agreements, mainly with Japan, contributed some 30 percent of domestic budgetary revenues.

The islands have no mineral deposits worth exploiting, with the possible exception of off-shore phosphate, but it is uncertain whether these deposits can be extracted commercially. The potential for a tourist industry exists, but the remoteness of the location and a lack of adequate facilities hinder development. Currently, monetary aid from the United States provides the majority of revenue for both the government and the national economy.

The government's main economic priority is to develop a sustainable, independent economy by bolstering the private sector and reforming the public sector with the objective of reducing dependence on foreign aid and encouraging economic self-sufficiency. In addition, the government supports international efforts to stop global warming and pollution in general, in order to protect the islands and their agricultural sectors. In recent years, the climate has been very unstable with typhoons, flooding, and mudslides followed by a drought.


Farming is mainly on a subsistence level, although its importance is diminishing. The principal agricultural crops are coconuts, bananas, betel nuts, cassava, and sweet potatoes. The agricultural sector contributed 19 percent of GDP in 1996 and engaged 27 percent of the total labor force in 1994. Exports of agricultural products (excluding fish) accounted for 6 percent of export earnings in 1996, while exports of marine products accounted for 84 percent of total export revenues in that year. The annual rainfall received each year varies from 2,500 millimeters (98 inches) in Yap to 4,500-7,500 millimeters (177-295 inches) in Pohnpei. The limited water reserves in both Chuuk and Yap are a source of concern for the long term.


Industry (including mining, manufacturing, utilities, and construction) provided 4 percent of GDP in 1996, and engaged 10 percent of the total labor force in 1994. The major industrial productions are construction, fish processing, and craft items from shells, wood, and pearls. There is little manufacturing, other than garment production (in Yap) and the manufacture of buttons using troche shells.


The service sector provided an estimated 77 percent of GDP in 1996, and government services alone contributed 42.1 percent. The national and state governments in 1996-97 employed a total of 6,015 people, and services as a whole employed 63 percent of the labor force. Tourism is an increasingly important industry, and it is hoped that several projects to improve communications will further stimulate the sector, which has been hindered by the territory's remote location. The tourism industry was identified in the Asian Development Bank in mid-1995 as having the greatest potential for development and thus contributing to Micronesia's economic growth. Presently, most of the Federated States of Micronesia's tourism industry is inadequate and not competitive with destinations such as Guam and, soon, Palau. As of 1991, the most recent year for which such data are available, the Federated States of Micronesia's entire tourism industry (hotel, motel, and other accommodations) amounted to only 290 rooms, 144 of which were in Pohnpei, 80 in Chuuk, 26 in Yap, and 30 in Kosrae. Among the visitors from overseas, 60 percent are from the United States and 25 percent from Japan.


Thanks to its lack of exportable goods, Micronesia has traditionally run a large trade imbalance. In 1996, the trade deficit was $95 million, on exports of $73 million and imports of $168 million. The main exports of the Federated States of Micronesia are marine products, while the main imports are food, manufactured goods, machinery and equipment, beverages, and fuels. Micronesia's main trading partners are the United States, Japan, Australia, and Guam. In 1996, the United States supplied 73.2 percent of Micronesia's imports and Japan 11.9 percent.

Exchange rates: Micronesia
Jan 2001 1.0000
2000 1.0000
1999 1.0000
1998 1.0000
1997 1.0000
1996 1.0000
Note: US currency is used in the Federated States of Micronesia.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].


The United States dollar is the official currency of Federated States of Micronesia. Its value fluctuates in terms of the other main currencies of the world, but remains relatively stable. Financial regulation is provided by the Federated States of Micronesia Banking Board. Commercial banks include the Bank of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Bank of Guam, and the Bank of Hawaii. There is also the Federated States of Micronesia Development Bank, which has branches in all of the states, and which makes low-interest, long-term loans primarily to local investors.


The average per capita income was estimated at $2,000 in 1998 (in the United States, by way of comparison, per capita income in 1998 was $29,340). Although manufactured goods are expensive, as they are mostly imported, basic foodstuffs are cheap, and this does much to alleviate poverty. The government has a considerable amount of income at its disposal as a result of the financial support from the United States, and as a result, it is able to support sections of the community (such as farmers in the outlying islands, with the subsidy of copra production) that might otherwise be in poverty.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Federated States of Micronesia 1,760 2,000 N/A 2,000 N/A
United States 28,600 30,200 31,500 33,900 36,200
Philippines 2,600 3,200 3,500 3,600 3,800
Solomon Islands 3,000 3,000 2,600 2,650 2,000
Note: Data are estimates.
SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th editions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.

There is a compulsory education law that requires all children to begin school at the age of 6. Children may leave school when they reach the age of 14 or after completing the eighth grade. There are virtually 100 percent enrollment rates in primary and, until the age of 14, in secondary education. The adult literacy rate was estimated at 89 percent in 1980. The government maintains a free medical service.


The unemployment rate in Federated States of Micronesia was estimated at 27 percent in 1989, but had fallen to 16 percent by 1999. These figures are high, the degree of under-utilization of the labor force is somewhat greater than even these figures suggest. For much of the year in small-scale family farming there is relatively little work to do, and this is shared among the family members. During planting and harvesting, there is more work to be done, and everyone is more fully occupied. Everyone sharing the work appears to have an occupation in agriculture, but many workers are not engaged full time for all the year, and hence there is some "disguised unemployment."

The government respects the human rights of its citizens. There is no law dealing specifically with trade unions or with the right to collective bargaining. Individual employers, the largest of which are the national and state governments, set wages.

Neither the constitution nor the law specifically prohibits forced and bonded labor by children, but such practices are not known to occur. There is no law establishing a minimum age for employment of children. While in practice there is no employment of children for wages, they often assist their families in subsistence farming activities.

The 4 state governments have established minimum wage rates for government workers. Pohnpei has a minimum hourly wage rate of $2.00 an hour for government and $1.35 an hour for private workers. The other 3 states have established minimum hourly rates only for government workers of $1.25 for Chuuk, $1.49 for Kosrae, and $0.80 for Yap. The minimum hourly wage for employment with the national government is $1.68. These minimum wage structures and the wages customarily paid to skilled workers are sufficient to provide an adequate standard of living under local conditions.

There are no laws regulating hours of work (although a 40-hour workweek is standard practice) or prescribing standards of occupational safety and health. A federal regulation requires that employers provide a safe work-place. The Department of Health has no enforcement capability and working conditions vary in practice. Foreign laborers are paid at a lower rate than citizens, work longer hours per day, and work a 6-day week in contrast to the 5-day week for citizens.


1525. Portuguese navigators in search of the Spice Islands (Indonesia) come upon Yap and Ulithi. Spanish expeditions later explored the rest of the Caroline Islands and make the first European contact with native peoples.

1526-1899. The Spanish Empire claims sovereignty over the Caroline Islands.

1899. Facing insurmountable management challenges in its Pacific empire as war with the United States looms, Spain sells the islands to Germany. The German administration encourages the development of trade and the production of copra (dried coconuts).

1914. German administration ends when Japanese naval squadrons take possession of the Caroline Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the islands of the Marianas at the start of World War I (1914-18).

1918. Japanese economic interest and settlement in the islands expands. The Japanese population in Micronesia exceeds 100,000, compared with an indigenous population of about 40,000. Sugar cane, other tropical crops, mining, and fishing are developed as major industries.

1939-1945. World War II abruptly ends the relative prosperity experienced during the period of Japanese civil administration.

1947. The United Nations establishes the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI), and the United States takes on the role of trustee as administering authority. The TTPI consists of the 4 island groups that will later become the states of the Federated States of Micronesia.

1965. The Congress of Micronesia formed.

1967. A commission is established to examine the future political status of the islands.

1970. Micronesians declare their rights to sovereignty over their own lands, to self-determination, to devise their own constitution, and to revoke their association with the United States.

1977. U.S. President Jimmy Carter announces that his administration intends to terminate the trusteeship agreement.

1978. Following a constitutional convention, the Federated States of Micronesia drafts a constitution that provides for federation of the 4 states: Chuuk (formerly Truk), Pohnpei (formerly Ponape), Kosrae (formerly Kusaie), and Yap.

1979. The 4 states ratify the constitution, and the Federated States of Micronesia comes into being.

1982. The United States signs a Compact of Free Association with the Federated States of Micronesia.

1986. The Federated States of Micronesia becomes self-governing.

1991. Micronesia achieves full independence and becomes a member of the United Nations.

1993. Micronesia joins the International Monetary Fund.

2001. Micronesia begins a renegotiation of Compact of Free Association with the United States to secure the continuation of financial support. The government announces a privatization plan.


Although Micronesia will continue to be hampered economically by its isolated location, small geographical area, and population size, it has the enormous benefit of the generous financial support of the United States. The level of this support is undergoing renegotiation, with the United States offering $74 million a year and Micronesia requesting $84 million. Even at the lower level of support, this would secure Micronesia's living standards for the next 15 years of the agreement (the level of U.S. assistance in 2000 was $79 million).

Micronesia had a positive GDP growth rate in 2000 of 2.5 percent, and although this is encouraging in view of the negative growth rates recorded from 1996 to 1999, it is still below the population growth rate of 3.3 percent a year. There is pressure on the government from the IMF to reduce expenditures and increase revenue collection to maintain the budget surplus achieved since 1996, and to maintain the current low inflation rate (2.8 percent in 2000). The government has announced a privatization program to try to improve efficiency in the economy, and this is to be supported by loans from the Asian Development Bank

Fisheries is targeted as one the industries presenting the greatest potential for growth in the private sector. The fishing industry should see improvements in the near future as Japan is funding a $2.8 million project to train fishermen in Micronesia. However, both Taiwan and Japan are seeking to reduce the license payments they make for fishing in Micronesia's waters. They argue that the current low price for tuna on the world market makes this necessary, and they also claim that tuna have begun to migrate away from Micronesia's waters to other parts of the Pacific.

Tourism is the second sector with expansion potential. In 2000, the islands received 17,152 visitors. The number of visitors has fallen slightly for each of the past 4 years. Initially, the fall was credited to the Asian financial crisis, particularly affecting the number of Japanese tourists. However, the fact that the fall has continued indicates that there is much to be done in regenerating the sector, and this will require foreign investment in hotels and an international marketing program. A British firm, Travel Research International, has been engaged to promote Micronesia's tourism, concentrating on diving, cultural tourism, deep-sea fishing, and eco-tourism as the main attractions.

In common with many other South Pacific countries, Micronesia is alarmed by the effect continuing global warming will have on its islands. The consequent rise in the level of the oceans threatens low-lying islands with flooding and, eventually, with submergence.


Micronesia has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Federated States of Micronesia. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Embassy of the Federated States of Micronesia, Washington, D.C. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Goetzfridt, N. J., and W. L. Wuerch. Micronesia 1975-1987 .Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing, 1989.

