In the United States, a county is a political and geographic subdivision of a state, usually assigned some governmental authority.〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=An Overview of County Government )〕 The term "county" is used in 48 of the 50 U.S. states.〔 The exceptions are Louisiana and Alaska, where the functionally equivalent subdivisions are called, respectively, parishes and boroughs. Numerous consolidated city–counties exist throughout the U.S. in which a city has merged with its county to form one unified jurisdiction with the governmental powers of both entities.
The U.S. federal government uses the term "county equivalent" to describe non-county administrative or statistical areas that are comparable to counties. Louisiana parishes; the organized boroughs of Alaska; the District of Columbia; and the independent cities of the states of Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, and Nevada are equivalent to counties for administrative purposes. Alaska's Unorganized Borough is divided into 11 census areas that are statistically equivalent to counties. As of 2013, the United States has 3,007 counties and 137 county equivalents for a total of 3,144 counties and county equivalents.
The number of counties per state ranges from the 3 counties of Delaware to the 254 counties of Texas.
Counties still have significant governmental functions in all states except Rhode Island and Connecticut, where all county governments have been abolished. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has removed most government functions from eight of its 14 counties.
Counties were among the earliest units of local government established in the Thirteen Colonies that would become the United States. Virginia created the first counties in order to ease the administrative workload in Jamestown. The House of Burgesses divided the colony first into four "incorporations" in 1617 and finally into eight shires (or counties) in 1634: James City, Henrico, Charles City, Charles River, Warrosquyoake, Accomac, Elizabeth City, and Warwick River.〔Harch, Charles E., The First Seventeen years, Virginia, 1607-1624, Jamestown 350th Anniversary Historical, 1957, p.20, pp.75-76, http://www.virginiaplaces.org/vacount/howstart.html.〕 America's oldest intact county court records can be found at Eastville, Virginia, in Northampton (originally Accomac) County, dating to 1632.〔http://www.co.northampton.va.us/gov/oldcourthouse.html.〕 Maryland established its first county, St. Mary's, in 1637, and Massachusetts followed in 1643. Pennsylvania and New York delegated significant power and responsibility from state government to county governments and thereby established a pattern for most of the United States, although counties remained relatively weak in New England.〔Osborne M. Reynolds, Jr., ''Local Government Law'', 3rd ed. (St. Paul: West, 2009), 19.〕
When independence came, "the framers of the Constitution did not provide for local governments. Rather, they left the matter to the states. Subsequently, early state constitutions generally conceptualized county government as an arm of the state." In the twentieth century, the role of local governments strengthened and counties began providing more services.〔(【引用サイトリンク】url=http://www.naco.org/counties/learn-about-what-counties-do )〕
The newest county in the United States is the City and County of Broomfield, Colorado, established in 2001 as a consolidated city-county.〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=Broomfield History )〕 The newest county-equivalents are the Alaskan boroughs of Skagway established in 2007, Wrangell established in 2008, and Petersburg established in 2013.
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