Template:Otheruses1 Template:US state Template:US state symbols California is a U.S. state located on the west coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous state in the U.S., as well as the most physically diverse, with the highest and the lowest points in the lower 48 states located within 150 miles of each other. If California were an independent nation, it would have the sixth largest economy in the world (after the rest of the U.S., Japan, Germany, Britain and France; see economy of California). The state's official nickname is "The Golden State" in reference to California's 1849 Gold Rush.  California's U.S. postal abbreviation is CA, and its Associated Press abbreviation is Calif.
As one of the most demographically diverse states in the nation, California is a dominant force in American culture as well as the nation's economy. It has some of the nation's largest cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco, and is responsible for many legal and technological innovations.
The entire region originally known as California was composed of the Mexican peninsula now known as Baja California and much of the land in the current states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Wyoming, known as Alta California. In these early times, the boundaries of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific coast were only partially explored and California was shown on early maps as an island. The name comes from Las sergas de Esplandián (Adventures of Splandian), a 16th century novel, by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, where there is an island paradise called California. (For further discussion, see: Origin of the name California.)
The first European to explore parts of the coast was the Portuguese João Rodrigues Cabrilho in 1542. The first to explore the entire coast and claim possession of it was Francis Drake in 1579. Beginning in the late 1700s, Spanish missionaries set up tiny settlements on enormous grants of land in the vast territory north of Baja California. The missions played a dominant role in the decimation of California's indigenous population. Upon Mexican independence from Spain, the chain of missions became the property of the Mexican government, and they were quickly dissolved and abandoned.
In 1846, at the outset of the Mexican-American War, the California Republic was founded and the Bear Flag was flown, which featured a golden bear and a star. The Republic came to a sudden end, however, when Commodore John D. Sloat of the United States Navy sailed into San Francisco Bay and claimed California for the United States. Following the war, 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 western part of the U.S. portion, Alta (upper) California, was to become the state of California.
In 1848, the Spanish-speaking population of distant upper California numbered around 4,000. But after gold was discovered, the population burgeoned with Americans and a few Europeans in the great California gold rush. In 1850, the state was admitted to the Union of the USA.
During the American Civil War, popular support in California was divided 70% for the South and 30% for the North, and although California officially entered on the side of the North, many troops went east to fight for the Confederacy CSA.
At first, travel between the far Pacific West to the eastern population centers was time-consuming and dangerous, requiring either long ocean voyages, or difficult transcontinental passages. A more direct connection came in 1869 with the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. After this rail link was established, hundreds of thousands of Americans came west, where new Californians were discovering that land in the state, if irrigated during the dry summer months, was extremely well suited to fruit cultivation and agriculture in general. Citrus, oranges in particular, was widely grown, and the foundation was laid for the state's prodigious agricultural production of today.
During the early 20th century, migration to California accelerated with the completion of major transcontinental highways like the Lincoln Highway and Route 66. In the period from 1900 to 1965 the population grew from fewer than one million to become the most populous state in the Union. From 1965 to the present, the population demographic changed radically and became one of the most diverse in the world. The state is generally liberal-leaning, technologically and culturally savvy, and a world center of engineering businesses, the film and television industry and, as mentioned above, American agricultural production.
Law and government
- Main article: California government and politics
California is governed as a republic, with three branches of government, the executive branch consisting of the Governor of California and the other independently elected constitutional officers, the legislative branch consisting of the Assembly and Senate, and the judicial branch consisting of the Supreme Court of California and lower courts. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by referendum, recall, and ratification.
The Governor of California and the other state constitutional officers serve four-year terms and may be re-elected only once. The California State Legislature consists of a 40 member Senate and 80 member Assembly. Senators serve four year terms and Assembly members 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. California's legislature is organized in such a way that the party caucus leaders wield great power and can usually speak on behalf of their caucuses. Many important legislative decisions are thus not made on the floor of the legislature but in back-room deals by the "Big Five", which comprises the governor and the Democratic and Republican leaders of each chamber.
For the 2005–2006 session, there are 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the Assembly. In the Senate, there are 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans. The current Governor is the Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose current term lasts through January 2007. Schwarzenegger was only the second person in the history of the United States to be put into office by a recall of a sitting governor (the first was the 1921 recall of North Dakota Governor Lynn J. Frazier). Schwarzenegger replaced Governor Gray Davis (1999–2003), who was removed from office by the October 2003 California recall election.
