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California is a state in the Western United States that is known for its wine industry and its beach culture. Nevada and Arizona border it on the east and southeast, respectively, as does the Pacific Ocean on the west. Oregon borders it on the north, and the Mexican state of Baja California borders it on the south. It is the most populated and third-largest state in the United States, with about 39.5 million people spread over an area of roughly 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2). The province is also North America's most populous subnational unit, as well as the world's 34th most populous in terms of population. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second and fifth most populous urban regions, with the former having more than 18.7 million residents and the latter having more than 9.6 million. The Greater Los Angeles Area has more than 18.7 million residents, and the San Francisco Bay Area has more than 9.6 million. State capital Sacramento, although Los Angeles is the state's most populous city, as well as the country's second most populated metropolis, is the state's most populous city (after New York City). San Bernardino County is the country's most populated county, whereas Los Angeles is its most populous county by population. Los Angeles County is also the country's most populous county by population. As a city and county, San Francisco is the second most densely populated large metropolis in the nation (after New York City) and the fifth most densely inhabited county in the country (behind four of New York City's five boroughs), according to the 2010 Census.

According to the most recent available data, the economy of California has a gross state output of $3.2 trillion, making it the world's biggest subnational economy as of 2019. If it were a nation, it would be the 37th most populated country in the world with the fifth biggest GDP as of 2020, according to the United Nations. Following the New York metropolitan region ($1.8 trillion), the Greater Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and third-largest urban economies ($1.0 trillion and $0.5 trillion, respectively, as of 2020), after the metropolitan areas of Chicago and Los Angeles. In 2018, the San Francisco Bay Area Combined Statistical Area had the highest gross domestic product per capita ($106,757) among large primary statistical areas in the Nation. It is also home to five of the world's ten largest companies by market capitalization and four of the world's ten wealthiest people, according to the World Wealth Report 2018.

What is happening today While different Native Californian tribes were the first to settle in California, it was later discovered and explored by a number of European explorers throughout the 16th and 17th century. The Spanish Empire then claimed it and established a colony there. In 1804, it became part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain's Alta California province, which contained the city of Los Angeles. Although the region became a part of Mexico in 1821 as a result of the country's victorious struggle for independence, it was surrendered to the United States after the Mexican–American War. Following the Compromise of 1850, the western part of Alta California was formed and admitted as the 31st state on September 9, 1850, becoming the 31st state in the union. Since its inception in 1848, the California Gold Rush has resulted in significant social and demographic changes, as well as large-scale immigration from other areas of the United States and from overseas, as well as an attendant economic boom.