Pacific Islands Business Network. Federated States of Micronesia: Country Profile. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Federated States of Micronesia, June 1996. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Oygul Musakhanova


Palikir, Pohnpei Island.


The official currency of Micronesia is the United States dollar ($). One dollar equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents and 1 dollar. There are notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars.


Fish, garments, bananas, and black pepper.


Food, manufactured goods, machinery and equipment, and beverages.


US$263 million (1999 est.).


Exports: US$73 million (1996 est.). Imports: US$168 million (1996 est.).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



ETHNONYMS: Carolinians, Chamorros, Chuukese (Trukese), Guamanians, I-Kiribati (Gilbertese), Kosraeans, Marshallese, Micronesian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Palauans, Pohnpeians, Nauruans, Yapese


Identification. Micronesians of North America are Pacific Islanders whose homeland comprises over twenty-five hundred minuscule coral islets and volcanic islands of the Western Pacific. The term Micronesia, meaning "tiny islands," was coined by the French geographer Domeny de Rienzi in 1831 and used by subsequent explorers and cartographers. Geographically, the area includes three great archipelagoes, the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall Islands, covering an ocean expanse equal to the continental United States. Anthropologists define Micronesia as one of the three "culture areas" of Oceania, which also includes Polynesia and Melanesia. The "culture area" identification, however, cloaks considerable Diversity among different island societies within Micronesia. Politically also the Micronesian area is diverse and includes seven entities: two are independent republics (Kiribati and Nauru); two are in a unique "free association" with the United States (the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands); one is a commonwealth (the Northern Mariana Islands); one is an unincorporated territory of the United States (Guam); and one (the Republic of Belau) has yet to finalize a treaty defining its relationship to the United States as of late 1990. The ethnonym "Micronesia" is primarily an artifact of European cultural categories and geographic divisions imposed as part of a larger heuristic upon the multitudinous island societies of Oceania. There is very little if any common ethnic identification or shared cultural heritage among the different island groups subsumed under this term.

Location. Micronesians in the United States and Canada are one of the smallest and most recent immigrant groups, and its characteristics are changing quickly. Very little Research has been directed toward Micronesians in the United States, and it was not until the 1980 census that Micronesians were enumerated separately from other Asian and Pacific Islanders. Consequently, geographic and demographic information on Micronesians in the United States is very sketchy. Most of the Micronesians immigrating to the United States initially take up residence in Hawaii or on the Pacific Coast. The 1980 census indicated that 55 percent of Guamanians (or Chamorros, as the indigenous people of Guam are called) in the United States reside in California. Other Micronesians, such as Chuukese, Marshallese, and Palauans, have formed small pockets of settlement in Washington, Oregon, southern California, and Texas, but the non-Guamanian Micronesians probably reside in largest numbers in Hawaii. These Pacific Islanders prefer West Coast and southern states with sunny climates similar to the tropical Pacific. Micronesians live predominantly in urban or suburban areas where they have access to the employment and educational opportunities that motivated their migration. Although the earlier immigrantsmainly the Guamanians who came to the United States in the 1950s and 1960smay own homes in working-class suburban neighborhoods, the more recent Micronesians are mainly apartment renters in lower-class urban neighborhoods.

In Canada, the majority of immigrants from the Pacific Islands are Asian Indians who emigrated from Fiji. Pacific Islanders in Canada reside almost exclusively in British Columbia, with less than one thousand in Ontario and Manitoba.

Demography. The 1990 estimated population of the seven island entities composing Micronesia is roughly 375,000, of which the great majority are ethnic Micronesians. On the larger U.S.-affiliated islands in Micronesia there are minority communities of Americans, Filipinos, and Asians who hold professional and technical positions. Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, currently enjoying an economic surge of tourism-related growth, employ sizable numbers of Korean, Chinese, and other Asian construction workers on short-term contracts. In much of Micronesia the population was declining from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, owing mainly to the effects of introduced diseases in small, vulnerable populations. Since the advent of antibiotics, Micronesia has undergone a dramatic demographic reversal, and the population today is young and highly fertile. The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) currently have annual population growth rates of over 3 percent, and the resultant population pressure is one major incentive for increasing migration to Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland. Micronesians in the United States probably numbered no more than 60,000 in 1990, of which about 85 percent were Guamanians. Demographically, Micronesians in the United States show aspects typical of new migrant Populations: a low median age (less than twenty-three, compared with the U.S. median age of thirty) and a preponderance of males over females. The largest concentration of Micronesiansroughly 20,000is in Long Beach, California, where the naval base has attracted large numbers of Guamanians. Since November 1986, when the United States signed compacts of Free Association giving citizens of the FSM and RMI the privilege of free immigration to the United States, there has been a surge of emigrants from these two island countries. A sizable Marshallese community has grown up in Costa Mesa outside of Los Angeles. The numbers are nearly inconsequential by U.S. national standards, but the thousand or so emigrants annually from Micronesia to the United States since 1986 represents a significant outflow of people from these small island communities.

In Canada, estimates from the 1986 census indicated that there were 5,305 residents of Pacific Island origin, about 90 percent of them from Micronesia or Melanesia. Whether this figure accounts for just native Pacific Islanders or includes some Fijian Indians is unclear.

linguistic Affiliation. All Micronesian languages are part of the Austronesian family of languages, which is dispersed over nearly one-third of the globe and includes language Communities as widely separated as Madagascar, Easter Island, Hawaii, and the Philippines. None of the Micronesian Languages has a writing system that predates European contact. Even today there are very few written materials in these Languages, and orthographies are not well standardized or widely accepted. Consequently there are very few contexts outside of the family where Micronesians speak, read, or write their own languages. Guamanians born in the United States usually do not speak their language fluently. According to the 1980 U.S. census, over 50 percent of Guamanians in the United States speak only English at home. Non-Guamanian Micronesians represent a much more recent immigration, and include a larger percentage of first-generation migrants. In the 1980 census, nearly 10 percent of non-Guamanian Micronesians indicated that they speak English "not well" or "not at all."

History and Cultural Relations

The first Micronesian immigrants to the United States were a very few islanders, known as "Bajinerus" in Guam, who shipped out from home as whalers or crewmen on merchant ships in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1898 the United States took possession of Guam as a booty of the Spanish-American War, and prior to World War II, young Guamanian men became eligible for the draft. Military service and the subsequent relocation of families in the 1940s and 1950s provided the first avenue for significant Micronesian immigration to the United States, although this route was limited Entirely to Guamanians. This wave of migration reached its peak during the 1950s and 1960s, owing to the Korean and Vietnam wars. The U.S. Naval Base in Long Beach, California, has been the primary employer of Guamanians as navy enlisted personnel and as civilians.

After World War II, the United States received trusteeship of the remainder of the Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands, and the Marshall Islands, and the entire territory Except for Guam became the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. As the Americanization of Guam and the other Micronesian islands accelerated during the postwar decades, education gained increasing importance. American-style schools were built throughout Micronesia, and growing numbers of young Micronesian high school graduates arrived in the United States to pursue college education. This accounted for a second wave of Micronesian migrants. In 1972, U.S. Federal scholarship assistance in the form of grant and loan programs was extended to Micronesians, which considerably increased the tide of college-bound islanders coming to the United States. By the early 1980s, however, this stream of migration peaked. At its height, there were perhaps a maximum of five-thousand Micronesian college-age individuals (not counting Guamanians) in the United States, which represented a sizable percentage of the home population in this age bracket.

The third and most recent wave of Micronesian migration to the United States comprises individuals and families who have left their homes out of dissatisfaction with the Economic and social constraints of life in small island Communities and have come to the United States to seek a better life. This third wave is significantly different from the first two. The individuals are older, and rather than intending a shortterm circular migration for military service or educational training, these migrants usually intend to settle permanently or for a long period in the United States. The third wave shows aspects typical of chain migration. Often the migrants follow relatives or friends who had previously migrated for military or educational reasons, and they rely heavily on their social relations or kinship with previous migrants in order to find jobs and housing, and generally receive assistance in accommodating to their new life. Among Guamanians, this stream began in the 1960s and now accounts for the largest number of immigrants to the United States.

Other Micronesians gained unrestricted immigration into the United States only in 1986 when the Compacts of Free Association were signed, leading to a migration of Islanders seeking a better life during the past few years. Micronesian settlement in the United States still reflects the importance of military and educational centers of opportunity. Guamanians are concentrated around military bases in southern California and in the south bay cities of Long Beach, Carson, and Wilmington; settlement extends to border cities of Orange County such as Garden Grove and Buena Park. Other Micronesians tend to cluster around University and community college centers in Washington, Oregon, California, and Texas.


Micronesians in the United States mostly hold low-paying, semi-skilled or unskilled jobs in service industries such as restaurants and hotels, in the construction industry, and in factories. Some have attained middle-level management positions, but very few hold professional jobs, even among the Guamanians who came to the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Per capita income of Guamanians and other Micronesians in the United States is about 25 percent below the national average, according to 1980 census data. Lack of education and specialized training, recency of migration, and the low median age are the main factors in Micronesians' Marginal integration into the economy. Also, there is no cultural tradition of capital accumulation or mercantile Entrepreneurship in the Micronesian societies, and strong kinship pressure still exists for the sharing and redistribution of resources. Many Micronesians send money and material goods back to relatives at home and help finance the migration and education of other relatives.

Kinship, Marriage and Family

Kinship. Micronesian kinship groups and descent vary from one island society to another, but generally give primacy to the female line. The most important kinship group above the level of the domestic unit is the matrilineage, a group of women closely related through their mothers. Kinship terminology reflects the authority of the female line. Micronesian kinship is complex, however, and relatedness is considered through a wide circle of relatives on both the mother's and the father's sides, as well as through "fictive" or constructed kin relations such as customary adoption of children.

Marriage. Micronesian marriages are monogamous and in general are quite stable after the couple has begun having children. There is no particular preference for ethnic group endogamy, especially among the younger Micronesian college-age migrants to the United States. Micronesian Marriages to White and Latino spouses are fairly common.

Domestic Unit. In Micronesia, the domestic unit has narrowed considerably within the past two generations. Cash economy has replaced much of the subsistence fishing and gardening activities of the past that provided the rationale for larger, extended domestic groups who resided and worked Together and shared subsistence resources. Nevertheless, family structure among Micronesians in the United States is still close-knit and multigenerational. The average number of Persons per household among Guamanian and other Micronesian migrants is significantly higher (3.57 and 3.88, respectively) than the U.S. average (2.74).

Inheritance. Traditional inheritance of family land and group membership in most Micronesian societies is matrilineal, and married couples typically reside on the wife's land. But the succession of foreign colonial administrations in MicronesiaSpain, Germany, Japan, and the United Stateshas greatly altered the customary patterns of land ownership and inheritance, postmarital residence, and the transmission of surnames. Micronesians in the United States have largely adopted the American legal practice of children carrying their father's surname. Frequently the father's given name becomes the family surname in the United States, a practice foreign to Micronesian custom.