The state's capital is Sacramento. During California's early history under European control, the capital was successively located in Monterey (1775–1849), 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's final move to Sacramento was on February 25, 1854 where it has been permanently, except for a four-month temporary move in 1862 to San Francisco, due to severe flooding in Sacramento.
California's giant judiciary is the largest in the United States (with a total of 1,600 judges, while the federal system has only about 840). It is supervised by the seven Justices of the Supreme Court of California. Justices of the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are appointed by the Governor, but are subject to retention by the electorate every 12 years. Judges of the trial courts, the Superior Courts in each county, may be appointed by the Governor or elected directly by the voters, depending on when the vacancy occurs. Superior Court judges serve six-year terms, after which they may run for re-election. Unlike the retention elections for Supreme Court and Court of Appeal justices, Superior Court judges run for re-election in open races, in which other qualified candidates may run as challengers.
California's legal system is explicitly based on English common law but carries a few features from Spanish civil law. Capital punishment is a legal form of punishment and the state has the largest "Death Row" population in the country.
At the national level, California is represented by two senators and 53 representatives, as of 2005. It has 55 electoral votes in the U.S. Electoral College. (As California is the most populous state in the Union, its counts of Congressmen and Presidential Electors are, of course, also the largest.) The two U.S. Senators from California are Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. 33 Democrats and 20 Republicans represent the state in the U.S. House of Representatives.
While California is among the most Democratic and liberal states in the nation because of the large concentration of voters in populous areas, much of California is politically very conservative, notably the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, Orange and San Diego counties, and most inland, eastern, and rural areas. Democratic bastions are mostly coastal and include the entire San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Salinas, Santa Barbara, and Imperial County. The state has supported Democrats in the last four presidential elections. In 2004, Republican President George W. Bush received a majority of votes in more than half the state's 58 counties, but still lost California's 55 electoral votes to John Kerry, who won 54.3% of the popular vote, by a margin of 10 percentage points.
- Main article: Geography of California
Template:Ussm California borders the Pacific Ocean, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and the Mexican state of Baja California. The state has strikingly beautiful natural features, including an expansive central valley, tall mountains, hot deserts, and hundreds of miles of scenic coastline. With an area of 411,000 km² it is the third largest state in the U.S and larger than Germany in size. Most major cities cling to the cool seacoast along the Pacific, notably Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Ana/Orange County, and San Diego. However, the capital, Sacramento is in the Central Valley.
California has extremely varied geography. In the center of the state lies the Central Valley, a huge, fertile valley bounded by the coastal mountain ranges in the west, the granite Sierra Nevada to the east, the volcanic Cascade Range in the north and the Tehachapi Mountains in the south. Mountain-fed rivers, dams, and canals provide water to 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. The hot, fertile Central Valley is California's agricultural heartland and grows a large portion of America's food, yet near freezing temperatures are not uncommon during winter which sometimes wipe out portions of crops. The bottom part of the valley, which is part desert, is known as the San Joaquin Valley while the upper half is known as the Sacramento Valley.
In the center and east of the state are the Sierra Nevada (meaning Snowy Range in Spanish), containing the highest peak in the contiguous lower 48 states, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet (4421 m). Also located in the Sierra are the world famous Yosemite National Park and a deep freshwater lake, Lake Tahoe, the largest lake in the state by volume. To the east of the Sierra are Owens Valley and Mono Lake, an essential seabird habitat. To the west is Clear Lake, California's largest freshwater lake by area. The Sierra Nevada receives arctic temperatures in the winter and holds several dozen small glaciers, including the most southern glacier in the United States (Palisade Glacier).
California has about 35% of its total surface area covered by forests. California's diversity of pine species is unmatched by any other state. Though other states have a higher percentage of their land area covered by forests, in terms of total area, California contains more forestland than any other state except Alaska. Most of the forest is found in 2 places. First, in the northwestern part of the state and along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Smaller forests, mainly consisting of oaks, can be found along the coast ranges of California closer to the coast, and also in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Smaller areas of pine forests can be found in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains of Southern California and also in the mountain areas of Central San Diego Country.
