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Bakersfield is a city near the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County, California. It is roughly equidistant between Fresno and Los Angeles, which are 110 miles (180 km) to the north and south respectively. In the 2010 census, the city’s population was 347,483, making it the 9th largest city in California and the 52nd largest city in the United States. The city is also the county seat for Kern County, which encompasses the entire MSA and is the third largest county in California by area.
Bakersfield is the focal point of the larger Bakersfield-Delano Metropolitan Statistic Area (MSA). In 2010, it had a population of 839,631, making it the 62nd largest metropolitan area in United States.
Bakersfield has a very diverse economy. Kern County is the most productive oil producing county, and the fourth most productive agricultural county (by value) in the United States. Other industries include natural gas and other energy extraction, aerospace, mining, petroleum refining, manufacturing, distribution, food processing, and corporate/regional headquarters.
Archaeological evidence indicates the presence of Native American settlements dating back thousands of years. The Yokuts lived in lodges along the branches of the Kern River Delta and hunted antelope, tule elk, deer, bear, fish, and game birds. In 1776, the Spanish missionary Father Francisco Garcés became the first European to explore the area. Owing to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the region, however, the Yokuts were spared intensive contact until after the Mexican War of Independence, when Mexican settlers began to migrate to the area. Following the discovery of gold in California in 1848, settlers flooded into the San Joaquin Valley. In 1851, gold was discovered along the Kern River in the southern Sierra Nevada, and in 1865, oil was discovered in the valley. The Bakersfield area, once a tule-reed-covered marshland, was first known as Kern Island to the handful of pioneers who built log cabins there in 1860. The area was subject to flooding from the Kern River, which occupied what is now the downtown area, and experienced outbreaks of malaria.
Bakersfield lies near the southern “horseshoe” end of the San Joaquin Valley, with the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada just to the east. The city limits extend to the Sequoia National Forest, at the foot of the Greenhorn Mountain Range and at the entrance to the Kern Canyon. To the south, the Tehachapi Mountains feature the historic Tejon Ranch. To the west is the Temblor Range, behind which is the Carrizo Plain National Monument and the San Andreas Fault. The Temblor Range is approximately 35 miles (56 km) from Bakersfield across the valley floor.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 143.6 square miles (372 km2), of which 142.2 sq mi (368 km2) is land (98.99%) and 1.4 sq mi (3.6 km2) is water (1.01%).
At the 2000 census, according to the United States Census Bureau, the city had a total area of 114.4 square miles (296 km2), of which 113.1 sq mi (293 km2) was land (98.86%) and 1.3 sq mi (3.4 km2) was water (1.14%).
Bakersfield lies approximately 100 miles (160 km) north of Los Angeles (about a 1½-hour drive on I-5 and State Route 99) and about 300 miles (480 km) southeast of the state capital, Sacramento (about a 4½-hour drive on State Route 99).
Bakersfield has a desert climate (Köppen BWh), with long, hot, dry summers, and brief, cool, wet winters. In fact, Bakersfield is one of the cities with the most number of clear days in the U.S. (averaging 191 days a year). Bakersfield enjoys long-lasting, mild autumns and early springs, giving the region a unique climate suitable for growing a wide variety of crops (ranging from citrus to carrots to almonds and pistachios). Rainfall averages only 6.5 inches (165 mm) annually, mostly falling during winter and spring. Typically, no rain falls from May through September.
Summers see extended stretches of hot weather, with 108 days per year above 90 °F (32 °C) (on average between April 19 and October 12); in addition, there are 33 days above 100 °F (38 °C) from late May to mid-September, and a 110 °F (43 °C) day can be seen every few years. Winters feature mild daytime temperatures, but frost can be occasionally seen, often coming with dense tule fog and low visibility, causing many schools to have fog delays as long as three hours. The official time frame for Tule fog to form is from November 1 to March 31. There are 12 nights with freezing lows (on average between December 13 and January 26) annually, and the coldest night of the year will typically bottom out below 30 °F (−1 °C).
Snow is rare on the valley floor; however, it does snow in Bakersfield about once every 20 to 30 years. The last time it snowed was on January 25, 1999 when Bakersfield received 6 inches (150 mm). The record maximum temperature was 118 °F (48 °C) on July 28, 1908, and the record minimum temperature was 11 °F (−12 °C) on January 3, 1908. The most rainfall in one month was 5.82 inches (148 mm) in December 2010, and the maximum 24-hour rainfall was 2.29 inches (58 mm) on February 9, 1978.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Bakersfield had a population of 347,483. The population density was 2,419.6 people per square mile (934.2/km²). The racial makeup of Bakersfield was 197,349 (56.8%) White, 28,368 (8.2%) African American, 5,102 (1.5%) Native American, 21,432 (6.2%) Asian (2.1% Taiwanese, 0.5% Chinese, 0.4% Korean, 0.2% Japanese, 478 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 77,686 (22.4%) from other races, and 17,068 (4.9%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 158,205 persons (45.5%). Among the Hispanic population, 39.5% are Mexican, 1.3% Salvadoran, 0.5% Guatemalan, 0.10% Colombian, Non-Hispanic Whites were 37.8% of the population in 2010, compared to 71% in 1980.
The Census reported that 344,088 people (99.0% of the population) lived in households, 2,094 (0.6%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 1,301 (0.4%) were institutionalized.
There were 111,132 households, out of which 51,995 (46.8%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 57,276 (51.5%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 18,049 (16.2%) had a female householder with no husband present, 7,829 (7.0%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 8,159 (7.3%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 845 (0.8%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 21,800 households (19.6%) were made up of individuals and 7,354 (6.6%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.10. There were 83,154 families (74.8% of all households); the average family size was 3.56.
The population was spread out with 109,479 people (31.5%) under the age of 18, 37,368 people (10.8%) aged 18 to 24, 97,024 people (27.9%) aged 25 to 44, 74,276 people (21.4%) aged 45 to 64, and 29,336 people (8.4%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30.0 years. For every 100 females there were 96.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.5 males.
There were 120,725 housing units at an average density of 840.6 per square mile (324.6/km²), of which 66,323 (59.7%) were owner-occupied, and 44,809 (40.3%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 3.2%; the rental vacancy rate was 9.0%. 206,492 people (59.4% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 137,596 people (39.6%) lived in rental housing units.