Socialization. Micronesian patterns of socialization are highly indulgent during the early years, and children are trained to be respectful toward older family members and to be sensitive toward harmonious social relationships. Responsibilities for infant and child caretaking frequently fall upon young adolescents, especially girls. This practice of multiple caretakers and early child-care responsibilities among older children may help foster socially affiliative and accommodating behavior among adults. Some high school-aged Guamanian youth have formed Chamorro youth clubs to promote ethnic identification, but generally there is very little formal socialization into the ethnic group among Micronesians in the United States.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social and Political Organization. Primary loyalty and identification traditionally among Micronesians are with Individual islands and villages. State and national allegiance within Micronesia is a recent political concept and is not strongly developed. In the United States, Guamanians have taken the lead in forming community associations, but other Micronesians are not especially well organized at the Community level. There are about a dozen large community organizations of Chamorros in California encompassing Chamorros from San Diego to Sacramento. Annual Chamorro cultural celebrations have recently been organized in Vallejo, and the Chamorro community also shares in the annual celebration of Guam liberation from Japan by U.S. forces following World War II. Some other Micronesian groups have organized community associations in Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast; these often center around a church organization and primarily involve social and recreational activities such as picnics and sports by college-aged individuals and their families. The Marshallese community in Costa Mesa is perhaps the only such Micronesian community association to have received substantial support from its home government and to have constructed a community center building. There is no political association that unifies the various Micronesian groups in the United States. In California, Chamorro Community organizations formed the Federation of Guamanian Associations in 1977, aimed at promoting and supporting Chamorro needs and concerns through community organizations and political action. No such overarching political structure exists for other Micronesian groups in the United States.

Social Control and Conflict. In Micronesian islands, Social control and conflict resolution customarily were in the hands of traditional chiefs and lineage leaders. Formal legal litigation and arbitration of disputes is a rather newly imposed judicial system in Micronesia and is not entirely understood or accepted. In the United States, many Micronesians feel alienated from the political and legal system, preferring to settle disputes in informal ways. Micronesians in the United States seem to be involved in a disproportionate amount of police trouble relating to drunken and disorderly conduct and alcohol-related vehicular accidents. One factor in this pattern of criminal activity is the preponderance of young males in the migrant population. Within many Micronesian islands, the per capita consumption of alcohol is high by world Standards, and roughly 90 percent of arrests and emergency hospitalizations are alcohol-related.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Guam was invaded and conquered by Spanish soldiers and missionized by Catholic priests Beginning in 1668, making the island the first Pacific outpost of European colonization and religion. All the Chamorro People from Guam and the neighboring islands were forcibly resettled into mission villages. Within the first forty years of Spanish missionization on Guam, the Chamorro people suffered catastrophic depopulation, losing perhaps 90 percent of their population to disease, warfare, and the hardships brought about by resettlement and forced labor on plantations. Protestant and Catholic missions were established elsewhere throughout the Micronesian islands during the mid-1800s, and a similar pattern of depopulation from introduced diseases ensued on Yap, Pohnpei, and other Micronesian Islands. All of the larger islands of Micronesia have been Christianized for at least a century, and in no place was local resistance successfully maintained for very long. Chamorros today are nearly entirely Roman Catholic, while in other areas of Micronesia, Protestants slightly outnumber Catholics. During the past twenty years a number of Christian sects have gained a small foothold, including Baptists, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses. In Guam, Catholic beliefs and practices are heavily flavored with elements from Filipino animism and spiritualism, indigenous Chamorro ancestor veneration, and medieval European idolizing of religious icons. Elsewhere in Micronesia, there is a similar syncretic mix of modern Christian theology and practice with indigenous beliefs in animism and many varieties of magic.

Religious Practitioners. Religious leaders in Micronesia command considerable respect in the wider social and Political arena and are frequently called upon as advisers for Government planning and development and as mediators in Political disputes. Although American and other foreign priests and ministers are working in all the larger islands in Micronesia, indigenous religious practitioners are being trained and are assuming leadership of churches throughout the area.

Ceremonies. Micronesians are faithful churchgoers, and in many communities the church functions as a focus of sociability and cohesion. But Chamorros and other Micronesians who have recently immigrated to the United States for educational reasons or to seek a better life are much less dedicated to churchgoing than the earlier immigrants who came for military service. Nevertheless, ceremonial occasions such as weddings, christenings, and funerals play an important role among Micronesians in the United States not only as occasions for religious observance but, more important, as Ceremonies that promote social interdependence and ethnic cohesion. Among Guamanians, one example of this is the prevalent custom of chinchule giving money, food, or other gifts to a family at weddings, christenings, or deaths to assist the family in meeting the costs of the ceremony or to repay a prior gift. This practice reinforces the socioeconomic indebtedness and reciprocity that permeate Micronesian family relationships.

Arts. In traditional Micronesian societies, arts were closely integrated into functional and subsistence aspects of life, such as house building, weaving of clothing, and construction and embellishment of sailing canoes. There was no class of people who worked solely as specialist craftspersons or artists. Performing arts such as dance were also closely integrated into the agricultural calendar and into the cycle of arrivals and departures of people from their home islands. Among Micronesian immigrants in the United States, there are very few if any professional performers who sustain Micronesian arts, but there are frequent informal presentations of Micronesian singing and dancing at community gatherings and family social events.

Medicine. Medical knowledge traditionally was shared fairly widely in Micronesian communities. Although some individuals could gain a reputation for being especially knowledgeable in administering therapeutic massage, setting bones, practicing midwifery, or preparing herbal remedies, there were no specialist healers who were recognized and supported as such. Both magical and efficacious aspects of medical treatment were often used together and were inseparable in actual practice. Among Micronesians in the United States, there is still frequent resort to non-Western explanations of illness causation and to alternative treatments.

Death and Afterlife. Contemporary Micronesian beliefs about the afterlife are a syncretic mix of Christian and Indigenous ideas. Christian dogma regarding rewards and punishments in the afterlife is more explicitly formulated than indigenous Micronesian notions, but corresponds with and reinforces some indigenous beliefs in spirit worlds beneath the sea and beyond the horizon. Experiences of spirit possession and communication from the dead are rather widely believed and sometimes are given as an explanation for unnatural deaths such as suicide. Funerals are very important not only as occasions for community and family reintegration involving several days of ceremonial feasts and speeches but also as rituals to mark the departure of the dead properly and to put the person's spirit to rest. Among many Micronesians in the United States, great expense is incurred to return the body of the deceased to his or her home island and to provide a proper burial on family land.


Hezel, Francis X., and Michael J. Levin (1987). "Micronesian Emigration: The Brain Drain in Palau, Marshalls, and the Federated States." Journal of the Pacific Society 10:16-34.

Hezel, Francis X., and Michael J. Levin (1990). "Micronesian Emigration: Beyond the Brain Drain." In Migration and development in the South Pacific, edited by John Connell, 42-60. Pacific Research Monograph no. 24. Canberra: National Centre for Development Studies, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University.

Leon Guerrero, Ramon (1972). "An Exploratory Study of Life-Style Adjustments of Guamanians." Master's thesis, San Diego State University.

Levin, Michael J. (1984). "Pacific Islanders in the United States." Paper presented at the conference on Asia-Pacific Immigration to the United States Honolulu: East-West Population Institute.

Munoz, Faye Untalan (1979). "An Exploratory Study of Island Migration: Chamorros of Guam." Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles.

Shimizu, D. (1982). "Mental Health Needs Assessment: The Guamanians in California." Ed.D. diss., University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Underwood, Robert A. (1985). "Excursions into Inauthenticity: The Chamorros of Guam." In Mobility and Identity in the Island Pacific, edited by Murray Chapman and Philip S. Morrison. Special issue of Pacific Viewpoint 26:160-184.


Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesians." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesians." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesians." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



PRONUNCIATION: mye-cro-NEE-zhuns

LOCATION: Federated States of Micronesia (also Guam, Republic of Belau, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Republic of Nauru, the Northern Mariana Islands, and thousands of smaller islands)


LANGUAGE: Indigenous languages of the islands; English

RELIGION: Catholicism; Protestantism


The name Micronesia comes from Greek, meaning "small islands." The Micronesian cultures are located in the northern Pacific Ocean. Most of the nearly 2,500 islands that make up Micronesia were administered by the United States until 1986 as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1986, the territory was dissolved into four constitutional governments: the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Belau (Palau), the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. All four have continuing political and economic relationships with the United States.


The Micronesian region is shaped like a parallelogram. Its corners are formed by the Republic of Belau in the southwest; Kiribati, formerly the Gilbert Islands, in the southeast; Guam in the northwest; and the Marshall Islands in the northeast.

Volcanic and coral islands make up Micronesia. Almost all of the islands within the region of Micronesia are located north of the equator. The largest island is Guam, with 225 square miles and about half of the total population. The Republic of Nauru (not previously administered by the U.S.) is one of the smallest countries in the world, with a total area of 9 square miles. It is also one of the least densely populated, with only about 9,000 people.


The languages of the Micronesian region belong to the large family of Austronesian languages. Austronesian is widely spread throughout the Pacific Basin. Micronesian languages are related to other Austronesian languages such as Javanese, Tagalog (Pilipino), Balinese, Hawaiian, and Malay. English is also spoken.


One Palauan myth recounts the story of a magical breadfruit tree that the child of the sun provided for his human mother. In order to provide fish for her to eat, the son cut a hole in the center of a breadfruit tree growing outside her house. Fish were thrown through the hole by the waves of the sea. The mother just had to walk out her door to collect fish. Her neighbors became jealous and cut down the breadfruit tree. This caused a catastrophic flood that engulfed the whole island. Only the mother was saved; her son flew her through the sky on a raft.


Christian missionaries in Micronesia have converted most of the people to either Catholicism or Protestant faiths. Traditional religion in Micronesian cultures involved belief in ghosts and ancestor worship. People also believed in spirits associated with specific places, objects, and activities. Chants and offerings were directed to these patron spirits.


Major religious holidays in Micronesia now are based on the Christian calendar. Many Micronesian states celebrate Ash Wednesday (in February), Easter (in March or April), All Saints' Day (in November), and Christmas (December 25). American secular holidays, including Thanksgiving, are observed in many parts of Micronesia. A major event for the display of traditional culture is the South Pacific Arts Festival. Performing groups from a number of different Pacific Island nations participate in it.


Many of the traditional celebrations that accompany events like birth, the start of adolescence, marriage, and death have been replaced by Christian rituals. On the island of Yap, however, male adolescence is still marked by a hair-cutting ceremony.


Traditionally, there were specific rules of etiquette for Micronesians to follow when they visited another island. Most societies had three distinct social classes. Social status still determines etiquette in Micronesian societies.

