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According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 179.6 km² (69.3 mi²). 179.0 km² (69.1 mi²) of it is land and 0.6 km² (0.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.32% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 180,480 people, 73,904 households, and 41,681 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,008.3/km² (2,611.4/mi²). There are 79,453 housing units at an average density of 443.9/km² (1,149.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 77.46% White, 2.58% African American, 1.26% Native American, 5.29% Asian, 0.56% Pacific Islander, 9.26% from other races, and 3.60% from two or more races. 19.18% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 73,904 households out of which 27.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.5% are married couples living together, 10.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 43.6% are non-families. 32.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.2% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.38 and the average family size is 3.06.
In the city the population is spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 11.8% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 11.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 104.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 104.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $40,530, and the median income for a family is $49,582. Males have a median income of $33,204 versus $26,763 for females. The per capita income for the city is $22,520. 12.6% of the population and 8.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 16.3% are under the age of 18 and 7.1% are 65 or older.
As early as the 1850’s a few pioneers settled in the Truckee Meadows, a relatively fertile valley through which the Truckee River made its way from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. In addition to subsistence farming, these early residents could pick up a bit of business from travellers along the California trail, which followed the Truckee westward as far as Donner Lake, where the formidable obstacle of the Sierras began.
Gold had been discovered in the vicinity of Virginia City in 1850 and a modest mining community developed, but the discovery of the silver in 1859 lead to one of the greatest mining bonanzas of all time as the Comstock Lode spewed forth treasure. The Comstock’s closest connection to the outside world lay in the Truckee Meadows.
To provide the necessary connection between Virginia City and the California trail, Charles Fuller built a log toll bridge across the Truckee River in 1859. A small community to service travellers soon grew up near the bridge. After two years, Fuller sold the bridge to Myron Lake, who continued to develop the community with the addition of a grist mill, kiln and livery stable to the hotel and eating house. The tiny community acquired the name Lake’s Crossing.
In 1868, the Central Pacific railroad, building track across the west to connect with the Union Pacific, building from the east, and form the first transcontinental railroad, reached the Truckee Meadows. Myron Lake, realizing what a rail connection would mean for business, deeded land to the Central Pacific in exchange for its promise to build a depot at Lake’s Crossing. Once the railroad station was established, the town of Reno officially came into being on May 13, 1868. The new town was named in honor of Major General Jesse L. Reno, a Union officer killed in the Civil War. (Had Jesse Reno not changed the spelling of his name early in life, presumable the biggest little city would today by Renault, Nevada.)
The extension of the Virginia and Truckee railroad to Reno in 1872 provided another big boost to the new city’s economy. In the following decades, Reno continued to grow and prosper as a business and agricultural center and became the principal settlement on the transcontinental railroad between Sacramento and Salt Lake City. However, political power in Nevada remained with the mining communities, first Virginia City and later Tonopah and Goldfield.
As the mining boom waned early in the twentieth century, Nevada’s centers of political and business activity shifted to the non-mining communities, especially Reno and Las Vegas, and today the former mining metropolises stand as little more than ghost towns. Despite this, Nevada still acounts for over 11% of world Gold production.
Nevada’s legalization of casino gambling in 1931 and the passage of liberal divorce laws created another boom for Reno. The divorce business eventually died as the other states fell in line by passing their own laws easing the requirements for divorce, but gambling continued as a major Reno industry. Casinos in other states, Indian gambling, and state lotteries have shown little impact on Reno.