Since World War II
Under the leadership of Governor Earl Warren (1943-53), California experienced a major economic boom. There was the largest influx of newcomers in the state's history, leading to overcrowding of schools and shortages of housing and water. In 1952, one of California's United States senators, Richard M. Nixon, was elected vice president. Also that year, Governor Warren became Chief Justice of the United States.
In the 1960's, San Francisco became a center of the "hippie” subculture, made up of young people who rejected mainstream values and embraced communal living, used drugs freely, and ignored conventional restraints on sexual activity. Students at the University of California at Berkeley began a "Free Speech Movement” in 1964 to protest limitations on political activity on campus. California students also demanded a greater voice in university administration.
In 1965, riots erupted in Watts, a predominantly black area in Los Angeles. The violence was attributed to the residents' frustration with poor housing, unemployment, and racial discrimination. That same year, Mexican-American migrant workers in California's grape industry began a five-year strike, under the leadership of Cesar Chavez, for better wages and living conditions.
Also in the 1960's, California surpassed New York as the nation's most populous state. In 1965, California's Indians were granted some $30 million by the federal government to compensate them for lands taken from them in the 19th century. Ronald Reagan was elected governor in 1967, and pledged to reduce state spending and cut taxes. Former senator Nixon was elected President of the United States in 1968.
In the 1960's and 1970's, California became a center of the semiconductor and computer industries. The Santa Clara Valley, south of San Francisco, came to be nicknamed Silicon Valley because numerous companies manufacturing silicon computer chips were located there. In the 1970's, California, like many other states, had problems with pollution, unemployment, and inflation. In 1978 a voter initiative enacted a constitutional amendment, popularly called Proposition 13, that drastically cut property taxes and limited the growth of government.
During the recession of 1981-82, the state suffered high unemployment and a sharp drop in tax revenues. Widespread crop and property damage resulted from severe winter storms during 1981-83. In 1989 the northern part of the state was hit by a major earthquake that caused extensive property damage and about 50 deaths.
Partly due to the large numbers of immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere and Central America, the state's population continued to have great growth rates. In 1986, a referendum was approved to make English the state's official language, and in 1994 another was passed to block illegal immigrants from receiving certain social services. The 1994 implementation was blocked by lawsuits and abandoned in 1999; Governor Gray Davis said most of the proposition was covered by 1996 federal immigration laws.
The recession of the early 1990's led to severe financial problems for the state government. In April, 1992, race riots in the Los Angeles area claimed some 50 lives and caused substantial property damage. The Los Angeles area was also struck by major earthquakes in June 1992 and January 1994.
California deregulated its electric industry in 1996. In 2001 the state experienced blackouts and high energy costs. California held a special election in 2003 in which Governor Gray Davis was recalled—that is, removed from office. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a motion picture actor, was elected in his place. In 2006, Schwarzenegger was elected to a full term as governor.