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According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.1 km² (10.8 mi²). 27.6 km² (10.7 mi²) of it is land and 0.5 km² (0.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 1.66% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 44,174 people, 18,639 households, and 7,697 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,600.0/km² (4,144.5/mi²). There are 19,306 housing units at an average density of 699.3/km² (1,811.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 84.11% White, 1.46% African American, 0.65% Native American, 5.28% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 4.82% from other races, and 3.55% from two or more races. 11.65% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 18,639 households out of which 17.7% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.3% are married couples living together, 7.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 58.7% are non-families. 32.7% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.5% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.27 and the average family size is 2.86.
In the city the population is spread out with 14.2% under the age of 18, 33.6% from 18 to 24, 23.7% from 25 to 44, 16.5% from 45 to 64, and 12.1% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 26 years. For every 100 females there are 105.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 106.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $31,926, and the median income for a family is $56,319. Males have a median income of $41,915 versus $27,407 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,386. 26.6% of the population and 7.1% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 9.3% are under the age of 18 and 4.6% are 65 or older.
San Luis Obispo is also home to California Polytechnic State University, or Cal Poly SLO for short. Cal Poly's home to approximantly 18000 students working on degrees ranging from Computer Science and Viticulture to Mechanical Engineering and Animal Science.