Deserts in California make up about 25% of the total surface area. In the south lie the Transverse Ranges and a large salt lake, the Salton Sea. The south-central desert is called the Mojave. To the northeast of the Mojave lies Death Valley, which contains the lowest, hottest point in North America. The lowest point of Death Valley and the peak of Mount Whitney are less than 200 miles apart. The hiking trek between the two points has been attempted, several times, most notably by Lee Bergthold. Indeed, almost all of southeastern California is arid, hot desert, with the Coachella Valley routinely experiencing extreme high temperatures during the summer.
Finally, along the densely-populated but long California coast lie a number of major metropolitan areas, including San Francisco Bay, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Climates near the Pacific Ocean are remarkably moderate compared with inland climates. Winter temperatures never reach freezing (snow is unheard of) and summer temperatures rarely reach above the high 80's Fahrenheit (27 °C).
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 in their frequency and location in highly populated areas. Some people believe, eventually, a huge earthquake 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, or its exploitation by the producers of science fiction and fantasy media. Notable movies in which the possible destruction of much of California by an earthquake includes the titles Earthquake, A View to a Kill, Escape from L.A. and Superman.
Different regions of California have very different climates, depending on their latitude, elevation, and proximity to the coast. Most of the state has a Mediterranean climate, with rainy winters and dry summers. The influence of the ocean generally moderates temperature extremes, creating warmer winters and substantially cooler summers, and the cold oceanic California Current offshore often creates summer fog near the coast. As one moves away from the coast, the climate becomes more continental, with colder winters and markedly hotter summers. The temperature gradient between immediate coast and low-lying inland valleys in the north is about 7 °F (4 °C) in winter, coast being warmer, and in summer roughly 25 °F (14 °C) but opposite. In the south, the figures are approximately 4 and 23 °F (2 °C and 13 °C), respectively; however 4 °F and 35 °F (2 °C and 20 °C) between Santa Barbara and Death Valley.
Westerly winds from the ocean also bring moisture, and the northern parts of the state generally receive higher rainfall than the south. California's mountain ranges influence the climate as well: moisture-laden air from the west cools as it ascends the mountains, dropping moisture; some of the rainiest parts of the state are west-facing mountain slopes. Northwestern California has a temperate climate with rainfall of 15–40 inches (400–1000 mm) per year. The Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate, but with greater temperature extremes than the coastal areas; parts of the valley are often filled with thick fog, similar to that found in the coastal valleys. The high mountains, including the Sierra Nevada, have a mountain climate with snow in winter and mild to moderate heat in summer.
On the east side of the mountains is a drier "rain shadow." California's desert climate regions lie east of the high Sierra Nevada and southern California's Transverse Ranges and Peninsular Ranges. The low deserts east of the southern California mountains, including the Imperial and Coachella valleys and the lower Colorado River, are part of the Sonoran Desert, with hot summers and mild winters; the higher elevation deserts of eastern California, including the Mojave Desert, Owens Valley, and the Modoc Plateau, are part of the Great Basin region, with hot summers and cold winters.
Death Valley, in the northern portion of the Mojave Desert on the east side of the state, is the hottest spot on the Western Hemisphere, with high temperatures over 120 °F common in the summer. The highest temperature in the Western Hemisphere, 134 °F (56.6 °C), was recorded in Death Valley on July 10, 1913. Temperatures of 130 °F or higher have been recorded as recently as 2005. The 24-hour average July temperature in Death Valley is 101 °F (38 °C) (1961--1990 standard).
- Main article: Ecology of California
Ecologically, California is one of the richest and most diverse parts of the world, and includes some of the most endangered ecological communities. California's diverse geography, geology, soils and climate have generated a tremendous diversity of plant and animal life. The State of California is part of the Nearctic ecozone, and spans a number of terrestrial ecoregions, and is perhaps the most ecologically diverse state in the United States.
California has a rather high percentage of endemic species. California endemics include relict species that have died out elsewhere, including the redwoods and the Catalina Ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus). Many other endemics originated through differentiation or adaptive radiation, whereby multiple species develop from a common ancestor to take advantage of diverse ecological conditions. California's great abundance of species of California lilac (Ceanothus) is an example of adaptive radiation. Many California endemics have become endangered, as urbanization, logging, overgrazing, and the introduction of exotic species have encroached on their habitat. Furthermore, California is home to the largest trees in the world, the Giant Sequoias.
