California Population and Economy

California Economy

In recent decades, the great South-West state has experienced enormous demographic growth and profound economic transformations. These have been located in a few intensely urbanized areas, while keeping the natural conditions intact elsewhere due to the wide availability of space.

Since 1964, according to, California has been the most populous state in the confederation. The constant demographic rise has had stages from a real leap forward. In the individual intercensal decades of the last century, the highest increase occurred in 1920-30 (+ 65%), with more recent high peaks in the years 1950-60 (+ 53%) and 1960-70 (+ 48%)), to slow down, but only in a relative sense, in the seventies (about + 18%).

The trend of the 1980s is still one of strong growth. These high rates have led to two successive doublings of the Californian population: the first between 1930 and 1950 and the second between the latter date and 1970. The odds of a third doubling in an equal amount of time are smaller, but for the beginning of 21 0 century have provided 40 million inhabitants.

The underlying reasons for the population increase are complex and linked to the economic and social evolution of California. Examining the immediate reasons, we note today an equivalence of the natural balance and the migratory balance, the latter clearly prevalent in the past. The presence of immigrants, both from the United States and from abroad, has always been important: only in 1980 those born in California reached 50% of the residents, while previously the figure had always been lower. It is a population that is still partly young, with 22% of people under 15 years of age; however, the share of elderly people has increased, with 10% over the age of 65 (1985).

The ethnic composition reflects a growing geography of diversity. At the 1980 census there was the largest American community of inhabitants of ” Spanish ” origin, practically all Mexican-Americans, which were officially 4.5 million (almost 20% of Californians), but much more with temporary and clandestine presences. The black minority (1.8 million, 7.7%) is the largest after that of the state of New York; in addition there is a further 16% of recognized minority groups, among which mainly Asians, divided between the oldest Chinese, Filipinos and Japanese and the most recent Vietnamese and Thai immigrants. The complicated cultural mosaic is enriched by the subdivision into many religious groups, because the historically established denominations (Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists,

Urban development is still sensitive both in large cities and in smaller cities; the urban population reaches 90%. Between the two major metropolises, Los Angeles (1985) had about 8.1 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area (+ 8% in the last five years); San Francisco, with Oakland, had reached 3.4 million (+ 9%). But five other metropolitan areas exceeded one million inhabitants: San Diego 2.3; Anaheim-Santa Ana 2.1; San Bernardino 1.9; San José 1.4, and the capital Sacramento with 1.2 million.

Economic conditions. – The global income produced by California is the highest among the 50 states, while the per capita income is about 16% higher than the national average.

Agriculture is no longer the main economic base, but it is still solid: it produces everything, but in particular it has specialized even more than in the past in horticulture, and about 1/5 of the value of agricultural production is given exclusively by vegetables. The largest area covered by a single product is cotton, which has reached 600,000 ha, especially in the San Joaquin valley. California is also a breeding state, with a herd of 5 million cattle.

The workers employed in agriculture are just 2% of the active population (about 250,000), but to these must be added the numerous Mexican seasonal workers, indispensable especially in the crucial period of the harvest. Agriculture partly owes its high income to this latter factor. Others are the progressive expansion of farms (about 250 ha on average), the extension of irrigation and the introduction of advanced technologies.

The mining epic has long since ended, various minerals continue to be extracted, including oil and other hydrocarbons (7% of the national total, in value), but the large refineries of Long Beach work mainly crude oil from Alaska and other countries. foreigners.

The manufacturing industry, together with the environmental image, was the real key to California’s development. The first phase of great growth began in the 1940s, with the localization of the aeronautical and armaments industries; later these have expanded becoming more and more sophisticated, also in connection with the needs of space flights. The second phase, which had a long incubation in scientific research and experimentation, exploded in the 1970s with the computer industry, mainly concentrated in Silicon Valley, near San José.

The number of industrial workers (1.9 million at the 1982 industrial census) is not high in percentage terms (about 17% of the total), but is concentrated in advanced technology and high added value productions. The active population in the tertiary sector is much more conspicuous, above all with the number of employees in services (2.3 million) and trade (2.2). In the tertiary sector, the dualism between low-skilled activities (personal services, catering, cleaning, etc.), carried out mainly by Mexicans and blacks, and the advanced tertiary sector has increased. The latter has many strong points in C.: cultural activities, with prestigious universities, research and art centers; information and entertainment, often merged together (TV, publishing, cinema, advertising).

California Economy