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Over 90% of the population lives within a 500-square kilometer area surrounding Kuwait City and its harbor. Although the majority of people residing in the State of Kuwait are of Arab origin, fewer than half are originally from the Arabian Peninsula. The discovery of oil in 1938 drew many Arabs from nearby states. Following the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991, the Kuwaiti Government undertook a serious effort to reduce the expatriate population by specifically limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. Kuwait later abandoned this policy, and it currently has a sizable foreign labor force (approximately 68% of the total population is non-Kuwaiti).

Of the country's total population of 3.5 million, approximately 85% are Muslims, including nearly all of its 1.06 million citizens. While the national census does not distinguish between Sunni and Shi'a adherents, approximately 70%-75% of citizens, including the ruling family, belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The remaining Kuwaiti citizens, with the exception of about 100-200 Christians and a few Baha'is, are Shi'a. Among expatriates, there are an estimated 450,000 Christians, 400,000 Hindus, and 100,000 Buddhists.

Kuwait's 93.3% literacy rate, one of the Arab world's highest, is the result of extensive government support for the education system. Public school education, including Kuwait University, is free, but access is restricted for foreign residents. The government sponsors the foreign study of qualified students abroad for degrees not offered at Kuwait University. In 2009, approximately 3,318 Kuwaitis were enrolled in U.S. universities.

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