California's native grasses were perennials, which stayed green year-round in most of the state's subclimates. After European contact, these were generally replaced by invasive species of European annual grasses; and, in modern times, California's hills turn a characteristic golden brown in summer and fall. California's nickname The Golden State is in reference to the California Gold Rush, and not to the golden brown summer hillsides as is sometimes stated.Template:Ref label
- Main article: Economy of California
California has the fifth largest economy in the world. It is responsible for 14% of the United States' gross domestic product (GDP). The gross state product (GSP) is about $1.5 trillion ($1,500,000,000,000, as of 2004), making it greater than that of every other U.S. state, and most countries in the world (by Purchasing Power Parity).
The predominant industry, more than twice as large as the next, 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 personal income was $33,403 as of 2003, ranking 12th in the nation. 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. While some coastal cities include some of the wealthiest per-capita areas in the U.S., notably San Francisco and Marin County, the non-agricultural central counties have some of the highest poverty rates in the U.S. The high-technology sectors in Northern California, specifically Silicon Valley, in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, are currently emerging from economic downturn caused by the dot.com bust, which caused the loss of over 250,000 jobs in Northern California alone. Recent (Spring 2005) economic data indicates that economic growth has resumed in California, although still slightly below the national annualized forecast of 3.9%. The international boom in housing prices has been most pronounced in California, with the median property price in the state rising to about the half-million dollar mark in April 2005.
As of 2004 California had a population of 35,893,799. The state had 9,400,000 foreign-born residents (26.5% of the population), of which an estimated 2,209,000 were illegal aliens (illegal aliens accounted for nearly one-fourth of the foreign-born population and 6.2% of the total state population).
California is the most populous state—more than 12 percent of Americans live in the state. California's population is larger than all but 33 countries; more populated than Canada.
Racial and Ancestral MakeupThe Census Bureau considers race and Hispanic origin to be two separate categories. Hispanics must not only select "Hispanic"; they must also select a race such as White or Asian, or, simply "some other race." This makes interpreting Census data difficult. Thus, for the sake of simplicity, the data below does consider Hispanic origin to be its own category. It therefore shows only non-Hispanic members of each group: non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Eskimos, non-Hispanic people of two or more races, etc. For more information on race and the Census, see here.
|2000 Census ||2003 Estimate |
|Two or More Races||1.9%||1.9%|
|Native American and Inuit||0.5%||0.5%|
|Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander||0.3%||0.3%|
California lacks a majority ethnic group. It is the third minority-majority state, after Hawaii and New Mexico. Non-Hispanic Whites are still the largest group, but are no longer a majority of the population due to high levels of immigration in recent years. Hispanics make up over one-third of the population; in order, other groups are Asians, Blacks, and Native Americans.
Because of high levels of immigration from Latin America, especially Mexico, and higher birth rates among the Hispanic population, Hispanics are predicted to become a majority in the state around 2040. California has the second-largest Asian population (percentage-wise) of any state, Hawaii having the largest.
The largest ancestries in California are Mexican (25%), Filipino, German, Irish, and Asian. Mexicans and Chicanos predominate in Southern California, the Central Valley, Salinas, and parts of the San Francisco Bay area. Irish and German ancestries are dominant in the eastern Sierra Nevada, the far north, and the North Coast. San Francisco has the greatest concentration of Asians in the continental United States, with Chinese numerous in San Francisco, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties and Filipinos particularly numerous in San Mateo county.
As of 2000, 60.5% of California residents age 5 and older speak English at home and 25.8% speak Spanish. Chinese is the third most spoken language at 2.6%, followed by Tagalog at 2.5% and Vietnamese at 1.3%. The indigenous languages of California number more than one hundred, but most are in danger of language death, despite revitalization efforts. Since 1986, the California Constitution has specified English as the common and official language of the state. The politics of language, particularly concerning language policy regarding the teaching and official use of immigrant languages is a major political issue in the state.
