The First 5 Kern story.

About Kern County


Home to nearly 890,000 residents Kern is the eleventh most populous county which is larger than the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming.

Compared to the population of the nation as a whole, Kern residents are (in general) younger, less educated, have lower income and are more likely to be Hispanic.

At the 2010 Census,43% of Kern’s population was of Hispanic heritage. 67% spoke English. The population’s racial background was:

  • 4% Asian
  • 6% Black
  • 2% Native American
  • 24% Other
  • 60% White

Other population dynamics:

  • 10% of Kern residents are unemployed.
  • 14% of unemployed adults 25 and over are without a high school diploma.
  • 11% have a high school diploma.
  • 4% have a bachelor’s degree.
  • 29% of those living at or below the poverty level have no high school diploma; 17% have a high school diploma and 4% have a bachelor’s degree.

In Kern, fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $844. Median gross rent $906.

Median household income is $48,021; median family income $42,041. With a bachelor’s degree, median earnings are $58,600. With a high school diploma $29,200; without a high school diploma $20,000.


A summary of children in Kern…

13,800 babies were born in Kern in 2015.

76% of babies are born to mothers who received prenatal care in the first trimester. 7% are born with a low birth-weight.

Of the 258,383 children in Kern County:

  • 81,230 children (29,505 families) live in poverty. 48% of those living in poverty are led by single mother heads of household.
  • 10,000 children live with grandparents.
  • 110,000 live with foreign-born parents.

Of Kern’s children under 5-years-old:

  • 37% live in poverty (which is significantly higher than the state rate of 22%).
  • 15,000 are under 1-year-old.
  • 29,000 are 1 to 2-years-old.
  • 43,500 are 3 to 5-years-old.

Households of children:

  • 67,580 live in food insecure households.
  • 130,000 qualify for free or reduced school lunches.
  • 89,000 live in households receiving SSI, cash public assistance, or food stamp benefits.
  • 156,392 children have working parents (34% of whom are under age five).
  • 97% of children have health insurance; 20% of those without health insurance are under 5-years-old.
  • 52% live in renter-occupied housing (73% of which are single mother households).
  • 3,300 suffer neglect each year (38% are under 1-year-old; 17% are between 1- and 2-years-old; 15% are 3- to 5-years-old; 16.4% are ages 6- to 17-years-old).

Child care logistics include:

  • 18%, or 19,448 child care slots, are for children of working parents (far below the state percentage of 25%).
  • The average, annual cost of full-time child care for an infant in a child care center is $12,000; in a family child care home cost is $7,800. The average, annual cost of full-time child care for a preschooler in a child care center is $8,300; in family child care home, $7,200.


There are 47 school districts in Kern, 181,000 children are enrolled. 73% of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged; 65% are Hispanic (23% English learners); 10% are special education; 4% are migrant education.


Kern County is the third largest county in California geographically, 8,163 square miles, and the 20th largest county in the US. With areas ranging from the scenic desert (Mojave) to snow-covered mountains (Sierra Nevada), the Kern River which weaves through the Kern Canyon, and vast oil and agricultural land.

Eleven of Kern’s 59 cities are incorporated, 120 communities are unincorporated.

  • Arvin 19,000
  • Bakersfield  348,000
  • California City 14,000
  • Delano 53,000
  • Maricopa 1,000
  • McFarland 13,000
  • Ridgecrest 28,000
  • Shafter 17,000
  • Taft 9,000
  • Tehachapi 14,000
  • Wasco 26,000

Economic Development

Kern County Economic Development Corporation VIDEO
Kern is the number one oil and agriculture-producing county in the nation, with the second most diverse economy. Kern is the energy building capital and has a flourishing healthcare infrastructure.


The county seat is Bakersfield, the largest metropolitan area, located 100 miles north of Los Angeles; and is a thoroughfare for Highway 99, Interstate 5. Major waterways include the California Aqueduct and the Kern River.

Kern County has 11 commercial airports, two military installations, four state prisons and two federal correctional facilities, five bus transit entities, two major bus stages, Amtrak, and three television stations. Kern is the largest producer of petroleum-based energy in the state and is a top national producer. Kern contributes more than 75% of onshore oil in California. A significant producer of natural gas, hydroelectric, solar and wind power (containing nearly 25% of California’s renewable energy), Kern is also noted for its mineral wealth including gold, borate, kernite (or rasorite) and borax.

Kern ranked number one for the value of agricultural products in 2016, across the nation, generating $7.2 billion. One in five jobs is related to the agricultural industry, from farmer to hauler, and farm workers. A significant provider of crops, Kern is home to more than 300 commodities) generating: 75% of the state’s carrots production; 47% of the state’s cherry production (9th in the nation); and 46% of the state’s potato production. Kern’s top commodities in 2016 were: grapes, almonds, citrus, pistachios, and milk.

Challenges for the County are that Kern consistently ranks low in major health indicators from birth outcomes, mortality, communicable and chronic disease, air quality, healthcare coverage, and food insecurity. Kern ranks last in diabetes deaths, 56th (of 58) in coronary heart disease deaths, 39th in cancer deaths. 33% of adults are obese, ranking Kern 49th, statewide.

Kern ranked 37th for uninsured residents. Uninsured individuals often have poorer health outcomes delaying or forgoing care, not having continuity of care, and often face other socioeconomic burdens.

Political Officials

Kern County Board of Supervisors: District 1 – Phillip Peters; District 2 – Zack Scrivner; District 3 – Mike Maggard; District 4 – David Couch; District 5 – Leticia Perez
California 26th Assembly District – Devon Mathis (R)
California 32nd Assembly District – Rudy Salas (D)
California 34th Assembly District – Vince Fong (R)
California 36th Assembly District – Tom Lackey (R)
California 14th Senate District – Melissa Hurtado (D)
California 16th District – Shannon Grove (R)
US 21st Congressional District – David Valadao (R)
US 23rd Congressional District – Kevin McCarthy (R)
US Senator – Alex Padilla (D)
US Senator – Dianne Feinstein (D)