Arcata, originally Union Town or Union, is a city adjacent to the Arcata Bay (northern) portion of Humboldt Bay in Humboldt County, California, United States. At the 2010 census, Arcata’s population was 17,231. Arcata, located 280 miles (450 km) north of San Francisco (via Highway 101), is home to Humboldt State University. Arcata is also the location of the Arcata Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for the administration of natural resources, lands and mineral programs, including the Headwaters Forest, on approximately 200,000 acres of public land in Northwestern California.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.0 square miles (28.5 km), of which 9.1 square miles (23.6 km) is land and 1.9 square miles (4.9 km) (17.25%) is water.
Arcata contains major public and shopping areas within the city. They include: the Downtown/Plaza Area, Northtown, and Valley West (each of these are also large neighborhoods). There are additional named neighborhoods encompassed by the city: They include: Aldergrove, Alliance (which was once a separate community located North of Arcata), Arcata Bottoms, portions of Bayside (despite it having its own Post Office and postal code), Bayview, California Heights, the Creamery District, Fickle Hill (lower portions), Greenview, the Marsh District (aka South G Street), Redwood Park (which includes the City owned Redwood forest), Sunny Brae, Sunset, and Westwood. Arcata also has the Arcata Marsh, a preserve located on the City’s bay shore.
Changing populations have happened in timber and mining towns in the American West as a result of boom and bust economic cycles. Some towns decrease in population following a bust, while some, like Arcata, experience a change in demographics. In the case of Arcata, the peak and the bust were close due to Arcata’s relatively late entry into the timber industry, and its domination by mechanization. The population of the city of Arcata was 3,729 during its peak 1950, when lumber was exported throughout the country and abroad. For the County of Humboldt, the age distribution for urban residents, which would include Arcata, had 23.7% of the population under the age of 15. Those that would be considered young workers (age 15–24) made up 14% of the population. “Normal” aged workers (age 25–39) made up 23.9% of the population. Older working age (age 40–54) made up 19.4% of the population. Pre-retirement aged (age 55–64) made up 9.7% of the population. Those of retirement age (age 65 and older) made up 9.1% of the population. For Arcata specifically, those age 65 and older were 8.3% of the population in 1950, and the median age was 29.4 years.
After the bust, in 1955, the population of Arcata in 1960 was 5,235. In Arcata the population under the age of 15 was 28.1%. Those age 15–24 made up 22.8% of Arcata’s population. Those age 25–39 made up 19.4% of the population. Those age 40–54 made up 16% of Arcata’s population. Those age 55–64 made up 6.7% of Arcata’s population. Those age 65 and over made up 6.9% of Arcata’s population.
Overall, census data reflects a lowering in the age of the Arcata population, due to an influx of young workers, due to there not being enough time after the bust for older workers to leave, in the decade between 1950 and 1960, during which the timber industry peaked and busted.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Arcata had a population of 17,231. The population density was 1,567.4 people per square mile (605.2/km²).
The racial makeup of Arcata was:
The Census reported that 15,486 people (89.9% of the population) lived in households, 1,745 (10.1%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 were institutionalized.
There were 7,381 households, out of which 1,275 (17.3%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 1,651 (22.4%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 649 (8.8%) had a female householder with no husband present, 325 (4.4%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 764 (10.4%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 75 (1.0%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 2,730 households (37.0%) were made up of individuals and 524 (7.1%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10. There were 2,625 families (35.6% of all households); the average family size was 2.73.
The population dispersal was with 2,164 people (12.6%) under the age of 18, 5,891 people (34.2%) aged 18 to 24, 4,619 people (26.8%) aged 25 to 44, 3,149 people (18.3%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,408 people (8.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 26.1 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.0 males.
There were 7,722 housing units at an average density of 702.4 per square mile (271.2/km²), of which 7,381 were occupied, of which 2,519 (34.1%) were owner-occupied, and 4,862 (65.9%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.2%; the rental vacancy rate was 2.2%. 5,496 people (31.9% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 9,990 people (58.0%) lived in rental housing units.
As of the census of 2000, there were 16,651 people, 7,051 households, and 2,813 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,812.1 people per square mile (699.6/km²). There were 7,272 housing units at an average density of 791.4 per square mile (305.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city in 2010 is 76.3% non-Hispanic White, 1.9% non-Hispanic Black or African American, 1.9% Native American, 2.5% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from other races, and 5.0% from two or more races. 11.6% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
The composition of Arcata’s households reflect the large number of unrelated college-age students living together. Of the 7,051 households in Arcata, only 19.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, only 25.9% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, while 60.1% were non-families. 34.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.81.
Arcata’s age cohorts are also distorted by a large percentage of college-age students. Only 15.3% of Arcata residents are under the age of 18, while nearly a third (32.3%) fall between ages 18 and 24, and 27.8% are 25 to 44 years old. Among older age cohorts, 15.9% are 45 to 64 years old, and 8.7% were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 26 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.9 males.
As of 2002, there were 8,210 employed persons living in Arcata and an unemployment rate of 7.2%. For many years the timber industry dominated Arcata’s economy. Today, the majority of Arcata jobs come from government (including schools and Humboldt State University), the city’s many owner-resident small businesses, some lumber and food manufacturing, and a wide variety of service industries (ranging from professional services to restaurant and hospitality). A large but unmeasurable cannabis economy employs many in Arcata and the surrounding area. The area’s economy and population are both growing more slowly than the State of California overall.
Median reported household income in Arcata was $22,315, and the median income for a family was $36,716. Males had a median income of $26,577 versus $24,358 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,531, however this figure may be artificially low due to the large student population. About 14.3% of families and 32.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.4% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or over.