Ethnic groups

In 2000, California's foreign-born population numbered 8,864,255, or 26% of the state's total population, the largest percentage among the 50 states. Nearly one-third of all foreign-born persons in the US live in California. Latin Americans account for about half of foreign-born Californians, while Asians account for another third. As of 2002, nearly four-fifths of foreign-born Californians lived in the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles (5.1 million) and San Francisco (1.9 million).

The westward movement of American settlers in the third quarter of the 19th century, followed by German, Irish, North Italian, and Italian Swiss immigrants, overshadowed but did not obliterate California's Spanish heritage. In 2000, 10,966,556 (32.4%) of the state's residents were of Hispanic or Latino origin, up from 7,688,000 (25.8%) in 1990, and more than the total for any other state. The census of 2000 recorded that the majority—8,455,926,

California Counties, County Seats, and County Areas and Populations
California Counties, County Seats, and County Areas and Populations

California Counties, County Seats, and County Areas and Populations

*The city and county of San Francisco are coterminous.
Alameda Oakland 735 1,472,310 Orange Santa Ana 798 2,938,507
Alpine Markleeville 739 1,200 Placer Auburn 1,416 278,509
Amador Jackson 589 36,657 Plumas Quincy 2,573 20,890
Butte Oroville 1,646 209,203 Riverside Riverside 7,214 1,699,112
Calaveras San Andreas 1,021 42,978 Sacramento Sacramento 971 1,305,082
Colusa Colusa 1,153 19,312 San Benito Hollister 1,388 55,938
Contra Costa Martinez 730 992,358 San Bernardino San Bernardino 20,064 1,816,072
Del Norte Crescent City 1,007 27,482 San Diego San Diego 4,212 2,906,660
El Dorado Placerville 1,715 165,744 San Francisco San Francisco* 46 764,049
Fresno Fresno 5,978 834,632 San Joaquin Stockton 1,415 614,302
Glenn Willows 1,319 26,623 San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo 3,308 253,408
Humboldt Eureka 3,579 127,159 San Mateo Redwood City 447 703,202
Imperial El Centro 4,173 146,248 Santa Barbara Santa Barbara 2,748 403,084
Inyo Independence 10,223 18,214 Santa Clara San Jose 1,293 1,683,505
Kern Bakersfield 8,130 694,059 Santa Cruz Santa Cruz 446 253,814
Kings Hanford 1,392 135,043 Shasta Redding 3,786 171,799
Lake Lakeport 1,262 61,9970 Sierra Downieville 959 3,552
Lassen Susanville 4,553 34,007 Siskiyou Yreka 6,281 44,103
Los Angeles Los Angeles 4,070 9,806,577 Solano Fairfield 834 411,072
Madera Madera 2,145 130,265 Sonoma Santa Rosa 1,604 468,386
Marin San Rafael 523 247,581 Stanislaus Modesto 1,506 482,440
Mariposa Mariposa 1,456 17,195 Sutter Yuba City 602 82,580
Mendocino Ukiah 3,512 87,240 Tehama Red Bluff 2,953 57,472
Merced Merced 1,944 225,398 Trinity Weaverville 3,190 13,174
Modoc Alturas 4,064 9,289 Tulare Visalia 4,808 381,772
Mono Bridgeport 3,019 13,117 Tuolumne Sonora 2,234 55,850
Monterey Salinas 3,303 413,408 Ventura Ventura 1,862 783,920
Napa Napa 744 130,268 Yolo Woodland 1,014 180,856
Nevada Nevada City 960 95,047 Yuba Marysville 640 62,339
        TOTALS   156,299 35,116,033

up from 5,322,170 in 1990—were Mexican-Americans; there were also 140,570 Puerto Ricans and 72,286 Cubans. After World War II, the Hispanic communities of Los Angeles, San Diego, and other southern California cities developed strong political organizations. Increasing numbers of Mexican-Americans have won local, state, and federal elective office, though their potential remains unrealized.

In 2000 California had the largest Asian population of any state—3,697,513 (up from 2,846,000 in 1990), or 10.9% of the state's total population (the 2nd-highest percentage in the nation). In the same year there were 116,961 Pacific Islanders (including more native Hawaiians than in any state except Hawaii). Chinese workers were first brought to California between 1849 and 1882, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress. In 2000 the Chinese constituted the largest group among California's Asian population, numbering 980,642, or 2.9% of the population. The nation's oldest and largest Chinatown is in San Francisco. Although Chinese-Americans, as they prospered, moved to suburban areas, the seats of the powerful nationwide and worldwide merchant and clan associations are in that city. Los Angeles also has a Chinese district.

The Japanese, spread throughout the western seaboard states, were engaged mainly in agriculture, along with fishing and small business, until their removal and internment during World War II. After the war, some continued in market gardening and other family agriculture, but most, deprived of their landholdings, entered urban occupations, including the professions; many dispersed to other regions of the country. In 2000 there were 288,854 Japanese in California, down from 353,251 in 1990.

After the Chinese, the most populous Asian group in California in 2000 was the Filipino community, with 918,678, or 2.7% of the total state population. In 2000 California also had 345,882 Koreans, 447,032 Vietnamese (up from 242,946 in 1990), 314,819 Asian Indians (up from 112,560), 55,456 Laotians, 20,571 native Hawaiians (down from 43,418 in 1990), 37,498 Samoans, and 20,918 Guamanians.

American Indians and Alaska natives numbered around 333,346 in 2000 (up from 242,000 in 1990), the greatest number of any state in the country. The figure for American Indians includes Indians native to California and many others coaxed to resettle there under a policy that sought to terminate tribal status. Along with the remaining indigenous tribes in California, there is also a large urban Indian population, especially in Los Angeles, which has more Indians than any other US city. Many of the urban Indians were unprepared for the new kind of life and unable to earn an adequate living; militant Indians have made dramatic, but on the whole unsuccessful, protests aimed at bettering their condition.

Black Americans constitute a smaller proportion of California's population than of the nation's as a whole: less than 7% in 2000. Nevertheless, California still had the fifth-largest black population, numbering 2,263,882. Considerable migration of blacks took place during World War II, when defense industries on the West Coast offered new opportunities.