SAN FRANCISCO — Tiny Indian Wells, a golfing retirement community 15 miles south of Palm Springs in Riverside County, is where California's most affluent people live, according to the latest population and income statistics released by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
By those same statistics, Parlier, a farming area in Fresno County, is the state's poorest town.
The Commerce Department estimates 1983 per capita income (the latest year surveyed) for Indian Wells' 1,191 people as $42,373. In Parlier, the per capita income for the town's 5,977 people is estimated as $3,341.
Between those two extremes, there are any number of areas with great affluence and relative poverty. But the figures, according to those who make a study of such things, can be misleading. A house in Parlier, for instance, may cost only a fraction of what a similar structure in Indian Wells would.
Rolling Hills Second
Rolling Hills, a community of 2,071 in Los Angeles County, is second to Indian Wells in per capita income, with $41,361. Nearby Hidden Hills, with a population of only 1,842, ranks third at $32,056.
Next come the two San Mateo County communities of Hillsborough, population 10,562, with $30,869, and Portola Valley, population 4,077, $30,025.
Surprisingly, the desert oases of Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert, which border Indian Wells, rank well down the list in per capita income even though many wealthy movie stars and sports and political personalities live there.
Rancho Mirage, home to such celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and former President Gerald R. Ford, has a per capita income of $23,788, while Palm Desert's is only $15,219. Palm Springs, up the road, has an even lower per capita income of $14,008.
The five towns with the lowest per capita income, led by Parlier, all are in Fresno County, but Fresno doesn't rate as the state's poorest county. In fact, it isn't even in the bottom five.
Yuba County, where the per capita income is $6,672, ranks as poorest. Next is Imperial County, with $6,690, followed by Del Norte, $6,900; Tulare, $7,142; and Tehama, $7,417. Not surprisingly, all are primarily rural.
At the other end of the income scale, four of the state's five richest counties are in the urban San Francisco Bay Area, where commerce dominates. The top five are, in order, Marin, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Orange.
Marin Income $16,311
The per capita income for Marin is listed as $16,311; San Mateo, $13,902; Contra Costa, $12,876; Santa Clara, $12,869; and Orange, $12,382. San Francisco ranks a close sixth at $12,116.
Los Angeles, the state's most populous county by a wide margin, has a per capita income of $10,510--well below the second-most populous county, Orange. San Diego County, No. 3, has $10,122; Santa Clara, No. 4, $12,869; and Alameda, No. 5, $11,308.
The entire state's 1983 population is listed at 25,622,497, up from 23,667,947 in 1980. Los Angeles city is No. 1, with 3,096,668; followed by San Diego, with 960,452; San Francisco, with 712,753; San Jose, with 686,178; and Oakland, with 351,898.
Los Angeles had the biggest growth in the period, increasing its population by 128,000. San Diego grew by 85,000.