California Research Bureau, California State Library

The California Central Valley
versus Other States?

By Elias S. Lopez, Ph.D.

May 3, 1996

The Central Valley outranks 20 states in population!
By the year 2020, it will outrank 33 states in population!

California is a state of 32 million people, by far the most populous state in the Union. California is divided into various economic regions. One such region is the Central Valley, more specifically the San Joaquin portion of it. This area is composed of eight counties: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare. This is a region that holds a population of 3 million or 10 percent of California's population. This region seems small by California standards. The purpose of this exercise, however, is to show that the Central Valley ranks right up there with many states in terms of population, employment, and other socio-economic variables. Over 200 Census variables were examined, but only the ones with the most interesting patterns are presented. Each variable ranked the 50 states (including California), the District of Columbia, and the Central Valley. A value of 1 means that the State or region has the most and a value of 52 the least of the attribute. The statistical table showing the value and rank of each State or region is available on a separate page.

Central Valley Map


The CV ranks

27,280 square miles
(1990 Census)

In terms of area, the Central Valley (CV) ranked 41 from a ranking of 1 to 52. Most states are therefore bigger in square miles than the CV. The CV however is still bigger than Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia.


The CV ranks

2,742,000 persons
(1990 Census)

Although in area the CV may rank 41, in population it has more people than 21 other states (including DC). It ranks 31. Most surprising is that the CV has more people than the states of Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, and Utah.

Population Gain:

The CV ranks

693,942 persons
(1990 & 1980 Census)

The CV ranked among the ten highest states in population growth. With a rank of nine, only the states of Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington had a higher increase in its population from 1980 to 1990.

Population Projection 2020:

The CV ranks

6,164,400 persons
(CA Dept. Of Finance for Counties)
(U.S. Census Bureau for States)

By the year 2020 the CV will have over 6 million persons according to population projections by the California Department of Finance (Report 93 P-1). Using state projections from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the CV ranks 18 in population size by the year 2020.

American Indians:

The CV ranks

31,328 persons
(1990 Census)

The CV ranks as the 17th biggest cluster, compared to other states, of the American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut population.


The CV ranks

185,998 persons
(1990 Census)

When it comes to the Asian denominated population, the CV is the 8th largest. Only California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington have a bigger Asian or Pacific Islander population.

Cambodians, Hmong, and Laotians:

The CV ranks

71,135 persons
(1990 Census)

Included in the figures for the Asian population above are those of Cambodia, Hmong, and Laotia descent. Consider these three groups alone and the CV ranks not eight but 2nd. California, which includes the CV region, ranks first.


The CV ranks

826,150 persons
(1990 Census)

The CV is the 6th biggest in Hispanic population concentration. Only the states of California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas rank higher.

Mexican Origin:

The CV ranks

748,752 persons
(1990 Census)

When it comes to people of Mexican origin or descent, the CV ranks three. The only other states that outrank it are California and Texas.

Population Ages 0-9:

The CV ranks

511,370 persons
(1990 Census)

The CV has a relatively young population. Although it ranks 31 in total population, it ranks 26 in population ages 0-9. In the ages of 55 and over it ranks 34.

Households with 7 or more Persons:

The CV ranks

37,619 households
(1990 Census)

The CV has 896,588 households. (A household is a dwelling unit where both family and non-family members may reside.) Among the households where 7 or more people lived, the CV ranks 10 in comparison to the other states. There are 37,600 such households, amounting to 263,000 persons. Only the big population states outrank the CV in this category.

Per Capita Household Income:

The CV ranks

(1990 Census)

The CV has a per capita household income of $11,899 as of 1990. California's per capita household income is $16,580 and ranks 8. The CV ranks 40, in between South Carolina and Alabama.

Civilian Unemployment:

The CV ranks

117,643 persons
(1990 Census)

Total employment for the CV was 1,082,459 as of 1990 and it ranked 32. Unemployment, however, ranked 24, meaning that it had a relatively larger share of unemployment.

Farming Occupation:

The CV ranks

104,286 persons
(1990 Census)

The large number of persons unemployed in the CV might be partly explained by its large agricultural workforce. The CV ranks four in the category of persons employed in occupations of farming, forestry, or fishing. Only California, Florida, and Texas surpass the numbers of the Central Valley.

% College Enrollment:

The CV ranks

180,205 persons or 23%
(1990 Census)

In the CV there are 800,000 persons enrolled in schools at the level of preprimary, K-12, and college. Of this, 180,200 are enrolled in college. This amounts to a 23 percent enrollment in college. In comparison, the figure for the whole state of California is 31 percent and ranks 4 among all states. The CV ranks 47.

College Population in Dormitories:

The CV ranks

4,276 persons
(1990 Census)

The CV ranks 49 in the number of its residents living in college dormitories. Only the states of Alaska, Nevada, and Wyoming have fewer persons in college dormitories.


Statistical Tables

Data Sources:

U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population and Housing, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1994.

U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1980 Census of Population and Housing, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1994.

U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, P25-1111, Population Projections for States, By Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1993 to 2020, By Paul R. Campbell, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1994.

California Department of Finance, Population Projections by Race/Ethnicity for California and Its Counties, 1990-2040, Report 93 P-1. Sacramento, California, April 1993.