San Luis Obispo is a city located in San Luis Obispo County California. San Luis Obispo has a 2023 population of 48,439. It is also the county seat of San Luis Obispo County.San Luis Obispo is currently growing at a rate of 0.94% annually and its population has increased by 2.83% since the most recent census, which recorded a population of 47,104 in 2020.
The average household income in San Luis Obispo is $96,358 with a poverty rate of 29.57%. The median rental costs in recent years comes to - per month, and the median house value is -. The median age in San Luis Obispo is 26 years, 25 years for males, and 27.6 years for females.
San Luis Obispo is a city located in the state of California. It is located about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles in San Luis Obispo County. This city is one of the oldest in California, as it was founded in 1772.
San Luis Obispo has a very diverse economy. Its top employer is California Polytechnic State University, which employs over 2,600 people. Other major employers include the County of San Luis Obispo, California Men’s Colony, Pacific Gas, and Electric and the Cal Poly Corporation.
San Luis Obispo’s population has continually grown since it was first established. In 1880, the city’s population was over 2,000. This number had more than doubled to over 5,000 when the 1910 census was taken. By 1950, the population exceeded 14,000 and at the time of the next census, had grown to over 20,000.
The city’s population experienced growth in the double-digit percentages until 2000, when it slowed slightly. However, it is continuing to grow at a steady and slow rate, with recent estimates showing that the population is up 5.3% since the last census was taken in 2010.
The Chumash people were the original inhabitants of the area that is now San Luis Obispo. In the 18th century, Gaspar de Portola's expedition entered the city. The name at the time was recorded as Canada de Los Osos. During the 1770s, missions were established throughout California, and it was decided that the area known as La Canada de Los Osos would become the fifth mission. In 1772, the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was built, and this would later become San Luis Obispo.
During its earliest history, the mission included a church, storerooms, barracks, the priests’ home, a mill, tannery and land for farming. After the Mexican War of Independence, there was a call for the secularization of California’s missions, although this didn’t occur until the 1830s. In 1834, the mission became a parish, and the land holdings were broken into land grants known as ranchos. Despite the land grants, the community remained in the same place and is now the center of the modern city of San Luis Obispo.
When California was annexed to the U.S. following the Mexican-American War, San Luis Obispo was incorporated as a town and was the first town in San Luis Obispo County. The town quickly earned a reputation of violence because of the robberies and murders that occurred and became known as Tiger Town.
The town’s economy was thriving in the 1850s as the price of beef rose after gold was discovered. Cattle was a primary driver of the economy until a drought occurred in the 1860s. At that point, more of a focus was put on mined goods, agriculture and dairies.
The city continued to grow with the construction of the Pacific Coast Railway and roads. Growth continued through the 20th century with the addition of many new homes, businesses, and other establishments, although many historic buildings remain intact today. The Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa has been restored, and it is the city center, which is surrounded by shops, boutiques, and restaurants. The city is very appealing to visitors and residents of all ages particularly for its outdoor activities including hiking, diving, sailing, and surfing.
According to the most recent ACS, the racial composition of San Luis Obispo was:
Two or more races
Black or African American
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
Average Family Size
Average Household Size
Rate of Home Ownership
Less Than 9th Grade
9th to 12th Grade
High School Graduate
High School Graduation Rate
The highest rate of high school graduation is among native american people with a rate of 87.68%.
The highest rate of bachelors degrees is among asian people with a rate of 39.65%.
Other Indo-European Languages
Asian and Pacific Island Languages
83.24% of San Luis Obispo residents speak only English, while 16.76% speak other languages. The non-English language spoken by the largest group is Spanish, which is spoken by 10.48% of the population.
Overall Poverty Rate
Male Poverty Rate
Female Poverty Rate
The race most likely to be in poverty in San Luis Obispo is Black, with 55.68% below the poverty level.
The race least likely to be in poverty in San Luis Obispo is Native, with 10.48% below the poverty level.
The poverty rate among those that worked full-time for the past 12 months was 5.48%. Among those working part-time, it was 49.98%, and for those that did not work, the poverty rate was 33.57%.
Overall Marriage Rate
Male Marriage Rate
Female Marriage Rate
The age group where males are most likely to be married is 45-54, while the female age group most likely to be married is 35-44.
Second Gulf War
First Gulf War
World War II
Less Than 9th Grade
High School Graduate
Bachelors or Greater
Veteran Poverty Rate
Veteran Disability Rate
Labor Force Participation
Non citizens include legal permanent residents (green card holders), international students, temporary workers, humanitarian migrants, and illegal immigrants.
Born in San Luis Obispo
94.61% of San Luis Obispo residents were born in the United States, with 70.19% having been born in California. 4.42% of residents are not US citizens. Of those not born in the United States, the largest percentage are from Latin America.