Today the main urban area and the Capitol of the country is located on Majuro Atoll with a population of about 35,000 people throughout the atoll. With urbanization came all types of businesses, jobs, construction, goods to buy, etc., so orientation to life in the two urban areas (Ebeye on Kwajalein Atoll being the only other urban area) is very different from what is found in the outer island villages. As a result of these changes, the life style has changed greatly and much of the old ways are dying out. For example, very little indigenous produce is available in Majuro and as a result, very little Marshallese food is preserved or eaten. This necessitates a dependence on imported goods, often with little or no understanding of a particular good’s value. The main diet in Majuro consists of rice, bread, canned meats, frozen chicken, sugar, tea and cola although now some produce is now available brought in from the U.S.
Life in Majuro is oriented around money and the realization of the necessity of having jobs in order to survive. As a result of several thousand people living in Majuro, the traditional land rights and divisions, and uses of the land and its resources, have been drastically altered. There is little room for the breadfruit and coconut trees, let alone open spaces with no people or houses, and pollution is extensive near the shores of the lagoon. Even with all these changes, people are still very friendly, kind and generous. Within the household unit, although the life style may not look traditional with so many obviously introduced products, many aspects of life, including relationships, teachings, and family structures, are still basically strong and traditional in their orientation.
Some of the most familiar names in the Marshalls to the Western world are such places as Kwajalein, where extensive fighting occurred during WWII and where today is located a U.S. Missile Range; and Bikini and Enewetak where 67 hydrogen and nuclear bombs were tested from 1946 until the late 1950s.
Kwajalein Atoll is the largest atoll in the world. On the island of Kwajalein within this atoll, is a U.S. Missile Range. As a result of the missile range another urbanized area, Ebeye, located five miles from Kwajalein island, has developed in the Marshalls. On Ebeye live about 12 to 14,000 Marshallese who depend for their livelihood on the salaries generated from employment on the missile range. Although Ebeye is much less cosmopolitan than Majuro, the traditional Marshallese life style has been altered by the dependency on money and jobs, and the lack of natural resources. Ebeye is extremely small (approximately 90 acres), crowded, and drab with its lack of trees, open spaces, and superimposed dependency on the missile range.
Basically all other atolls and islands in the Marshalls are what is referred to as the “outer islands”. Life on these islands is still orientated to the land and ocean with only occasional outside contact by field trip boats every one to three months.
The island of Jabor, in Jaluit Atoll, is slowly becoming a sub-urban center along with Wotje Island in Wotje Atoll since both have public high schools, a few small stores, usually at least monthly field trip ships, and an increasing population. Jabor was the government center during both the German and Japanese periods in the Marshalls.