About California

California, the most populous state in the nation, is home to Hollywood's stars, Silicon Valley's technology, Napa Valley's wines, and ancient Redwood and Sequoia forests. The Golden State also is one of the country's wealthiest and most socially and politically influential and has been since it became a state nearly 170 years ago.

Mexico ceded California to the United States in 1848 after the Mexican-American War, and it was officially annexed as a free, non-slave state in the Compromise of 1850.

During the California Gold Rush from  1848 to 1858, about 300,000 people flocked to the Western state to try to strike it rich in the mines. California's shipping, agriculture, construction, and transportation industries boomed as the state became a land of economic opportunity for settlers.

While the Gold Rush resulted in unprecedented population and economic growth – it remains the largest mass migration in U.S. history – it also forced out Native Americans and foreigners once gold became harder to find. After the Gold Rush ended, businesses that grew to serve miners remained behind, contributing to California's expansive economy.

While California's economy is now the largest in the U. S., the state's high cost of living may deter some from settling there. San Jose and San Francisco rank among the top 20 in U.S. News & World Report's Best Places to Live. Yet they are also among the most expensive for housing. California has four of the country's top 10 cities with the highest cost of living, while the state's median household income, $67,739 in 2016, was marginally higher than the national average of $57,617.

California’s high-income earners, from film and television celebrities in Los Angeles to tech giants in Silicon Valley, are heavily taxed in the state, which hosts the largest entertainment and fashion industries in the country.

However, other industries bring in more money: Aside from real estate, the computer and electronic products manufacturing industry contributed the most to the state's economy.

Los Angeles is the state's largest city, with nearly three times the number of residents as the second largest, San Diego. Next up are San Jose, San Francisco and Fresno, the largest inland city in the state. Each of these cities is popular with immigrants.

Nearly three in 10 Californians were born outside the U.S., with just over half of immigrants coming from Latin America and 39 percent from Asia. Since 2006, though, Asian immigrants have outnumbered Latinos, a trend that is expected to continue through 2030.

The growing population will put a strain on infrastructure and public services, including health, housing, and schools. California's increasing high school graduation rates – 82 percent of students graduated in 2015 – will keep the demand for higher education strong.

California has some of the country's best universities, including Stanford, University of Southern California, California Institute of Technology and the University of California campuses at Berkeley and Los Angeles.

California also is home to some of the nation's most beautiful landscapes. Yosemite National Park, which U.S. News ranks as a top hiking, adventure and family vacation spot, draws in millions of people each year to revel in the park’s towering waterfalls, massive rock formations and sprawling forests, including a stand of ancient great Sequoias. More than 5 million people visited Yosemite in 2016.

Other top tourist destinations include the beaches of Southern California, Disneyland, Palm Springs, Lake Tahoe and the nation’s top wine-making region of Napa Valley. California is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Oregon, Nevada and A Arizona to the north and east.

Just under half of California adults say religion is very important to them, and about one in three residents attend weekly services. Politically, the state leans Democratic, with millennials and Latinos making up the largest number of newly registered voters.

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