In addition to being a popular tourist and resort destination, the city has a robust economy which includes a large service sector, education, technology, health care, finance, agriculture, manufacturing, and local government. In 2004, the service sector accounted for fully 35% of local employment. Education in particular is well-represented, with five institutions of higher learning on the south coast (the University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College, Westmont College, Antioch University, and the Brooks Institute of Photography.) The Santa Barbara Airport services the city, as does Amtrak. U.S. Highway 101 connects the Santa Barbara area with Los Angeles to the south and San Francisco to the north. Behind the city, in and beyond the Santa Ynez Mountains, is the Los Padres National Forest, which contains several remote wilderness areas.
As of the census of 2000, there were 92,325 people*, 35,605 households, and 18,941 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,865.3 people per square mile (1,878.1/km²). There were 37,076 housing units at an average density of 1,953.8/sq mi (754.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 74.04% White, 1.77% African American, 1.07% Native American, 2.77% Asian, 0.14% Pacific Islander, 16.37% from other races, and 3.85% from two or more races. People of Hispanic or Latino background, of any race, were 35.02% of the population. (*This number was revised to 89,600 when it was discovered that a dormitory population outside the city was erroneously included in the 92,325 figure.)
There were 35,605 households out of which 24.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.8% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.8% were non-families. 32.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.17.
In the city the population was spread out with 19.8% under the age of 18, 13.8% from 18 to 24, 32.3% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 97.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $47,498, and the median income for a family was $57,880. Males had a median income of $37,116 versus $31,911 for females. The per capita income for the city was $26,466. About 7.7% of families and 13.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.8% of those under age 18 and 7.4% of those age 65 or over. If one compares the per capita income to the actual cost of living, the number of people living below the poverty line is considerably higher. In June 2004, the median home price in Santa Barbara surpassed $1,000,000 for the first time.
In 2006, according to the California State Department of Finance, the population of Santa Barbara (now 89,548) had been surpassed by that of Santa Maria, which had thus become the most populous city in Santa Barbara County. Santa Maria's growth can be attributed to its cost of living, Santa Barbara's limited growth policies, and more available land area for Santa Maria().
Santa Barbara is bisected by U.S. Route 101, a primary transportation corridor that links the city to the rest of the Central Coast region. The Santa Barbara Airport offers commercial air service. Amtrak offers rail service through the Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner trains at the train station on State Street. The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) provides local bus service across the city, and Greyhound bus stations are located downtown and in nearby Goleta. Electric shuttles operated by MTD ferry tourists and shoppers up and down lower State Street and to the wharf.