Greetings among many Micronesians are equivalent to the English "welcome." In the Chamorro language of the Northern Marianas, the greeting is hafa adai.


Western-style housing has become common in Micronesia. Some houses, however, are still constructed out of traditional materials, with the addition of a corrugated tin roof.

Electricity and running water are available on those islands where there has been an American or European presence. Some families own gasoline-powered generators to run their appliances.


Households in traditional Micronesian societies include a husband, a wife, and their unmarried children. Women's councils play an important role in village decision-making in Belau.


Micronesians wear Western-style clothing most of the time. However, for ceremonial occasions they often return to traditional styles of dress. Before European colonization, typical clothing was a loincloth for men and a skirt of natural fibers for women.


The Micronesian diet is pretty much the same across the region. There are some local differences due to climate patterns and geographic features. Foods including taro root, breadfruit, coconuts, and yams are staples in many households throughout the region. Europeans introduced corn, sweet potatoes, and manioc (cassava). Fish is the most important source of protein in all parts of Micronesia.

Western foods have become important, especially to younger people. Packaged American foods such as breakfast cereals are part of many Micronesian daily meals.


Western-style education has been introduced throughout Micronesia. There are a number of American-run schools where residents from the United States send their children. Opportunities for a college education must be found in the U.S. or in other developed countries.


Micronesian music is mainly vocal. Very few musical instruments are produced by Micronesian cultures. The shell trumpet and the nose flute are the most common instruments in the region.

Polynesian-style music from Hawaii has become popular in parts of Micronesia. American music and dance have been introduced by television and by Americans living on the islands.


Traditionally, men have engaged in fishing and harvesting. Women were responsible for gardening and household chores. Wage labor is now common for both men and women in Micronesia. Many states have set minimum-wage standards. In the Northern Marianas Islands, the minimum hourly wage for 1996 was $3.05.


Traditional forms of competitive sports have all but disappeared from most parts of Micronesia. Sports introduced from foreign nations (such as the United States and Japan), have become popular.


Television and video have become popular in many Micronesian societies. The programming is mostly foreignusually from the U.S. or Japanand often out of date. Movie theaters on many of the islands run current American and other foreign films.

Traditional forms of entertainment in Nauru consisted of singing and dancing contests and kite flying. The competing "teams" were organized along family lines.


Belau, in western Micronesia, is well known for the elaborately carved and painted wooden fronts of the houses known as bai. Every plank of the panels at either end of the house front was illustrated with scenes from a historical or mythological story. In the 1930s, the Palauans began to create copies of these planks, as well as new "story-boards," for sale to tourists. Carved bowls of various shapes and sizes and finely braided mats for sleeping and sitting on are also produced for the tourist industry.


Economic self-sufficiency (independence) and the survival of the many cultures are two of the major problems facing Micronesian countries. Tensions must be resolved between factions, both on each island and also between islands.


Ashby, Gene, ed. Some Things of Value: Micronesian Customs and Beliefs. Eugene, Ore.: Rainy Day Press, 1985.

Kluge, P. F. The Edge of Paradise: America in Micronesia. New York: Random House, 1991.


World Travel Guide. Micronesia. [Online] Available, 1998.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesians." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesians." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesians." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



Official name: Federated States of Micronesia

Area: 702 square kilometers (271 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Totolom (791 meters/2,595 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zones: In Pohnpei and Kosrae, 10 p.m. = noon GMT; in Yap and Chuuk, 9 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 2,898 kilometers (1,800 miles) east to west from Kosrae to Yap

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 6,112 kilometers (3,798 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


The country of Micronesia comh2ises several islands in the North Pacific Ocean that are part of a larger group known as the Carolinian archipelago. In turn, this archipelago is located within a region that is also known as Micronesia, which belongs to the larger region known as Oceania. The country is located about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Indonesia. With an area of about 702 square kilometers (271 square miles), the country is about four times the size of Washington, D.C. Micronesia is divided into four states.


Micronesia has no outside territories or dependencies.


The climate in Micronesia is maritime tropical, with little seasonal or diurnal (dayto-night) variation in temperature, which averages 27°C (80°F) year-round. Average humidity is 80 percent.

The northeast trade winds that prevail during November, December, April, and May frequently bring heavy rainfall. The short and torrential nature of the rainfall, which decreases from east to west, results in an annual average of 508 centimeters (200 inches) of rain in Pohnpei and 305 centimeters (120 inches) in Yap. Pohnpei is one of the wettest places on Earth. The eastern islands are located on the southern edge of the typhoon belt and occasionally suffer severe damage from typhoons, which are a threat from June through December.


The country of Micronesia covers the second-largest land and sea area in the region, which is also known as Micronesia. Its four states consist of four major island groups. From east to west, they are Kosrae, Pohnpei (Ponape), Chuuk (formerly Truk), and Yap Islands. The territory is made up of 607 islands, including mountainous islands of volcanic origin and coral atolls, forty of which are a significant size. Only sixty-five of the islands are inhabited. The outer islands of all states are mainly coral atolls. The primary economic activities are subsistence farming and fishing. Tourism is an emerging industry, catering mostly to sport scuba divers; geographical isolation and a lack of adequate lodging and infrastructure hinder development, however.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The Pacific Ocean surrounds the nation of Micronesia.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Truk Lagoon is one of the largest enclosed lagoons in the world, encircled by a 225-kilometer- (140-mile-) long barrier reef and covering an area of 2,129 square kilometers (822 square miles). Ports and harbors are located at Colonia (Yap), Kolonia (Pohnpei), Lele (Kosrae), and Moen (Chuuk).

Islands and Archipelagos

Within Micronesia, each of the four states centers on one or more "high islands." Kosrae, the smallest and easternmost state, consists of five closely situated islands, but is essentially one high island of 119 square kilometers (42 square miles). Pohnpei (344 square kilometers/133 square miles) consists of the single large island of Pohnpei (137 square kilometers/130 square miles), twenty-five smaller islands within a barrier reef, and 137 outer islands, of which the major atolls are Mokil, Pingelap, Kapingamarangi, Nukuoro, and Ngatik. Chuuk (Truk) (127 square kilometers/49 square miles) includes the large Truk Lagoon, which encloses ninety-eight islands, plus the major outer island groups which include the Mortlocks, Halls, Western, and Namwunweito Islands. Yap (118 square kilometers/46 square miles), the westernmost state, consists of four large islands and seven smaller islands surrounded by barrier reefs, plus 134 outer islands, of which the largest are Ulithi and Woleai.

There is moderately heavy tropical vegetation; tree species include tropical hardwoods on the slopes of higher volcanic islands and coconut palms on the coral atolls. Pohnpei and Kosrae have the only remaining patches of mountain cloud forest in Micronesia. Forest covers 40 percent of total land area in the Yap Islands, but it is largely secondary growth.

Coastal Features

Low sheltered coastal areas of Micronesia are covered with mangrove forests. The Chuuk islands are an "almost atoll," encircled by a barrier reef. Of the eighty countries that have coral reefs, Micronesia ranks thirteenth in area; it contains 1.53% of the world's reefs, spanning 11,241 square kilometers (4,340 square miles). During the past century, Micronesia's coral reefs suffered from soil erosion resulting from logging, agriculture, major coastal construction (dredging and filling), military occupation, and World War II battles, along with the poaching of giant clams, sharks, trochus (marine gastropod), and other commercial species from remote reefs.


The four states of Micronesia have a total of 7,164 square kilometers (2,766 square miles) of lagoons within their coastal borders.


Pohnpei, the largest and tallest island in Micronesia, has peaks that receive much rainfall annually, creating more than forty rivers that feed the upper rain forest and create spectacular waterfalls.


There are no desert regions in Micronesia.


There are no substantial plains, hills, or valleys in Micronesia.


Oceania refers to the islands in the region that covers the central and southern Pacific Ocean and its adjacent seas. The boundaries for this region are the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the southern tip of New Zealand. The region known as Micronesia, a division of Oceania in the western Pacific Ocean, includes the islands east of the Philippines and north of the equator. The Caroline, Marshall, Mariana, and Gilbert Islands are all a part of the region of Micronesia.


The state of Kosrae is largely mountainous, with two main peaks: Fenkol (Mount Crozer) (634 meters/2,080 feet) and Matanti (583 meters/1,913 feet). Pohnpei contains a large volcanic island, with the highest elevation at Mount Totolom (791 meters/2,595 feet), which is also the highest point in the country. Chuuk has fourteen islands that are mountainous and of volcanic origin. Yap has four large, high islands; this state's highest point is Mount Tabiwol (178 meters/584 feet). Yap is situated at the southern end of a submerged ridge; volcanic land formation has occurred in its five largest island clusters.


There are no significant caves or canyons in Micronesia.


There are no plateau regions in Micronesia.


There are no significant man-made structures affecting the geography of Micronesia.



Ashby, Gene, ed. Some Things of Value: Micronesian Customs and Beliefs. Eugene, OR: Rainy Day Press, 1985.

Karolle, Bruce G. Atlas of Micronesia. 2nd ed. Honolulu, Hawaii: Bess Press, 1993.

Kluge, P. F. The Edge of Paradise: America in Micronesia. New York: Random House, 1991.

Web Sites

Government of the Federated States of Micronesia. (accessed April 24, 2003).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



Basic Data
Official Country Name: Federated States of Micronesia
Region: Oceania
Population: 133,144
Language(s): English, Trukese, Pohnpeian, Yapese, Kosrean
Literacy Rate: 89%

Public education in the western Pacific archipelago most commonly known as Micronesia began early in the twentieth century. The first educational program of Micronesia was launched as part of an effort by German colonizers to mold island inhabitants into citizens willing and able to assimilate a more European work ethic and the desire for financial gain. Children began attending school at the age of 6 and were required to continue their studies until the age of 13.

When the Japanese occupied Micronesia during World War I and set up their own public school system there, learning the Japanese language became the focus in Micronesian classrooms. Schools were eventually established in each of the six island groups, with a minimum requirement of three years of instruction for children aged 8 to 14. The school day lasted roughly six hours, and the curriculum was expanded beyond the Japanese language to include moral and vocational education, mathematics, geography, and exercise. Like their German predecessors, Japanese authorities wished the natives of Micronesia to adopt their value system.

By the end of the 1920s, despite the logistical difficulties in reaching the more rural communities, nearly 50 percent of all school aged children were enrolled in school, a fact that reflects the widespread belief among the island inhabitants that education was a means of achieving wealth and power.

At the end of World War II, a United Nations Trusteeship Agreement gave the United States administrative authority over the Micronesian islandswhich had become known as the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands (TTPI)and also the responsibility for helping the people of TTPI become self-reliant. Part of this agreement charged the United States with the task of advancing the education of the residents of TTPI. Efforts to this end began in earnest when U.S. President John F. Kennedy established the Accelerated Elementary School Construction Program in 1962, which doubled the education budget of TTPI from $7.5 million that year to $15 million in 1963 to $17.5 million in 1964. As a result, primary school enrollment increased nearly twofold from 15,119 students at the beginning of the decade to 28,906 students by 1970. Secondary school enrollment soared from 335 students to 5,726 students over the same time period, and college graduates in TTPI grew from 117 people to 595 people. Education was now based upon the U.S. model.

