Alternate meanings in California (disambiguation)

California is a state located in the western United States, bordering the Pacific Ocean. The most populous and third largest state in the Union, California is both physically and demographically diverse. The state's official nickname is "The Golden State" (referring to the California gold rush) and its U.S. Postal abbreviation is CA.

Southern California is highly populated, while the larger northern California is less densely populated. The vast majority of the population lives within 50 miles (80 km) of the Pacific Ocean.

State of California
(In Detail) (Full size)
State nickname: The Golden State

Other U.S. States
Capital Sacramento
Largest City Los Angeles
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water
 - % water
Ranked 3rd
410,000 kmē
404,298 kmē
20,047 kmē
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 1st
Admittance into Union
 - Order
 - Date

September 9, 1850
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8/-7
32°30'N to 42°N
114°8'W to 124°24'W
402.5 km
1,240 km
4,418 meters
884 meters
86 meters below sea level
ISO 3166-2:US-CA

Table of contents
1 History
2 Law and government
3 Geography
4 Economy
5 Demographics
6 Important Cities and Towns
7 Education
8 Miscellaneous Information
9 External links


Main article: History of California.

California was the name given to the northwestern part of the Spanish Empire in North America. Following the Mexican-American War of 1847, the region was divided between Mexico and the United States. The Mexican portion, Baja (lower) California was later divided into the states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. The American portion, Alta (upper) California became the U.S. state of California in 1850.

Law and government

Main article: California government and politics

The Governor of California serves a four-year term and may be reelected only once. The California state legislature consists of a 40 member Senate and 80 member Assembly. Senators serve four year terms and Assemblymembers two. The terms of the Senators are staggered so that half the membership is elected every two years. The Senators representing the odd-numbered districts are elected in years evenly divisible by four, i.e., presidential election years. The Senators from the even-numbered districts are elected in the intervening even-numbered years, in the gubernatorial election cycle. For the 2003-2004 session, there are 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the Assembly. In the Senate, there are 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

The state's capital is Sacramento. In California's early history, the capital was located in San Jose (1849-1851), Vallejo (1852-1853), Benicia (1853-1854), and San Francisco (1862). The capital moved to Sacramento temporarily in 1852 when construction on a State House could not be completed in time in Vallejo. The capital moved to Sacramento for good on February 25, 1854, except for a four-month temporary move in 1862 to San Francisco due to severe flooding in Sacramento.

At the national level, California is represented by two senators and 53 representatives. It has 55 electoral votes in the U.S. Electoral College. California has the most Congressmen and Presidential Electors of any state.

The current Governor is Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger and the two U.S. Senators are Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. 33 Democrats and 20 Republicans represent the state in the House of Representatives. Many leading members of Congress are from California. Among the Republicans representing California in the House in the 108th Congress are Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier from the 26th District, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas from the 22nd District, Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter from the 52nd District, Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo from the 11th District, and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Chris Cox from the 48th District. Cox also chairs the Republican Policy Committee, making him the 4th ranking member in the House Republican leadership. Among the Democrats are Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from the 8th District, Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Democrat George Miller from the 7th District, and Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Jane Harman from the 36th District.

See also: List of California Governors, List of California counties, List of California ballot propositions


Main article: Geography of California

California borders the Pacific Ocean, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and the Mexican State of Baja California. The state has striking natural features, including a huge fertile central valley, high mountains, and hot dry deserts. With an area of 410,000 km² it is the third largest state in the U.S. Most major cities cling to the cool, pleasant seacoast along the Pacific, notably San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. The capital, however, is Sacramento in the Central Valley. California has many types of geography. Down the center of the state lies the Central Valley, a huge, fertile valley bounded by the coastal mountain ranges in the west, the Sierra Nevada to the east, the Cascade Range in the north and the Tehachapi Mountains in the south. Mountain-fed rivers naturally irrigate the Central Valley. With dredging, several of these rivers have become sufficiently large and deep that several inland cities, notably Stockton, California, are seaports.

In the center and east of the state are the Sierra Nevada, containing the highest peak in the continental U.S., Mount Whitney, at 4,418 meters (14,495 ft). Also in the Sierra is the world famous Yosemite National Park and a deep freshwater lake, Lake Tahoe. To the east of the Sierra is the Owens Valley and Mono Lake, an essential seabird habitat.

In the south lie the Transverse Ranges and a large salt lake, the Salton Sea. The south-central desert is called the Mojave. Just to the north east of the Mojave, lies Death Valley, which contains the lowest, hottest point in North America.

California is famous for its earthquakes due partly to the presence of the San Andreas Fault. While more powerful earthquakes in the United States have occurred in Alaska and along the Mississippi River, California earthquakes are notable due to their frequency and location in highly populated areas. Popular legend has it that, eventually, an earthquake known as "The Big One" will result in the splitting of coastal California from the continent, either to sink into the ocean or form a new landmass. The fact that this scenario is completely implausible from a geologic standpoint does not lessen its acceptance in public conventional wisdom.


