Bakersfield is at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, only about 120 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. It's a strange place. It's the fifth or sixth largest metropolitan area in California (running neck-and-neck with Fresno, farther up the valley) but as it got the biggest part of its growth after downtowns became unpopular it doesn't have much of a center.
Kern County got a lot of refugees from the dust bowl in the 1930s, and their descendants are a pretty conservative lot, but the metro population is now almost half Hispanic, so it's changing. The Oklahoma influence has been strong for a long time, though. Merele Haggard, the famous "Okie from Muskogee," was actually a native of Oildale in Kern County, and one of the progenitors of the Bakersfield sound
. But, yes, Bakersfield is like a displaced part of the Bible Belt.
Most of the industry is agriculture related or oil related (two of the oil fields involved in the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s are in Kern County.) It's also a sheep ranching region, and attracted a lot of Basques
. The county also has a sizable South Asian population, with Sikhs
among the larger groups. Bakersfield is actually pretty cosmopolitan, but it's hard to see that when looking at all that undifferentiated suburban sprawl.
The whole Sam Joaquin Valley is fairly poor. In fact a recent proposal by Silicon Valley crackpot millionaire Tim Draper to split California into six states would leave the proposed state of Central California the poorest in the nation
, with a per-capita income below that of Mississippi. To add insult to injury, it would bump up against Silicon Valley, the new richest
state in the Union, with nearly double the per capita income of Central California (well, it already does bump up against it, of course, but at least with both being part of California Silicon Valley has to help subsidize the region with taxes it pays to the state.)