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About California

California Demographics

Accounting for 12% of the total U.S. population, California is the nation's most populous state with over 38 million residents. To put that into perspective, there are more people living in California than in major countries like Canada or Australia. It also has the most diverse population of any U.S. state. With more than 65 ethnicities and 200 different languages represented, California claims the highest percentage of foreign-born residents (27%), including former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hails from Austria. More than 43% of Californians speak a language other than English at home.

California Economy and Industry

The Golden State also boasts the largest economy of any single state, with a gross domestic product of $2.3 trillion in 2014. Only seven countries in the world have economies larger than California. The state's enormous economic engine is driven by several major industries, including: manufacturing, including high tech, aerospace and defense products; agriculture, including an almost infinite variety of crops, vineyards, and food processing; tourism, fueled by the state's scenic attractions and ideal climate; healthcare; and entertainment.

California Real Estate and Incomes

California real estate is in perennial demand, leading to one of the highest median home values in the country: $477,476 in 2015. (Median rental price: $1,590). More billionaires live in California than any other state – 111 as of 2015 – yet the San Joaquin Valley, home to many migrant farm workers, has been called one of the most economically depressed regions of the country, on par with Appalachia. Due to these extremes of wealth and poverty, California's per capita income ranks just 16th in the U.S. According to CNBC’s 2015 cost of living rankings, it is the fifth most expensive state to live in after Hawaii, Connecticut, New York and Alaska.

California Climate and Topography

California's 155,959 square miles make it the third largest state in the U.S. by land area, and it is the only state with an extensive seacoast, high mountains and deserts. Just 80 miles apart within California are the highest point in the contiguous 48 states (Mount Whitney at 14,494 feet) and the lowest point in the U.S. (Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level). Despite its distinction as the state with the highest recorded temperature in U.S. history (134F at Death Valley), California's central coast enjoys the most equable average temperatures in the country, varying on average just 10 degrees or so between summer and winter. Southern California is indeed quite sunny and dry, true to its reputation, with Los Angeles and San Diego each averaging only about a foot of rainfall annually. Northern California's major city, San Francisco, is famously foggy, receiving 50% more precipitation.

California Tourism

California's dramatic scenery, desirable climate and cultural influence have made it the most visited state in the U.S., and its beaches, mountains and preserves like Monterey Bay and Yosemite National Park bring in millions of outdoor adventurers, wildlife enthusiasts, surfers and skiers. Other visitors come to see California's urban attractions, from Disneyland, Venice Beach and Hollywood in the Los Angeles area, to the historic cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf and Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Living in California

In many ways California offers its residents an outstanding quality of life, with a strong and varied job market, enviable climate, top-notch public university system and numerous natural amenities. Problems do exist, though. California is frequently plagued by natural disasters, including earthquakes, wildfires and landslides. In January 2014, a drought emergency was declared after several abnormally dry years. By April 2015, California’s first-ever water restrictions were declared, with cities and towns ordered to cut water usage by 25%. Researchers now report that the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains – which provides up to 30% of the state’s water – is at its lowest point in 500 years.