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City of Merced
Downtown Merced
Downtown Merced
Flag of City of Merced
Official seal of City of Merced
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
Merced, California is located in the United States
Merced, California
Merced, California
Location in the United States
Country United States
State California
County Merced County
Incorporated April 1, 1889
 • Type Council–manager
 • Total 23.25 sq mi (60.23 km2)
 • Land 23.25 sq mi (60.23 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)  0%
171 ft (52 m)
 • Total 86,333
 • Estimate 
 • Density 3,598.35/sq mi (1,389.33/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP codes
95340–95341,95344, 95348
Area code 209
FIPS code 06-46898
GNIS feature IDs 1659751, 2411080

Merced ( Spanish for "Mercy") is a city in, and the county seat of, Merced County, California, United States, in the San Joaquin Valley. As of April 2020 Census, the city had a population of 86,333. Incorporated on April 1, 1889, Merced is a charter city that operates under a council-manager government. It is named after the Merced River, which flows nearby.

Merced, known as the "Gateway to Yosemite", is less than two hours by automobile from Yosemite National Park to the east and Monterey Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and multiple beaches to the west. The community is served by the passenger rail service Amtrak, a minor, heavily subsidized airline through Merced Regional Airport, and three bus lines. It is approximately 110 miles (180 km) from Sacramento, 130 miles (210 km) from San Francisco, 45 miles (72 km) from Fresno, and 270 miles (430 km) from Los Angeles.

In 2005, the city became home to the 10th University of California campus, University of California, Merced (UC Merced), the first research university built in the U.S. in the 21st century.


Merced is a home to University of California, Merced. Current recreational opportunities in the city include Applegate Park and zoo, Bear and Black Rascal Creeks and their bike trails, a skate park located in Applegate, a live stage theater downtown, two first run movie theaters, The Mainzer Theater which is known for its historic and architectural value, County Courthouse Museum circa 1889, the Merced Multicultural Arts Center and the County Library. Though still growing, Merced has several shopping areas including the Merced Mall, anchored by Target, Sears, JCPenney and Kohl's, a strip mall located on the city's northwest side which includes Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Lowe's, Wal-Mart, and several restaurants. Merced's Main Street contains several restaurants, a movie theater, and other assorted shops.

Also within a short distance from the city limits are the Castle Air Museum, Lake Yosemite, and Merced Falls. Merced is also the headquarters of Malibu Boats, a manufacturer of inboard boats. The city of Merced along with its surrounding cities are serviced by the Merced Sun-Star and the Merced County Times. The Sun-Star daily newspaper has a circulation of over 20,000 in the Merced area and the Times weekly newspaper has a circulation of over 5,000.

Main Street Merced
Main Street in Merced California

Homes at the median level in Merced have lost 62% of their value from the second quarter of 2006, when they peaked at $336,743, the biggest drop anywhere in the country, according to data provided to Forbes by Local Market Monitor, a Cary, North-Carolina-based real-estate research firm. Earlier, home building and buying grew exponentially in Merced, but the metro still suffers from an elevated 14.2% unemployment rate (Dec 2013) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

During the Great Recession Merced suffered one of the greatest property price collapses in the country and house prices at the end of 2009 had returned to 1998 levels, according to Zillow, making housing affordable compared to many other California locations. Merced's population has grown faster than the state average since 1980. Over the past nine years, the annualized growth rate is about 3.4%. This rapid expansion of population has stimulated significant retail growth since 1992. Several major retail chain stores have entered Merced, adding over 750,000 square feet (70,000 m2) of new retail space in that time and increasing the City's sales tax receipts by over $500,000 annually.

The economy has traditionally relied upon agribusiness and upon the presence of Castle Air Force Base. Over the past twenty years, more diversified industry has entered the area, including printing, fiberglass boat building, warehousing and distribution, and packaging industries.

