Merced, CA

Merced, CA green parkLocated in the San Joaquin Valley area of northern California, the city of Merced is a vibrant and diverse place with a backdrop of stunning natural beauty. Home to the newest campus of the University of California, the city features many of the qualities that accompany a college town, with many bookshops, cafes and a lively nightlife scene.


Nicknamed the “Gateway to Yosemite”, the city is also within a two-hour drive of the famous national park. Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean are within two hours, to the west. The city was first established in the late 19th century, with the post office officially opening in 1870 and incorporation coming 19 years later. Historically, the local economy has primarily centered on agriculture as well as a local Air Force Base during the later 20th century. Following the closure of the base, the primary employers are the County offices, the University of California and the local Medical Center and school districts. During the Second World War, the city served as a major center of internment camps, where nearly 5,000 Japanese-Americans were confined before their transferal to concentration camps in Colorado.


The city population is estimated to be 81,102 as of 2013. According to the same statistics, 52.2 percent of locals identify as White, compared with 57.6 of all Californians. 6.3 percent describe themselves as African American, 1.5 percent as Native American, 11.8 percent as Asian, .2 percent as Pacific Islander and 5.5 percent as “from two or more races.” Individuals reporting as Hispanic or Latino, and of any race, total 49.6 percent of the population as of 2013. One of the area’s most notable demographic groups is a large Hmong population, who have historically settled in the area since the late 20th century. As of 1997, nearly 20 percent of the population identified as Hmong. In more recent years, the population of Hmong residents has dropped, with many seeking work elsewhere, in Alaska and in Midwestern states.

Despite the presence of a university campus in town, the rates of higher study are lower locally than throughout California; 15.7 percent of local citizens ages 25 or higher report a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 30.7 percent of all Californians. Likewise, the median household income is lower locally than the California average, despite households typically being larger than the state average. The citywide median household income is $37,822, between 2009 and 2013, compared with the California figure of $61,094.

Merced is reasonably well-connected to other major cities, by multiple transportation systems. The Municipal Airport offers daily service to Las Vegas. The Amtrak San Joaquin line runs through town and a California High-Speed Rail is proposed, to provide service to Bakersfield as early as 2015. As a result of the completed project, travel to Los Angeles would take 1 hour 40 minutes and a trip to San Francisco would take 1 hour 15 minutes. For road travel, the city sits at the juncture of CA State Highways 59, 99 and 150. Modesto is about 40 miles northwest of town and Fresco is 58 miles to the southeast.

For those considering a move to Merced, CA, regularly cited strengths of the community include racial diversity, affordability, short commute times, walkability and the high rate of young families. The climate is another draw for many locals, with cool winters and hot, dry summers. Local places of interest include a park and zoo, bike trails, creeks, a stage theater and arts center and an array of shopping centers and big box stores, as well as Main Street and the downtown area, a hub for locally-owned businesses.


Published by Jose Espinoza, ,