51 Stars American Flag

51 or 52 States in the United States of America

Actual Number of States in the United States of America: 50 States

The United States of America (USA) sometimes shortened as United States (U.S.) or just America is composed of 50 states and a federal district (Washington, D.C). The USA also has a number of unincorporated territories. These include islands such as Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa to name a few. The states are represented as stars on the flag. The last state (50) to be added was Hawaii in 1959.

Remembering that the US has 51 or 52 states is a common Mandela Effect, seemingly from people even living in the US, although if the responses are to be believed online, it appears as though this misconception is generally coming from non-US residents. I first heard about about it on the Mandela Effect website.

Many of these people seem to think that Washington, D.C. might be a state (51) rather than a separate district, while others may assume one of the territories is a state such as Puerto Rico. Sometimes both of these are believed, equalling the 52 states.

My Experience

51 seems correct to me. I’m not sure why or where I started to believe this, or even if I did at all. Perhaps the article itself changed my memory based on lack of knowledge. It seems to me that I have a fuzzy memory of 51, but perhaps because of some of the reasons I explain in the possible explanations.

Possible Explanations

The 51st state is a common phrase used in politics that is applied to external territories as well as parts of existing states which would be admitted as separate states. These include the unincorporated territories as well as Washington D.C. There’s even a version of the flag showing a 51st star. If you perform Google searches of things such as “Puerto Rico 51st state” or “Washington D.C. 51st state” you will get tons of news article talking about a potential inclusion of those two examples as the 51st state.

50 appears to be a more strict, rounded number. It almost seems to be too perfect for something so complex as the number of states. Our brains automatically thinks that this nice round number simply cannot be correct, so we go to the next logical step of 51. For example, would you believe there is 200 different countries in the world? Or would it seem more correct if there was 201, or 202, or maybe even 203? As of writing there is actually 196 countries in the world, this was just an example of a possible effect happening.

Alaska and Hawaii, two official states are disconnected from the main American landmass. This factoid may be a source of the confusion in assuming that the disconnected states are the two extra instead of included in the 50.

There is 52 cards in a deck of cards. This fact may have been learned while growing up or studying, perhaps around the same time you learned that there is 50 states. Perhaps these memories are getting reversed or replacing one another.

Additional Sources

52 States in America (Subreddit)

73 thoughts on “51 or 52 States in the United States of America

  1. Officially there are 50 states, but there are jokes on how Texas will secede again and become its own country. Those are only jokes. There’s too much oil to for us to leave without some resistance from the rest of the US.

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