The religious affiliations of the people of California:
- Christian – 75%
- Jewish – 2%
- Other Religions – 3%
- Non-Religious – 20%
As with many other western states, the percentage of California's population identifying themselves as "non-religious" is comparatively high in relation to the rest of the U.S.
Important cities and towns
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The state of California has 478 cities, the majority of which are within one of the large metropolitan areas. 68% of California's population lives in its two largest metropolitan areas, Greater Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.
For a list of important suburbs within the above areas, see List of urbanized areas in California (by population).
25 wealthiest places in California
Thanks to the state's powerful economy, certain California cities are among the wealthiest on the planet. The following list is ranked by per capita income:
1 Belvedere, California - Marin County - $113,595
California's public 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 University of California, which employs more Nobel Prize winners than any other institution in the world and is considered one of the finest public higher-education systems in the country. The nine general UC campuses are in Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, Davis, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Irvine, Riverside, and Merced. The University of California, San Francisco, teaches only graduate health-sciences students, and the Hastings College of Law, also in San Francisco, is one of UC's four law schools. The UC system is intended to accept students from the top 12.5% 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. With over 400,000 students, the CSU system is the largest university system in the United States. 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 California Community Colleges system provides vocational education, remedial education, and continuing education programs. It awards certificates and associate degrees. It also provides lower division general-education courses, whose credit units are transferable to the CSU and UC systems. It is composed of 109 colleges organized into 72 districts. The system serves a student population of over 2.9 million.
Notable private universities include Stanford University, the University of Southern California (USC), the Claremont Colleges, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) (which administers the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA).
California has hundreds more 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 CalArts Institute.
Public 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 or middle 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%. One thing they all have in common is a state mandate to teach fourth grade students about the history of California, including the role of the early missions; most schools implement this by requiring students complete a multiple medium project.
California's large population has helped to make it home to many professional sports teams, including fifteen major professional sports league franchises, far more than any other state. However, since the re-location of the Los Angeles Raiders and Los Angeles Rams in the 1990s, it could be argued that no one city is able to lay claim to a "Grand Slam" (i.e. having a team in each of the four leagues) unless Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose are counted as being in a single metropolitan area.
Major league teams
Transportationfreeways, expressways, and highways, all maintained by Caltrans and patrolled by the California Highway Patrol, except for the numbered expressways in Santa Clara County which were built and maintained by the county itself. Californians typically take to the roads for their commutes, errands, and vacations, giving California's cities a reputation for severe traffic congestion. Almost all California highways are non-toll roads. Notable exceptions are any major bridges.
As for air travel, Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport are major hubs for trans-Pacific and transcontinental traffic. There are about a dozen important commercial airports and many more general aviation airports throughout the state's 58 counties.
California also has several important seaports. The giant seaport complex formed by the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach in Southern California is the largest in the country and responsible for handling about a fourth of all container cargo traffic in the United States. The Port of Oakland handles most of the ocean containers passing through Northern California.
Intercity rail travel is provided by Amtrak. Los Angeles and San Francisco both have subway networks, in addition to light rail. In San Francisco the two systems are not separated, all subway lines eventually surface and along the street. San Jose and Sacramento have only light rail, though portions of San Jose light rail serve as EL Trains. Metrolink commuter rail serves much of Southern California, and Caltrain commuter rail connects San Jose and Gilroy (commute hour only) to San Francisco. Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) connects Tracy, Livermore and other edge cities with San Jose. BART, an express rail service, connects San Francisco and Oakland to Millbrae in the southwest, Fremont in the southeast, Dublin and Pleasanton in the east, Richmond in the north, and Pittsburg in the northeast. Despite its name, it does not encompass the entire Bay Area. San Diego has Trolley light rail and Coaster commuter rail services. Nearly all counties operate bus lines, and many cities operate their own bus and light rail lines as well.
Both Greyhound and Amtrak provide intercity bus service.
The rapidly growing population of the state is straining all of its transportation networks. A regularly recurring issue in California politics is whether the state should continue to aggressively expand its freeway network or concentrate on improving mass transit networks in urban areas.
The California High Speed Rail Authority was created some years back by the state to implement an extensive 700 mile rail system. Construction is pending approval of the voters during next November's General Election where a 9 billion dollar state bond would have to be approved.
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