In 1979, TTPI split into several entities. Four island groupsKusaie (Kosrae), Ponape (Pohnpei), Truk (Chuuk), and Yapwere colonized as the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), an independent state that relied heavily on the U.S. for financial support and military defense. Although FSM became a fully self-governing entity in 1986, its schools remained modeled after those in the United States.

Eight years of public schooling is mandatory in FSM. Roughly 76 percent of all residents receive some sort of public education, according to a 1994 Census, with 30.3 percent completing some elementary school, 15.1 percent completing some high school, 13.6 percent holding a high school diploma, 7.5 completing some college, 6.1 percent holding an associates degree, 3.1 percent holding a bachelors degree, and 1.6 percent pursuing graduate studies.

Students begin primary schooling, which is free, at the age of six. The eight-year curriculum includes science, mathematics, language arts, social studies, and physical education. Religious groups also offer private schooling.

Public secondary education is available free of charge. Residents may also attend private secondary schools such as Pohnpei Agricultural and Trade School and Xavier High School in Chuuk.

The College of Micronesia-FSM is the only institution of higher education in the country. It offers various two- and three-year associate degree programs. In the late 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a land grant to the College of Micronesia to construct a campus in Pohnpei. Many students seeking higher education attend the University of Guam.

When the government of FSM was first established in 1979, a Division of Education was created as part of the Department of Social Services. In 1992, FSM's Congress passed PL 7-97, which called for the establishment of a full-fledged Department of Education, complete with four divisions: Curriculum, Standards, Testing, and Evaluation; Vocational Education Manpower Development and Training; Postsecondary and Scholarship; and Federal Community and Foreign Assistance.

The National Literacy Act of 1991 established a grant that allowed for the creation of the FSM Adult Education Program two years later. The program offers adult education and literacy training to adults in Micronesia.

Having adopted the educational models of first the Germans, then the Japanese, and finally the Americans, Micronesia has found itself the subject of debate regarding what type of education actually best meets the needs of its residents. Because the economy there has not kept pace with the increasing costs of its growing educational system, Micronesia struggles to maintain facilities, offer adequate compensation to teachers, and purchase educational materials. Graduates also have difficulty finding jobs that utilize their education, and many relocate to other countries. Some scholars argue that these difficulties support the notion that education in FSM should be scaled back to stay in better step with the economy, while others assert that such difficulties don't outweigh the rights of the islanders to have access to a public education system that allows them to compete in an increasingly global economy. At the onset of the twenty-first century, the University of Ohio, with financing from the United States, was researching ways to identify the curriculum most appropriate for FSM.


Colletta, Nat J. "American Schools for the Natives of Ponape." Ph.D. diss., Michigan State University, 1972.

Federated States of Micronesia. FSM Education. Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, 2001. Available from

Federated States of Micronesia Department of Education. FSM Adult Education and Literacy. Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, 2001. Available from

Hezel, Francis X. "The Price of Education in Micronesia." Ethnies: Droits de L'homme et Peuples Autochtones 8-10 (Spring 1989): 24-29.

Rechebei, Elizabeth D. "Micronesia and Education: The Future." Paper presented at Sasakawa Peace Foundation Seminar, Tokyo, December 1999.

AnnaMarie L. Sheldon

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia." World Education Encyclopedia. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia." World Education Encyclopedia. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia." World Education Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



Basic Data

Official Country Name: Federated States of Micronesia
Region (Map name): Oceania
Population: 133,144
Language(s): English, Trukese, Pohnpeian, Yapese, Kosrean
Literacy rate: 89%

Micronesia, a group of 600 islands in the North Pacific Ocean, is an independent country made up of four districts: Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap, and Kosrae. Prior to establishing its sovereignty in 1978, Micronesia was part of a trust territory created by the United Nations following World War II (the United States was trustee). Democratic elections were held the following year, and Micronesia joined the United Nations in 1991. The estimated population is 135,000. English is the official and most common language, but local dialects like Trukese, Pohnpeian, Yapese, and Kosrean are also spoken. The literacy rate is 89 percent. Micronesia's President leads both the state and the government, and heads a 14-seat unicameral Congress. In 1986, Micronesia and the United States entered a Compact of Free Association, meaning the U.S. would provide more than $1 billion in financial and technical assistance to the island nation. This agreement expired in 2001, leaving the Micronesian economy extremely fragile. Other than foreign aid, the economy relies on farming and fishing. The potential to develop tourism exists, but it is hindered by lack of adequate facilities, the country's underdeveloped infrastructure and its remote location.

Since 1998, Micronesia is experiencing increased media freedom. There is no daily newspaper. The Pohnpei district boasts three English-language publications. A bi-weekly publication called Micronesia Focus has published since 1993, The FSM News, a newspaper founded in 1994, which appears monthly, and the National Union, begun in 1979, which prints every two weeks. The National Union, a free publication, focuses on national government news and accepts no advertising. The Yap shirt also produces a newspaper called the Yap State Bulletin. Like the National Union, this free publication appears every two weeks, highlights government news, and contains no advertisements.

There are six radio stations, one FM and five AM, and three television stations. There is one Internet service provider.


"Country Profile: Micronesia," BBC News. (n.d.). Available from

"Federated States of Micronesia," University of Queensland, Australia's CocoNET Wireless (1995). Available from

"History," Government of the Federated States of Micronesia (2002). Available from

"Micronesia," CIA World Fact Book (2001). Available from

Jenny B. Davis

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia." World Press Encyclopedia. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia." World Press Encyclopedia. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia." World Press Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from

Micronesia, Federated States of

Federated States of Micronesia, independent nation (2005 est. pop. 108,000), c.271 sq mi (702 sq km), an island group in the W Pacific Ocean. It comprises four states: Kosrae, Pohnpei (formerly Ponape), Chuuk (formerly Truk), and Yap. The capital, Palikir, is on the island of Pohnpei. The population is predominantly Micronesian and Christian. English is the official language; a number of Austronesian and Polynesian languages are also spoken.

The United States spent heavily in the islands in the 1990s, making financial assistance the primary source of income. Other mainstays of the economy are subsistence farming and fishing. Fish, clothing, bananas, and black pepper are exported and food and beverages, manufactured goods, and machinery are imported. The United States and Japan are the main trading partners.

The islands are governed under the constitution of 1979. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is elected by Congress for a four-year term. There are 14 members of the unicameral Congress; four are popularly elected for four-year terms and 10 for two-year terms. Defense is the responsibility of the United States. Administratively the country is divided into four states.

Germany purchased the islands from Spain in 1898. They were occupied (1914) by Japan, which received them (1920) as a League of Nations mandate. During World War II, U.S. forces captured the islands, and in 1947 they became part of the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1979, as negotiations for termination of the trusteeship continued, they became self-governing as the Federated States of Micronesia. In 1986, they assumed free-association status with the United States; the economic and defense relationship with the United States was renewed for 20 years in 2004. Emmanuel Mori became president in 2007 and was reelected in 2011. Chuuk and Yap were devastated by a supertyphoon in 2015.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia, Federated States of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia, Federated States of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia, Federated States of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from

Micronesia, Federated States of

Micronesia, Federated States of Republic in the w Pacific Ocean, consisting of all the Caroline Islands except Belau. The 607 islands of the republic divide into four states: Kosrae, Pohnpei, Truk, and Yap. The capital, Palikir, is on the main island of Pohnpei. The archipelago is widely dispersed. Spain formally the islands in 1874, and sold them to Germany in 1899. In 1914, Japan occupied the archipelago and was given a mandate to govern by the League of Nations in 1920. In 1944, US naval forces captured the islands, and in 1947 they came under formal US administration as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1979, the Federated States of Micronesia came into being, with Belau remaining a US trust territory. In 1986, a compact of free association with the USA was signed. In 1990 UN trust status was annulled, and in 1991 Micronesia became a full member of the UN. The economy depends heavily on US aid. Land use is limited to subsistence agriculture. Area: 705sq km (272sq mi). Pop. (2000) 110,000.;

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia, Federated States of." World Encyclopedia. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia, Federated States of." World Encyclopedia. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia, Federated States of." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from

Federated States of Micronesia

Federated States of Micronesia

Culture Name


Alternative Names



Identification. Formed in 1978, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is an island nation in the Caroline archipelago of the western Pacific Ocean. Between 1947 and 1986, these islands were administered by the United States as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The United Nations trusteeship was terminated in 1986, when the FSM and the United States entered into a Compact of Free Association that guaranteed financial assistance to the FSM in exchange for U.S. authority over matters of security and defense through the year 2000. Communities throughout the FSM are culturally and linguistically heterogeneous. A shared national identity has been important for economic and political negotiations with outsiders, but sociocultural diversity within the FSM is more often the hallmark of islander identity.

Location and Geography. The Federated States of Micronesia consists of 607 islands with a total land area of 270 square miles (700 square kilometers) scattered across more than one million square miles (2.6 million kilometers) of the western Pacific Ocean. The islands are grouped into four geopolitical states: from west to east, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. The capital of the FSM is Palikir, which is located in a mountainous region of the main island of Pohnpei. Each state features both mountainous volcanic islands and low-lying coral atolls, with the exception of Kosrae, which has one mountainous island. Coral atolls consist of several small islets within a fringing reef, arranged around a central lagoon. Volcanic islands have a greater diversity of ecological zones, including an interior of dense rain forest and soaring mountains, a coastal plain of ridges and winding valleys, and thick mangrove swamps crowding the shoreline.

Demography. Virtually all of the islands in the FSM suffered severe depopulation following the introduction of diseases by the Europeans in the mid-1800s. Since the late 1800s, population figures have risen steadily. The 1999 population, estimated at 116,268, is up 19 percent from 1990. The annual growth rate of the nation's population is at 2 percent, down 1 percent from the growth experienced between 1950 and 1980. This drop in the population's growth rate can be attributed, in part, to emigration and the free movement of citizens between the FSM and the United States and its territories allowed by the Compact of Free Association. Despite international migration trends, the rapidly growing population of the FSM is expected to double in the next 36 years.

Linguistic Affiliation. English, the official language, is taught in schools and is widely known throughout the region. It is, however, a second language for most Micronesians. Virtually every inhabited island in the FSM is associated with a distinct language or dialect from the Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) language family. With the exception of a few Polynesian outliers, the languages spoken among the islanders of Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, and the coral atolls of Yap State are classified as Nuclear Micronesian. Yapese mainlanders speak a Western Micronesian language. The linguistic diversity among citizens of the FSM is a testament to the importance of local communities.

