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California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is the most populous U.S. state, with 38 million people, and the third largest state by area (after Alaska and Texas). California is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada to the east, Arizona to the southeast, and the Mexican state of Baja California to the south. It contains the nation's second most populous census statistical area (Greater Los Angeles Area) and the fifth most populous (San Francisco Bay Area), and eight of the nation's 50 most populated cities (Los AngelesSan DiegoSan JoseSan FranciscoFresno,SacramentoLong Beach, and Oakland). Sacramento has been the state capital since 1854.

What is now California was first settled by various Native American tribes before being explored by a number of European expeditions during the 16th and 17th centuries. It was then claimed by the Spanish Empire as part of Alta California in the larger territory of New Spain. Alta California became a part of Mexico in 1821 following its successful war for independence, but was ceded to the United States in 1848 after the Mexican–American War. The western portion of Alta California was organized as the State of California, which was admitted as the 31st state on September 9, 1850. The California Gold Rush starting in 1848 led to dramatic social and demographic change, with large-scale immigration from the east and abroad with an accompanying economic boom.

California's diverse geography ranges from the Sierra Nevada in the east to the Pacific Coast in the west, from the RedwoodDouglas fir forests of the northwest, to the Mojave Desert areas in the southeast. The center of the state is dominated by the Central Valley, a major agricultural area. California contains both the highest point (Mount Whitney) and the lowest point (Death Valley), in the contiguous United States and it has the 3rd longest coastline of all states (after Alaska and Florida). Earthquakes are common because of the state's location along the Pacific Ring of Fire. About 37,000 earthquakes are recorded each year, but most are too small to be felt.

California's economy is centered on Technology, Finance, Real Estate Services, Government and Professional, Scientific and Technical Business Services; together comprising 58% of the State economy. Although only 1.5% of the State's economy, California's agriculture industry has the highest output of any U.S. State. If it were a country, California would be the 8th or 9th largest economy in the world and the 34th most populous.


The beautiful Yosemite Valley

Hollywood in Los Angeles

The famous Hearst Castle in the Central Coast of California

The Stanford University campus. Stanford University consistently ranks in the top five in the country.

A San Diego beach

An aerial view of Silicon Valley

Muir Woods National Monument

A panorama of San Francisco Bay


Population Statistics

Census Counts (April 1)
201037,253,956112.07 %308,745,538
200033,871,648112.04 %281,421,906
199029,811,427111.98 %248,790,925
198023,667,902110.45 %226,545,805
2000 to 2010 % change10.0 %209.7 %
1990 to 2010 % change25.0 %1824.1 %
1980 to 2010 % change57.4 %1336.3 %
Components of Population Change in 2014NumberRankPercent of U.S.U.S.
Net Domestic Migration-32,09048
Net International Migration161,318116.20 %995,944
Natural Increase (births minus deaths)250,116118.34 %1,363,581
Births505,903112.78 %3,957,577
Deaths255,78719.86 %2,593,996

Economy Statistics

Real Gross Domestic Product by State over Time (millions of chained 2009 dollars)Adj. Amount
RankChange Index
(YR 2009=100)
Change 2010 to 2014176,47929.213
Per Capita Personal IncomeNumberRankPercent of U.S.
Per Capita Income - 2014$50,10911108.6 %
Per Capita Income - 2004 (adj. for inflation)$46,56510108.3 %
Per Capita Income - 1994 (adj. for inflation)$37,45614105.2 %
Per Capita Income - 1984 (adj. for inflation)$36,2585115.3 %
10-Year % change7.6 %26
20-Year % change33.8 %21
30-Year % change38.2 %44