In September 1995, Castle Air Force Base closed after phasing down over the previous three years. This has affected residential real estate and some sectors of the retail and service economies, but overall retail has continued to increase. No significant increase in unemployment has been noted. Re-use of the former base is actively proceeding. Industrial development is increasing in the area.

Since 1992, more than 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2) of new industrial activity has started. In May 1995, Merced was selected as the home of the next University of California campus. UC Merced opened with its first 1,000 students in September 2005. Local planning is underway to accommodate campus development, which will eventually accommodate about 25,000 students.


The first Merced post office opened in 1870. Merced incorporated in 1889 and now operates under the Council-Manager form of government.

Merced Assembly Center
A plaque marking the site of the Merced Assembly Center.

During World War II, the Merced County fairgrounds was the site of a temporary "assembly center" where Japanese Americans were detained after being removed from their West Coast homes under Executive Order 9066. 4,669 men, women and children from central California (with most coming from Merced County) were confined in the Merced Assembly Center from May 6 to September 15, 1942, when they were transferred to the more permanent Granada internment camp in Colorado.


Major highways near Merced

Major highways


  • Merced Regional Airport offers passenger service provided by Advanced Air, offering daily flights to Las Vegas International Airport (LAS) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX.)
  • Castle Airport in nearby Atwater, California.


  • Greyhound, Intercalifornias, TUFESA and Fronteras del Norte serve Merced.
  • YARTS provides scheduled service into Yosemite National Park.
  • Merced County Transit, "The Bus", operates both regularly scheduled fixed route bus service and Dial-A-Ride (demand response) transportation services throughout Merced County.
  • CatTracks is UC Merced's bus service, which connects students, staff and faculty at the university to off-campus apartments, the off-campus Castle facilities, local amenities, the Amtrak station, and the downtown area. CatTracks also has a live map.


  • Amtrak San Joaquin provides passenger service.
Cahsr map
Map of proposed route, also including the proposed Brightline West to Las Vegas

High-speed rail

The California High-Speed Rail Authority February 2016 draft business plan, outlined the Merced station as not beginning service at the same time as the initial San Jose to Bakersfield route in 2025, but would likely open in 2029 instead. This would make the leg between the Central Valley and Pacheco Pass the first to be constructed. The Merced City Council vigorously opposed the delay in their city's station opening, noting Merced's volume of commuters seeking high-speed rail to access jobs in Silicon Valley. In response, the April 2016 revisions to the business plan indeed included Merced in the initial construction segment, initially as a single-track spur connecting only to the westbound track to the Bay Area, with build out of the full Wye happening later. The system will run from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in under three hours at speeds capable of over 200 miles per hour.

Sample trips in the California High Speed rail would include:

Geography and geology

Merced, Ca, San Joaquin Valley
Merced county countryside

Merced is located at 37°18′N 120°29′W / 37.300°N 120.483°W / 37.300; -120.483. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 23.3 square miles (60 km2).

Merced is approximately 110 miles (180 km) southeast of San Francisco and 310 miles (500 km) northwest of Los Angeles.

A major groundwater plume containing the contaminant PCE was discovered in Merced in 1987. Subsequently, drilling of new water wells was severely restricted.


Merced has a semi-arid climate. Average January temperatures are a maximum of 55.0 °F and a minimum of 36.0 °F. Average July temperatures are a maximum of 97.1 °F and a minimum of 60.9 °F. There are an average of 98.7 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and an average of 33.6 days with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower. The record highest temperature of 114 °F was recorded on July 24, 1902, and August 8, 1905. The record lowest temperature of 13 °F was recorded on January 13, 2007.

Most of the rainfall occurs during the winter and averages 12.21 inches (310 mm) annually. There are an average of 48 days annually with measurable precipitation. The wettest year was 1998 with 21.66 inches (550 mm) and the driest year was 1947 with 5.50 inches (140 mm). The most rainfall in one month was 8.00 inches (203 mm) in January 1909. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 2.20 inches (56 mm), which occurred on January 30, 1911, and March 9, 1911. Although snow is relatively rare in Merced, averaging only 0.6-inch (15 mm) annually, the city's proximity to the Sierra Nevada has resulted in some instances of remarkably heavy snowfall. The record 24-hour snowfall was 13.9 inches (35 cm) on February 16, 1946. The most snowfall in one month was 39.0 inches (99 cm) in December 1906.

