The city is home to a state university and several colleges, so there is a mixture of transient residents and established families and individuals. In general, the people of San Marcos are somewhat better educated than the rest of the country, with 28 percent of adults holding at least a bachelor's degree. Work-wise, the city boasts a mixture of both blue-collar and white-collar jobs. The majority of people work in math and computers, sales jobs, administrative and office support, and management positions. San Marcos is a city that is very ethnically diverse, with 23 percent of its population being born in a foreign country. Over half the population is white, although Asians and Hispanics are prevalent as well.

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San Marcos is located in the northern part of San Diego County. It is bordered by Carlsbad to the west, Vista to the northwest, Escondido to the east, and Encinitas to the southwest. It is a medium-sized city that has 14 different neighborhoods. More than half of the homes are single family dwellings, and the majority of them are either established homes that were built between 1970 and 1999, or they are newer homes built in 2000 or later. Housing costs are higher than many areas of the country, although they are somewhat more affordable than real estate in the most expensive areas of California.

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