The southern part of the state has a desert climate, with temperature extremes and 10 inches/year of rain. The coastal regions have a Mediterranean climate, with wet winters and dry summers. There is a temperate climate with 15-40 inches/year rainfall in the north. The Central Valley has a continental climate, with chilly winters and very hot summers. The high mountains, including the Sierra Nevada, have a mountain climate with snow in winter and moderate heat in summer.

Biotopes: desert, savanna with scattered oaks, second-growth taiga (coniferous forest), especially in the north and at high altitudes. Mountain-tops contain tundra, fellfields (stoney ground with patches of meadow), and krumwald (dwarf forests).

Modified Dept. of Commerce map with county divisions
For a larger version of this map click

Note: Modified map released under the GNU FDL.


California is responsible for 14% of American gross domestic product, which at nearly $1.4 trillion is greater than that of every country in the world save for the United States, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The predominant industry, more than twice as large as the next largest, is agriculture, (including fruit, vegetables, dairy, and wine). This is followed by aerospace; entertainment, primarily television by dollar volume, although many movies are still made in California; and light manufacturing including computer hardware and software, and the mining of borax.

Per capita income varies widely by geographic region and profession. The Central Valley has the most extreme contrasts of income, with migrant farm workers making less than minimum wage, contrasted with farmers who frequently manage multimillion-dollar farms. Most farm managers are highly educated, most with at least master's degrees. While cities include some of the wealthiest per-capita areas in the U.S., notably Irvine in Orange County, the non-agricultural central counties have some of the highest poverty rates in the U.S. The high-technology sectors in Orange County and Silicon Valley, in Santa Clara County are currently in a recession because of the bust, but medical systems, video games and animation are taking up the slack.

A particular problem with California's economy is that it does not attract manufacturing. The 7.25% sales tax (total statewide base sales/use tax) makes it uneconomic to locate major factories in the state, because that tax must be paid on capital equipment. California also has unusually high unemployment and worker's compensation (for on-the-job injury) taxes. Major manufacturers, especially aerospace, are also leaving the state or shifting production. For this reason, no major new factories have been built in California for many years, and the state suffers a severe lack of good-paying manufacturing jobs. This means that the middle class in California consists almost entirely of small businesspeople and construction and transportation workers, with a small leavening of knowledge workers -- a nearly pure service economy. Manufacturing costs are made even higher by high land and housing prices, which cause workers to need very high pay.

In 2001 the Small Business Survival Committee ranked California among the worst states in the U.S. in which to run a small business. It was in 44th place.

Source: CA Employment Development Department


With a population of 33,871,648 as of 2000, California is the most populous state in the U.S., and contributes 12% to the total U.S. population.

According to the census, California lacks a majority ethnic group. Hispanics are the largest group, followed by whites, Asian Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans. Reflecting in part the high birth rate of the Spanish-speaking Catholic population, Hispanics are predicted to become a majority around 2040.

Important Cities and Towns


Main article: List of colleges and universities in California

California's educational system is supported by a unique constitutional amendment that requires 40% of state revenues to be spent on education.

The preeminent state university is the 10-campus University of California, which employs more Nobel Prize winners than any other institution in the world. It has several campuses, notably in Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. It is intended to accept students from the upper 20% of college-bound students, and provide most graduate studies and research. The University of California also administers federal laboratories for the Federal Department of Energy: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The California State University system provides education for teachers, the trades, agriculture and industry. It is intended to accept most college-bound high-school students, while carrying out some research, especially in applied sciences. Lower-division course credits are frequently transferable to the University of California.

The community college system educates students in the trades, providing certificates, and associate-arts degrees. It also provides lower division general-education courses transferable to the State University and the University of California.

Preeminent private institutions include Stanford University, the University of Southern California (USC), and the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) (which administers the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA).

California has hundreds of private colleges and universities, including many religious and special-purpose institutions. This leads to many unique entertainment and educational opportunities for residents. For example, Southern California, with one of the highest densities of post-secondary institutions in the world, has a very large base of classically trained vocalists that compete in large choir festivals. Near Los Angeles, there are numerous art and film institutes, including the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Art Institute.

Secondary education consists of high schools that teach elective courses in trades, languages and liberal arts with tracks for gifted, college-bound and industrial arts students. They accept students from roughly age 14 to 18, with mandatory education ceasing at age 16. In many districts, junior high schools teach electives with a strong skills-based curriculum, for ages from 11 to 13. Elementary schools teach pure skills, history and social studies, with optional half-day kindergartens beginning at age 5. Mandatory full-time instruction begins at age 6.

The primary schools are of varying effectiveness. The quality of the local schools depends strongly on the local tax base, and the size of the local administration. In some regions, administrative costs divert a significant amount of educational monies from instructional purposes. In poor regions, literacy rates may fall below 70%.

Golden State
State Animal:California grizzly bear
State Bird:California Quail
State Colors:Blue and gold
State Capital:Sacramento
State Dance:West Coast Swing Dancing
State Fish:Golden trout
State Marine Fish:Garibaldi
State Flower:California Poppy
State Fossil:Sabertooth cat
State Insect:California dogface butterfly
State Motto:"Eureka!"
State Song:"I love you, California"
State Tree:California redwood
State Mineral:Gold
State Rock:Serpentine
State Soil:San Joaquin Soil

Miscellaneous Information

Major Highways

External links