Symbolism. On the FSM's national flag, four white stars on a sea of blue represents the four unified states in a vast expanse of the western Pacific. The flag symbolically acknowledges that although each state is composed of a diversity of cultures over many miles of ocean, they are joined, not separated, by the sea. The sea and maritime themes associated with fishing and voyaging are employed as symbols of a pan-Micronesian identity. Island food and the land on which it is grown also figure prominently in discourse on national identity. Even so, gatherings of ethnically distinct Micronesians during national events feature performances and associated symbolism that highlight the rich cultural diversity of the nation. Dance forms are highly regionalized, often expressing the unique cultural histories of the performers. Images employed in paintings, decorations, and publications often emphasize the cultural heritage of individual states.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. At the end of World War II, the United States assumed control over Micronesia. Prior to this time the islands were governed successively by Spain, Germany, and Japan. In 1947 the entire region became known as the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI), a geopolitical entity administered entirely by the United States. The establishment of the Congress of Micronesia in 1964 was the first sign of the Micronesian movement towards autonomy. Dissatisfaction with the TTPI administration's inadequate development strategies and their own lack of control over economic planning compelled members of the congress to press for self-government. Micronesia's strategic location at the threshold of the Asian mainland gave the islanders leverage in their negotiations with the United States, which began in 1969.

A draft constitution for the FSM was crafted by delegates from each of the TTPI districts during the constitutional convention of 1975. The hope was to forge a national identity and unite all districts under a single, constitutional federation. The relatively greater U.S. military interests in the Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas, and Palau, however, provided leaders of these districts with the incentive to pursue separate negotiations. In a referendum held in 1978, the voters from the remaining four central districts (Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae) approved the constitution and became the FSM. The new government formally commenced operations in 1979, yet remained under the authority of the United States until 1986 when the Compact of Free Association took effect. The United Nations welcomed the FSM as a sovereign nation in 1991.

National Identity. The creation of a national identity has not been easy considering the differences between island sociocultural practices, languages, and resources. The continuing importance of the FSM's economic and political relationship with the United States and other foreign powers, however, has contributed to the emergence of a national identity. The identification of FSM's citizenry as a nation is largely a response to the economic and political dependency fostered by the United States. This supralocal identity is of recent origin and rarely supersedes the importance of local communities in day-to-day activities. Citizens of the FSM value their identity as members of distinct ethnic groups with diverse cultural traditions and values. This sense of "unity in diversity" is embedded in the preamble to the FSM constitution: "To make one nation of many islands, we respect the diversity of our cultures. Our differences enrich us. The seas bring us together, they do not separate us. Our islands sustain us, our island nation enlarges us and makes us stronger."

Ethnic Relations. Numerous ethnic groups are gathered within the FSM. Although these groups have, at times, assumed a pan-Micronesian identity when dealing with external powers, individuals maintain strong ethnic affiliations and a diversity of interests. The high degree of circular migration brings diverse cultures together and often contributes to the reification of ethnic identities. Ethnic differences are often at the heart of political contention between the states and also contribute to local disputes. Even so, other distinctions, including village, class, kinship, and religious affiliation, often take precedence over ethnicity in defining islander identity.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Architecture in the FSM is a mixture of indigenous designs, colonial influences, and Western models. Open-sided houses made of wooden posts with thatch roofs and earthen floors have largely been replaced by homes made of cement block or poured concrete with corrugated steel roofs. In the urban centers, many homes feature modern kitchens, bathrooms, separate bedrooms, and driveways for automobiles. In rural areas, separate cook-, bath-, and boathouses are still the norm, but Western building materials are increasingly used in construction. Traditional feast houses and meetinghouses are still important places for social interaction in many rural communities, although churches are often the most prominent buildings.

The use of space is related to the relative importance of subsistence production in island communities. Urban residents who rely on the cash economy are settled in close proximity to government offices and places of employment. They generally own little arable land, though they often tend small gardens on house plots. Rural villages on high islands are located within a short distance of both the sea and extensive family gardens devoted to taro, yam, sweet potato, or cassava cultivation. Communities on the coral atolls are usually concentrated along the leeward shoreline of lagoons, not far from more centrally located taro pits, providing protection from storms and access to both marine and terrestrial resources.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The social and symbolic significance of food is one of the most salient aspects of life in Micronesia. Sharing food is an expression of solidarity that validates kinship ties and defines a host of rights, duties, and obligations between people. Meals usually consist of a starchy carbohydrate, and fish or chicken, and may include a variety of fruits. Taro, breadfruit, yams, sweet potatoes, and cassava are the primary starches. Meat, usually fish, is also considered to be an essential part of Micronesian meals. Hundreds of edible fish species are available to fishers in addition to an abundance of marine turtles, shellfish, and crustaceans. Locally-raised livestock, including chicken and pigs, is usually reserved for feasting. Fruits accompany mealtime, and are casually eaten throughout the day, or are incorporated into recipes; fruits include coconut, banana, papaya, pandanus, mango, and a variety of citrus.

Production and consumption of locally harvested produce has diminished throughout the FSM as a result of an increasing reliance on the cash economy and imported foods. Today, boiled rice, fried or baked bread, pancakes, and ramen noodles often constitute the starch component of meals. Canned meats have made similar inroads, but atoll residents and rural high-islanders still rely heavily on subsistence fishing.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Food is the focal point of most ceremonial occasions. Feasts involving the distribution of enormous quantities of food are integral to religious ceremonies, government celebrations, and secular parties marking life-cycle events and changes in status. The distribution of food takes place in accordance with culture-specific rules of hierarchy and etiquette, and is often a sign of the host's wealth and generosity. Certain foods assume a special status during feasts and are considered essential. In Pohnpei, for example, pigs, yams, and sakau (a beverage, with psychoactive properties, made from piper methisticum root) are the most prestigious foods featured during feasts. Elsewhere, taro, sugarcane, and coconuts figure prominently. Although subsistence produce and "traditional" recipes are highlighted during feasts, foreign food imports are gaining currency as markers of wealth among those participating more fully in the market economy.

Basic Economy. The cash economy is almost entirely dependent on the flow of funds from the United States. Since 1986, the nation has received roughly $100 million per year from the United States in Compact of Free Association funds and supplementary grants. Sixty percent of compact disbursements support administrative costs of the government including salaries and benefits, and 40 percent are funneled into infrastructure projects and economic development. Thus, the FSM's public sector drives the cash economy and supports the small, service-oriented private sphere. The subsistence economy is based on small-scale horticulture, fishing, and the exploitation of resources in kinbased island territories. Participation in these two spheres of the economy is not mutually exclusive and many subsistence farmers and fishers move in and out of the cash economy. Remittances from family members participating in the cash economy also supplement the income of households primarily engaged in subsistence production. The prestige economy, based on indigenous forms of status, reciprocity, and exchange, intersects these two dimensions of the economy.

Land Tenure and Property. On the small islands in the FSM, land is scarce. Complex, diverse, and often competing tenure systems governing ownership and access rights to the precious land have developed throughout the islands. Many of these systems include aboriginal and postcolonial elements. On most islands access to land may depend upon membership in a lineage or clan. With the exception of Yap and a few atolls in the state of Pohnpei where patrilineal affiliation governed inheritance of land rights, matrilineages traditionally controlled estates in Micronesia. These estates were often subject to chiefly authority and control. In most cases, the oldest male member of the matrilineage managed the estate. After a century of colonial rule, systems of land tenure followed the path away from corporate, descent group ownership toward individualization of tenure. Furthermore, the nuclearization of the family and greater individual self-interest accompanying Westernization are weakening systems of land tenure based on lineage affiliation.

Commercial Activities. Commercial production, conducted on a very small scale in the FSM, is centered on subsistence produce. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish are sold in roadside markets throughout the region. The commercial sale of merchandise and food imports is the mainstay of the many mom-and-pop shops scattered across the islands and the larger retailers and wholesalers. Handicrafts made from local materials are also sold on a limited scale to tourists.

Major Industries. The FSM economy suffers from the impoverished state of the industrial sector. There are only two small garment factories in the entire nation. The agricultural industry is limited by the high costs of transshipment and a shortage of arable land. Fishing is the most successful and potentially lucrative industry in the FSM. The nation's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) contains 2.5 million square miles (6.5 million square kilometers) of ocean and vast schools of tuna. To date, local fishing companies and joint ventures have had limited success, but the sale of fishing licenses and access rights to the EEZ account for over half of the nation's internal revenue. Tourism attracts more than 20,000 visitors a year, but occupancy rates average only 30 percent throughout the FSM. Lack of infrastructure, inadequate hotel facilities, and limited air transportation hamper the development of a mass tourist market.

Trade. Import dependence is high in the FSM, and the trade balance deficit is equivalent to roughly 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The export sector of the economy is small, averaging 5 percent of the GDP. Niche agricultural produce, including gourmet pepper, sakau (kava), betel nut, and citrus fruit, is exported in limited quantities. Copra (dried coconut flesh), once the region's main export, is now produced in limited supplies due to falling prices and competing markets. Marine products account for approximately 80 percent of the nation's commodity export market. Tuna, the principal marine export, is shipped to Japan, Guam, Taiwan, Korea, and the United States.

Division of Labor. Education is one of the principal bases upon which the division of labor in the cash economy is built. Employees of the state and federal governments are typically high school graduates and many hold postsecondary degrees. Mastery of the English language is another trait of salaried workers in the government sector. Among participants in the subsistence economy, labor is primarily divided on the basis of gender. Age and ability also influence the assignment of tasks. Children begin performing domestic chores at an early age, assisting in child care and other gender-specific work. In addition, experts with specialized knowledge may perform specific tasks related to healing, building, or divining.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Social hierarchies in the Caroline Islands are a complex amalgam of indigenous ranking systems and income-centered socioeconomic stratification. Traditional ranking systems across the islands are diverse, but the greatest differences in status are typically found on the high islands where status is primarily determined by descent group affiliation, seniority, and the relationship between people and the land. Age, gender, achievement, and specialized knowledge, in addition to kinship affiliation and land claims, are typically important for determining status on the more egalitarian coral atolls. Achievement in the market economy, however, constitutes another dimension of stratification in the FSM that has, in some instances, eroded indigenous status distinctions.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Traditional hierarchies and income-based class distinctions are evident in behavior, language, and consumption practices. High ranking, in genealogy, age, or title, is acknowledged by acts of deference and displays of respect by those of lower rank. Respected elders or title holders may receive the first share of food at a feast, or may be seated in an honored position. Traditional stratification may be marked by the use of a special honorific language reserved for people of high title, the observance of taboos and ritual proscriptions, or displays of generosity that accompany feasts. The accumulation of goods and conspicuous consumption, hallmarks of income-based class distinctions, is growing in importance among participants in the market economy. Automobiles, appliances, food imports, and Western-style houses and dress have become symbols of economic success throughout the FSM.

