California Livin’

California Livin’

There is more to California than Hollywood, Disneyland, and the beach. If you are considering relocating to the Golden State, the following is a thumbnail sketch of the economy, demographics, environment, culture, and lifestyle.


California came out of the recession later than the rest of the country, but now is going strong. The state's economy is larger than that of many countries! Silicon Valley (just south of San Francisco) is the national center for high tech industries including hardware, software, semiconductors, biotech, multi-media, and communications. Over the past three years, the area has contributed 27% of the growth in the nation's gross domestic product and 100,000 new jobs. The greatest amount of venture capital investment in the country is in the Silicon Valley.

Historically, the entertainment industry has been based in Los Angeles. Now, there is a cross-over with high-tech multimedia, and in 1996, the number of jobs in the motion picture and television business overtook aerospace (which is declining, but still viable) in California. If multi-media and software jobs are included, entertainment is one of the two largest industries in the state.

Besides high-tech, entertainment, and aerospace, California boasts several other vibrant business sectors. San Francisco and Los Angeles are gateways to Asian markets, both in-bound and out-bound. Furthermore, many major national and international financial institutions are based in Los Angeles, and several large oil companies are based in the state. The Central Valley is one of the largest agribusiness regions in the country, and with the state's beautiful mountains, beaches, and interesting cities, California has a thriving tourism and recreational business.

Demographics--Population and Culture

California is the most populous state in the nation. Over 31 million people live here now, and the population is expected to approach 50 million by 2025. By then, the state will have both the highest percentage of youth (over 33% under 20) and of the most elderly in the country. Fifteen million people reside in the Los Angeles area of approximately 1000 square miles, and 2/3 of the state's population lives in Southern California, south of Bakersfield.

California's population is extremely diverse in terms of culture and ethnicity. In fact, the majority of the state's population are members of "minority" groups. Additionally, California is known for its special attitude; it is the wide-open pioneer spirit which attracts risk-takers and enables new industries and entrepreneurial businesses to take root.

Environment--Geography and Lifestyle

Sunny California definitely deserves its reputation for great weather, though it is cooler and more rainy in the northern part of the state. One of the wonderful things about the state is its varied geography--beaches, desert, mountains, forests, and just about everything in between.

There are five distinct business markets in the state: San Francisco and the Silicon Valley in the north, and Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego in the south, with approximately 400 miles between the two major business regions. San Francisco is more like an East Coast City, more compact, with public transportation and neighborhoods where people walk. It is known for its Victorian houses, hills, cable cars, fog and rain. The Silicon Valley is the suburbs, where people commute. It has a distinct culture comprised of techies and venture capitalists. Though intense, it is more low-key than the East Coast.

Los Angeles is sprawling, diverse, and informal. One must have a car, and most likely a cell phone, to survive in business here. People generally do not live downtown, but rather in certain pockets of the city such as the Westside, Pasadena, the South Bay, the San Fernando Valley, or beyond. As one moves south to Orange County and then to San Diego, there is a slower pace and a less urban feel. Evidence of California's Spanish heritage is evident in the architecture and place names.

We hope the above information assists you in putting some reality into your California Dreamin'!

Valerie Fontaine
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