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According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 203.0 km² (78.4 mi²). 202.3 km² (78.1 mi²) of it is land and 0.7 km² (0.3 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.36% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 255,166 people, 82,005 households, and 58,141 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,261.5/km² (3,267.2/mi²). There are 85,974 housing units at an average density of 425.0/km² (1,100.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 59.32% White, 7.41% African American, 1.09% Native American, 5.68% Asian, 0.39% Pacific Islander, 21.00% from other races, and 5.10% from two or more races. 38.14% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 82,005 households out of which 39.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.3% are married couples living together, 14.8% have a female householder with no husband present, and 29.1% are non-families. 21.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 7.2% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 3.02 and the average family size is 3.54.
In the city the population is spread out with 30.1% under the age of 18, 12.9% from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 18.0% from 45 to 64, and 9.0% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 30 years. For every 100 females there are 97.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 93.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $41,646, and the median income for a family is $47,254. Males have a median income of $36,920 versus $28,328 for females. The per capita income for the city is $17,882. 15.8% of the population and 11.7% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 18.9% are under the age of 18 and 8.0% are 65 or older.
Riverside is home to the University of California, Riverside and prides itself on its historic connection to the navel orange, which was introduced to North America by researchers at the university.
Riverside's downtown area is known as the "Mission Inn District", after the Mission Inn, a hotel that was modeled after the missionss left along the California coast by Catholic monks in the 18th century. However, no missionaries of the era actually came as far inland as Riverside.