Political Life

Government. The structure of the FSM's national government is modeled on U.S. political institutions. The president, head of the executive branch, is elected to a four-year term by the National Congress from among its members. The unicameral National Congress constitutes the legislative branch of the government and is composed of fourteen senators. The Supreme Court, consisting of trial and appellate divisions, is headed by a chief justice and no more than five associate justices appointed for life by the president with the advice and consent of the National Congress. Each of the four state governments includes executive, legislative, and judicial branches, while municipalities within each state govern at the village level.

Leadership and Political Officials. There are no political parties in the FSM. Elected officials represent a great diversity of cultures and interests. The tendency of leaders to vote in the interests of their state's constituents has, at times, hampered consensus and fostered a sense of disunity. Leadership on the national, state, and municipal levels is interwoven with a strong attachment to traditional forms of local leadership. Today, there is some crossover between traditional leadership and elective office. For example, two councils of chiefs constitute a fourth branch of the Yap State government. In Chuuk and Pohnpei many district magistrates also hold titles based on descent, and elected officials often have genealogical ties to traditional leaders.

Social Problems and Control. The structure of courts in the FSM is patterned after the judicial system of the United States with federal trial and appellate divisions and state supreme and district courts. Law enforcement is handled by both municipal and state police officers. Despite the existence of formal legal mechanisms, crime is often handled by local communities in accordance with customary practice. Societies throughout the FSM feature a variety of formal and informal social control mechanisms. Formal control may be conducted by a council of elders or persons of chiefly status who mediate between parties and levy fines. Informal control stems from the avoidance of actions that cause shame and embarrassment and the need to maintain one's personal and family status through honorable and respectful behavior. A sense of corporate responsibility among kin, coupled with the interdependence of island societies, curbs disruptive behaviors.

The most pressing social problems in the FSM are related to the sociocultural transformations occurring as a result of Westernization. The high rate of suicide among young males is related to the erosion of traditional authority, the declining significance of the extended family, and the displacement of young men seeking education and employment away from home communities. These factors, coupled with alcohol consumption and the lack of clearly defined roles, also contribute to the high frequency of youth violence and delinquency. Alcoholism and the declining influence of extended kin on nuclear family relationships appear to be factors in the increasing incidence of physical and sexual domestic abuse.

Military Activity. Under the provisions of the Compact of Free Association between the FSM and the United States, the United States is granted full authority and responsibility for the nation's security and defense. The FSM is obligated by the "Military Use and Operating Rights Agreement" to provide specified locations for the establishment of U.S. military sites.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The FSM has a generous system of social welfare. Health services are provided and medications dispensed for a nominal fee to all citizens. The government absorbs most costs, including the high cost of overseas referrals. Grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cover the cost of many immunization and disease prevention programs. Education is compulsory through eighth grade and is freely provided through twelfth grade. Free public education is made possible through direct U.S. financial assistance, grants from the U.S. Department of Education, and compact funds that also provide scholarships for college study in the United States. The nation also operates a social security system that provides monthly income to retirees.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Activity of NGOs in the FSM is curtailed by the strong financial presence of the United States and its supporting agencies. Millions of dollars in grants are funneled into the FSM by a host of U.S. bureaucracies including the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Interior, Health and Human Services, and Labor. Relief from typhoons, droughts, landslides, and other natural disasters is provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Among those who participate in the subsistence economy, gender is a major organizing principle in the division of labor. Women are the primary child-care providers and gardeners. They are responsible for many domestic chores including meal preparation and laundry. Women also harvest subsistence produce, weave mats, tend livestock, glean shellfish, and fish inshore. Men are the primary builders and carpenters. They do much of the heavy labor associated with subsistence horticulture and conduct the more dangerous fishing activities beyond the reef. High status positions in religious and traditional political hierarchies are primarily held by men, although women's church organizations provide a separate system of ranking among the women in some societies.

Participation in the market economy has blurred the strict demarcation of gender roles associated with subsistence production. Across the FSM, 52 percent of females 15 years of age and older participate in the cash economy compared to 66 percent of males. Men still hold the higher status jobs in government, but the increasing frequency of female employment in the labor force often requires men to perform domestic tasks traditionally performed by women.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. With the exception of Yap and a few coral atoll societies in Pohnpei, Micronesian societies emphasize matrilineal descent. Women, therefore, are the channels through which identity, titles, land rights, and property are acquired. This provides women with a level of status that is not found in more patriarchal societies, allowing women to exercise considerable influence over the conduct of domestic affairs, and even the allocation of use rights to land. Men typically control the political and economic affairs in the public sphere and have ultimate authority over domestic decisions, but the complementarity of tasks provides males and females with valued roles in society. The shift towards a market-oriented economy, however, has unsettled traditional gender relations. In many societies, the patrilineal emphasis of Western cultures is eroding matrilineal inheritance practices, while greater female participation in the cash economy is challenging male roles and diminishing the complementarity of tasks performed by males and females.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Although polygamy was practiced traditionally, monogamy has been the norm since the arrival of Christianity in the mid-1800s. Marriages in many parts of the FSM are still arranged by families with the consent of prospective spouses. Marriage unions that create family alliances and concentrate land, wealth, and status, such as preferential cross-cousin marriage, are favored in many Micronesian societies. Clan exogamy is still a very important marriage requirement. A large majority of marriages take place under the auspices of Christian churches, but they are often preceded by common-law unions in which couples co-reside. Formal marriages typically involve the exchange of gifts between the spouses' families and feasting to mark the occasion, and may involve the transfer of land between families. Divorce can be initiated by either spouse, but it is less commonly practiced among couples with children.

Domestic Unit. Households are often composed of extended kin. On average, extended kin account for 18 percent of household membership. This is down from 30 percent in the 1970s, indicating a clear trend towards the nuclearization of the domestic group. Household composition is dependent on a variety of postmarital residence patterns. Where patrilocality is the norm (Pohnpei, Yap), the household may consist of a joint family of brothers, their wives, and children, or a stem family that includes multiple generations of father-son ties. Conversely, matrilocal residence (favored in Chuuk and Yap's outer islands) establishes a household composed of related women and in-marrying husbands. Neolocal residence, which encourages the creation of nuclear families, is gaining popularity due to Westernization and the influence of the market economy.

Inheritance. Customs governing the inheritance of land, corporeal property, and certain skills or lore are complicated by the rapid pace of Westernization. In general, individually owned corporeal property may be disposed of in accordance with the owner's wishes and is usually passed to children or siblings. Specialized knowledge may be owned by descent groups, but it is commonly inherited by children of the possessors who are deemed to be competent and adept students. Land is another issue. Where land is owned by a corporate descent group, usufruct rights are inherited either matrilineally or patrilineally upon birth or adoption into a lineage. Lifelong use rights to specific plots of land may be divided by the male lineage head among his sons (patrilineal) or sister's sons (matrilineal). As Western concepts of ownership and formal inheritance codes become more entrenched, individual ownership of land is becoming increasingly common. Heirship disputes between those claiming individual ownership and those claiming usufruct rights through descent are not uncommon given the competing forms of ownership. Formal legal codes and courts often handle these disputes and govern the disposal of property in cases of intestate succession.

Kin Groups. Kinship in Micronesia extends far beyond the confines of the domestic unit. Systems of descent vary considerably between and within states. On the main island of Yap, people have affiliations with both a localized, patrilineal land estate and a geographically dispersed matrilineal clan. Chuukese and outer islanders of Yap are organized into matrilineal lineages and clans that share rights to land. Matrilineal clans are also found on Pohnpei where their influence has diminished as a result of acculturation. In Kosrae, descent is reckoned bilaterally, creating ego-focused kindreds. Though built on principles of descent, these extended kinship ties are validated and legitimized by performance, including the sharing of land, food, and resources.


Infant Care. Children are highly valued in the FSM. They are considered to be a family's source of wealth and insurance for parents in old age. For this reason, parents create a nurturing environment and indulge infant needs. Although mothers are the primary caregivers, fathers and older siblings also tend to infants. They also receive a great deal of attention from extended kin and neighbors. Because of the importance of interaction in small island communities, infants are carried facing outwards, away from the holder. Infants typically nurse on demand and may be breast-fed for a number of years. Cosleeping with parents is the norm.

Child Rearing and Education. The transmission of cultural values and expectations begins early in the socialization of children. Children are taught to be cooperative, generous, sharing, and respectful. Discipline, in the form of shaming and ridicule, is often administered by family members and the community at large, but corporal punishment is the prerogative of parents. Education of children involves a combination of formal schooling and informal acquisition of gender-related knowledge and skills. In the past, the transmission of lore and skills was an important aspect of growing up in a subsistence household. Today, formal education is mandatory and most children attend grade school between the ages of five and fourteen.

Higher Education. Greater participation in the market economy places a premium on higher education in the FSM. More and more families are sending children to high school and college with the hopes of providing them greater access to employment. Since the 1980s, the percentage of citizens over 25 years of age with education beyond grade school has increased from 25 to 47 percent. High school enrollment is near 70 percent of both males and females between the ages of 14 and 17. College enrollment lags far behind elementary and high school rates. Only 27 percent of males and females between the ages of 18 and 21 attend college. Most of these students are enrolled at branch campuses of the College of Micronesia, while a limited number receive scholarships to study at colleges in the United States.


Rules of etiquette among Micronesians focus on displays of respect related to kinship, gender, age, political rank, and religious title. Brothers and sisters should avoid one another in public and refrain from telling bawdy jokes or making sexual remarks in each other's presence. Among matrilineal societies, respect for one's mother's brother is marked by the use of polite language and physical avoidance on formal occasions. Women show respect for their husbands by walking behind them in public or serving them first during meals. Although members of the same sex may hold hands as a sign of friendship, public displays of affection between males and females are extremely rare. Further, men and women usually occupy separate social spaces during church services and community gatherings. Older members of society as well as titled persons enjoy an exulted position of respect, and may be given first shares of a feast distribution or special seats during public gatherings.

In addition to demonstrating age, gender, and political status, food etiquette illustrates the importance of generosity in Micronesian cultures. Sharing food with visitors is a must, and hosts take pride in providing sustenance to others. Guests are usually fed first and are expected to eat in moderation. Compliments paid to the host center on the host's generosity and the experience of satiation. In general, Micronesian etiquette reflects the emphasis on harmonious, nonassertive, and respectful behavior. In public, people tend to speak cautiously and avoid confrontation with others. Gossip is an ever-present check on disrespectful or inappropriate public behavior.


Religious Beliefs. Missionization of the region began in the mid-1800s. Prior to the arrival of Christianity, beliefs focused on the activity of ancestral souls, a pantheon of deities, and the numerous spirits, both kind and malevolent, that inhabited the earth, sea, and sky. Today, roughly half of the population is Catholic and half belong to various Protestant sects, most notably the United Church of Christ (Congregational). Although Christianity has largely replaced the traditional animistic systems of belief, elements of pre-Christian belief systems are interwoven with ecclesiastical practice. Many Micronesians still believe in the power of deceased ancestors to influence events and the existence of spirits and spirit possession.