Climate data for Merced Regional Airport
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 77
Average high °F (°C) 55.0
Average low °F (°C) 36.0
Record low °F (°C) 13
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.47


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 1,446
1890 2,009 38.9%
1900 1,969 −2.0%
1910 3,102 57.5%
1920 3,974 28.1%
1930 7,066 77.8%
1940 10,135 43.4%
1950 15,278 50.7%
1960 20,068 31.4%
1970 22,670 13.0%
1980 36,423 60.7%
1990 56,216 54.3%
2000 63,893 13.7%
2010 78,958 23.6%
2020 86,333 9.3%
2019 (est.) 83,676 6.0%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 The Decennial Census of Population and Housing, reported that the population in 2020 was around 86,333. In 2019, the average income of an individual was $22,229, and for a household $42,367.


The 2010 United States Census reported that Merced had a population of 78,959. The population density was 3,386.4 people per square mile. (1,307.5/km2). The racial makeup of Merced was 41,177 (52.1%) White, 4,958 (6.3%) African American, 1,153 (1.5%) Native American, 9,342 (11.8%) Asian, 174 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 17,804 (22.5%) from other races, and 4,350 (5.5%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 39,140 persons (49.6%).

The Census reported that 77,878 people (98.6% of the population) lived in households, 492 (0.6%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 588 (0.7%) were institutionalized.

There were 24,899 households, out of which 11,484 (46.1%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 10,958 (44.0%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 4,921 (19.8%) had a female householder with no husband present, 1,941 (7.8%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 2,156 (8.7%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 167 (0.7%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 5,356 households (21.5%) were made up of individuals, and 1,823 (7.3%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.13. There were 17,820 families (71.6% of all households); the average family size was 3.65.

The population was spread out, with 25,091 people (31.8%) under the age of 18, 10,475 people (13.3%) aged 18 to 24, 20,986 people (26.6%) aged 25 to 44, 15,484 people (19.6%) aged 45 to 64, and 6,922 people (8.8%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28.1 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.6 males.

There were 27,446 housing units at an average density of 1,177.1 per square mile (454.5/km2), of which 10,637 (42.7%) were owner-occupied, and 14,262 (57.3%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 3.5%; the rental vacancy rate was 8.5%. 31,690 people (40.1% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 46,188 people (58.5%) lived in rental housing units.


Merced Atwater etc night aerial
Night aerial view of Merced, Atwater, etc. in 2019

As of the census of 2000, there were 63,893 people, 20,435 households, and 14,631 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,216.7 people per square mile (1,242.2/km2). There were 21,532 housing units at an average density of 1,084.0 per square mile (418.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 57.4% White, 6.3% African American, 1.3% Native American, 12.4% Asian (mostly Hmong), 0.2% Pacific Islander, 23.2% from other races, and 5.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 26.4% of the population.

There were 20,435 households, out of which 42.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.2% contained married couples living together, 18.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.4% were "nonfamilies." 22.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.06 and the average family size was 3.62.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 34.7% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 17.1% from 45 to 64, and 9.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,429, and the median income for a family was $32,470. Males had a median income of $31,725 versus $24,492 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,115. About 22.4% of families and 27.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 36.9% of those under age 18 and 10.1% of those age 65 or over.