Religious Practitioners. Prior to Christian conversion, island societies relied on a variety of religious specialists to mediate between the natural and supernatural world. The men who held these positions were responsible for a variety of tasks including divination, healing, navigation, weather control, and bringing about propitious events such as victory in battle and abundant harvests. Although specialists with supernatural skills are still employed from time to time, the majority of formal religious practitioners are members of Catholic and Protestant churches. Practitioners in both faiths are ordained by the formal ecclesiastical organizations. Protestant churches feature a hierarchy of religious titles for which members of each congregation compete.

Rituals and Holy Places. The ritual cycle of Christian churches dominates the organization of community activity in many parts of Micronesia. Elements of traditional culture, such as competitive feasting and the harvest of first fruits, have been incorporated into church calendars. People can be found preparing for, or celebrating, a church-related event almost every day. Churches are the primary holy places and are often the most conspicuous buildings in Micronesian communities. Even so, many places associated with legendary or historical events are considered sacred. Such sites may have an inherent power relating to the past, or may be the abode of spirits.

Death and the Afterlife. Death is an occasion for great feasting in all island societies of the FSM. Each culture has specific mourning rites and observances that are integrated with Christian beliefs and rituals. In general, the first feast, associated with intense mourning and the burial itself, lasts between three and four days. The body is usually interred on ancestral land or in the church cemetery. On some islands, formal mourning among close kin and friends may continue for a number of months. At the end of this period another feast may be held by the immediate family to recognize the assistance of those who observed the mourning rites. Death anniversaries are commonly celebrated and may involve community-wide feasts or small family gatherings. The rich diversity of indigenous beliefs concerning the afterlife have largely been replaced by the Christian emphasis on heaven and hell. Even so, many believe in the ability of ancestral spirits to influence events and intercede on behalf of kin.

Medicine and Health Care

In the past, island medical practice was intimately related to religious beliefs. Illness could result from the transgression of taboos, unprovoked spirit attack, or the loss of the soul, or be due to the malevolent work of sorcerers. Depending on the etiology of the illness, treatment by specialists could involve the use of herbal remedies with supernatural powers, massage, or spiritual mediation between human and supernatural domains.

Today, Micronesians rely on Western biomedicine in concert with indigenous remedies. Health care is subsidized by the government and provided to citizens for a nominal fee. There is a main hospital in each state and numerous dispensaries are scattered throughout the island communities, but the limited number of trained doctors places a heavy burden on existing services. There are approximately 3,500 citizens per doctor in the FSM. Western medicine is considered indispensable for the treatment of the nation's primary health problems including perinatal infection, tuberculosis, skin disease, venereal disease, intestinal parasites, and diseases related to the high consumption of unhealthy imported foods, including diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Masseurs, midwives, and specialists in herbal remedies, however, are still employed for the treatment of a variety of ailments.

Secular Celebrations

National holidays include New Year's Day (1 January), Constitution Day (10 May), United Nations Day (24 October), and National Day (3 November). Christmas (25 December) is also nationally recognized. In addition to these federal holidays, each state and municipality has its own celebrations. Common among these are dates celebrating the signing of state and municipal constitutions, as well as Liberation Day (11 September), which commemorates the U.S. victory over Japan in WWII.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Arts and literature in the FSM receive very little government or private support. Exhibits of Micronesian art are rare and usually restricted to regional museums and universities. There is a trend, however, towards greater Micronesian participation in Pacific-wide art events, such as the Pacific Festival of Arts, held in various places in the South Pacific, and the Rarotonga Festival of Pacific Arts, held on Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

Literature. Oral literature occupies a special place among the arts in Micronesian societies. Stories told and retold through generations transmit historical understandings, specialized knowledge, and the mores of society. Besides the work of foreign scholars, a number of Micronesians have recorded indigenous histories, myths, and folklore. In addition, regional publications commonly feature indigenous poets and writers.

Graphic Arts. Many of the skills required for the production of indigenous graphic art in the FSM have been lost. Canoe carving, once a highly evolved and valued art form, is largely forgotten among the young men who prefer to fish from fiberglass out-board motorboats. Western models have largely replaced indigenous architectural detailing and design. Tattooing was abandoned as a form of artistic expression in the postcontact era. Many of the more elaborate textiles are no longer produced, although women still fashion a large variety of woven and plaited goods. The Kapingamarangi in Pohnpei and the Chuukese also produce finely carved wooden crafts, mostly for sale to tourists.

Performance Arts. Both music and dance are very important modes of expression in Micronesian societies and often serve to transmit islander identity and commemorate history. Forms of musical expression vary from pre-Christian chants to popular genres such as reggae, hip-hop, and pop. Choral hymns sung in four-part harmony by church choirs are commonly performed during secular and church-related events. Indigenous chants and songs featuring complex rhythms, harmony, and metaphorical language in conjunction with various dance movements are often favored ways of expressing cultural affiliation during public celebrations.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Research conducted in the FSM is typically research on the FSM, funded by U.S. and foreign granting agencies. Three major scientific investigations involving more than 30 researchers were funded during the U.S. Naval Administration's tenure. Since that time hordes of foreign researchers, primarily from the United States, have descended on the islands. Regional physical and social science programs within the FSM are limited by inadequate financial support. The College of Micronesia, the only university in the nation, does not support extensive research programs. College-educated Micronesians often take their talents elsewhere, contributing to what has been called the region's "brain drain."


Alkire, William H. An Introduction to the Peoples and Cultures of Micronesia, 1977.

Bernart, Luelen. The Book of Luelen, 1977.

Demmke, Andreas, et. al. Federated States of Micronesia Population Profile: A Guide for Planners and Policy-Makers, 1997.

Falgout, Suzanne. "Americans in Paradise: Custom, Democracy, and Anthropology in Postwar Micronesia." Ethnology 34 (2): 99111, 1995.

Federated States of Micronesia. Statistical Yearbook, 1999.

Fischer, John L., and Ann M. Fischer. The Eastern Carolines, 1970.

Flinn, Juliana. Diplomas and Thatch Houses: Asserting Tradition in a Changing Micronesia, 1992.

Goodenough, Ward H. Property, Kin, and Community on Truk, 1951.

Hanlon, David. Upon a Stone Altar: A History of the Islands of Pohnpei to 1890, 1988.

. Remaking Micronesia: Discourses over Development in a Pacific Territory, 19441982, 1998.

Hezel, Francis X. Reflections on Micronesia, 1982.

. The First Taint of Civilization: A History of the Caroline and Marshall Islands in Pre-Colonial Days, 15211885, 1983.

. Strangers in Their Own Land: A Century of Colonial Rule in the Caroline and Marshall Islands, 1995.

Hezel, Francis X., and M. Levin. "Micronesian Emigration: Beyond the Brain Drain." In J. Connell, ed., Migration and Development in the South Pacific, 1990.

International Monetary Fund Economic Reviews. Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia, 1995.

Keating, Elizabeth. Power Sharing: Language, Rank, Gender, and Social Space in Pohnpei, Micronesia, 1998.

Kiste, Robert C., and Mac Marshall, eds. American Anthropology in Micronesia: An Assessment, 1999.

Labby, David. The Demystification of Yap: Dialectics of Culture on a Micronesian Island, 1976.

Lessa, William A. Ulithi: A Micronesian Design for Living, 1966.

Lingenfelter, Sherwood Galen. Yap: Political Leadership and Culture Change in an Island Society, 1975.

Lutz, Catherine, ed. Micronesia as Strategic Colony: The Impact of U.S. Policy on Micronesia Health and Culture, 1984.

. Unnatural Emotions: Everyday Sentiments on a Micronesian Atoll and Their Challenge to Western Theory, 1988.

Marshall, Mac. Weekend Warriors: Alcohol in a Micronesian Culture, 1979.

Meller, Norman. Constitutionalism in Micronesia, 1985.

Peoples, James G. Islands in Trust: Culture Change and Dependence in a Micronesian Economy, 1985.

Perin, Dan. Economic Use of Land in the FSM: A Review and Description of Land Tenure Systems in the FSM, 1996.

Petersen, Glenn. One Man Cannot Rule a Thousand: Fission in a Pohnpeian Chiefdom, 1982.

. "A Micronesian Chamber of Chiefs? The 1990 Federated States of Micronesia Constitutional Convention." In G. M. White and L. Lindstrom, eds., Chiefs Today: Traditional Pacific Leadership and the Postcolonial State, 1997.

Pinsker, Eve C. "Point of Order, Point of Change: Nation, Culture, and Community in the Federated States of Micronesia." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1997.

"Traditional Leaders Today in the Federated States of Micronesia." In G. M. White and L. Lindstrom, eds., Chiefs Today: Traditional Pacific Leadership and the Postcolonial State, 1997.

Poyer, Lin. The Ngatik Massacre: History and Identity on a Micronesian Atoll, 1993.

Rubenstein, Donald H. "Suicide in Micronesia." In F. X. Hezel, D. H. Rubenstein, and G. M. White, eds., Culture, Youth, and Suicide in the Pacific: Papers from an East-West Center Conference, 1985.

Ushijima, Iwao, and Ken-ichi Sudo, eds., Cultural Uniformity and Diversity in Micronesia, 1987.

Ward, Martha C. Nest in the Wind: Adventures in Anthropology on a Tropical Island, 1989.

Bryan P. Oles

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Federated States of Micronesia." Countries and Their Cultures. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Federated States of Micronesia." Countries and Their Cultures. . (December 17, 2017).

"Federated States of Micronesia." Countries and Their Cultures. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


Micronesia (mīkrōnē´zhə, –shə), one of the three main divisions of Oceania, in W Pacific Ocean, north of the equator. Micronesia includes the Caroline Islands, Marshall Islands, Mariana Islands (see Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, Gilbert Islands, and Nauru. The inhabitants are of Australoid and Polynesian stock. They speak Malayo-Polynesian languages.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


Micronesia Archipelago in the w Pacific Ocean, n of Polynesia. Micronesia includes Belau, Kiribati, Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, and Tuvalu.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia." World Encyclopedia. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia." World Encyclopedia. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from




The islanders of Micronesia are called Micronesians. A small number are of Polynesian descent.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


Micronesia •Antakya •Britannia, lasagne •Katya • Vanya •Kenya, Mantegna, Sardegna, tenure •failure • Montagna •behaviour (US behavior), misbehaviour (US misbehavior), saviour (US savior) •seguidilla, tortilla •Monsignor •Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia •Tigrinya • De Falla • Vaisya •Lockyer • Bologna • sawyer • bowyer •alleluia, hallelujah •La Coruña •bunya, gunyah

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Micronesia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Micronesia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (December 17, 2017).

"Micronesia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from