Hmong community

Escaping persecution from Communist forces after the Laotian Civil War, Hmong refugees from Laos moved to the United States in the 1970s and '80s, first settling in Merced and other areas in the Central Valley of California. The Hmong could not initially take part in farming like they had expected, as the land was owned by other people. They could not get high end agricultural jobs because they did not speak sufficient English and Mexican migrants already held low end agricultural jobs. As such, a great many of Merced's Hmong collected social services and Hmong gangs arose, prompting other residents to perceive them as being the cause of economic troubles. As the Hmong settlement matured and the Hmong children gained English language skills, the town's overall attitude began to be more accepting of the Hmong community.

This acceptance is reflected in various services provided to the Hmong community. This includes the Merced Lao Family Community Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides social services to Hmong people, the Merced Department of Public Health's MATCH (Multidisciplinary Approach to Cross-Cultural Health) program, intending to draw Hmong patients into the health care system, a body of Hmong-speaking faculty and paraprofessionals (including college classes on Hmong culture and language), and media outlets for the Hmong community—cable television channel Channel 11 broadcasts programming to the Hmong community twice per week and radio station KBIF 900 AM airs programming oriented towards Hmong people.

While Merced has historically had a proportionally large portion of Hmong (in 1997, 12,000 of Merced's 61,000 residents were Hmong), demographic shifts have reduced this. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 prompted a move of some Hmong to Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. More recently, many Hmong have gone to Alaska to work in crabbing and fishing industries that require little proficiency in English.

Racial demographics

In 2010, Latinos became a majority population in Merced and Merced County as the agricultural industry brought in migrant farm laborers. The area's affordable housing prices attracted both Latino and Asian immigrants. Merced has large Asian-American (e.g. Hmong, followed by Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Filipino, Thai, Korean and Asian Indian) populations relative to the city and county's population size.

Civic Center - Merced, California 1
Civic Center in Merced

Sister cities


Top employers

According to the city's Official Website the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 County of Merced 1980
2 Merced City School District 1300
3 AT&T Call Center 1,200
4 Merced Union High School District 890
5 Merced College 800
6 Quad Graphics 700
7 University of California, Merced 1,910
8 City of Merced 480
9 Scholle Corporation 370
10 WalMart 290

In the summer of 2014, the Castle Commerce Center's call center closed, subtracting 400 jobs from AT&T's share of employment.


Merced is ranked as the sixth-top producing county in California. In 2019, Merced County generated $3,271,000 billion in total value of production. The top five commodities from 2019 in Merced are:

Crops $ Amount (1,000) Ranking in CA % of State Total
Milk 905,116 2nd 15.5
Almonds 421,254 N/A 9.3
Cattle 297,451 4th 8.7
Chickens 294,633 2nd 8.1
Potatoes 234,964 1st 92.2


  • UC Merced Bobcats: softball and other athletic programs. Merced High School and Golden Valley High School sponsor athletics as well.

Merced has a history of minor league baseball including the California League Merced Bears (1940s) and Atwater Angels (1970s) in nearby Atwater, California. There were the defunct Merced Black Bears of the Horizon Air Summer Series and the current Atwater Aviators of the Golden State Collegiate Baseball League.


Science and Engineering 1 building at University of California, Merced

Merced is home to a community college, Merced College  and the University of California Merced. UC Merced now enrolls 8,321 undergraduate and 772 graduate students for a total of 9,093 students, as reported in the university's fall 2021 census. Of the 2021-2022 undergraduate degrees awarded, the top degrees were: 19% Biological Sciences, 16% Psychology, 11% Management, and 10% Computer Science Engineering. The University of California, Merced campus opened in late 2005 northeast of the city limits. UC Merced enrolled about 7,967 students during the 2017–2018 academic year. Merced is served by the Merced City School District, which has five main middle schools, Cruickshank Middle School, Herbert Hoover Middle School, Rivera Middle School, Weaver Middle School and Tenaya Middle School. There are also 14 elementary schools in this district. Merced Union High School District has three major public high school campuses, Merced High School, Golden Valley High School, and El Capitan High School as well as a few smaller campuses offering alternative education. Merced's community college, Merced College, has an enrollment of 8,996 students as of January 2021.

Notable people

See also

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