Magnetic anisotropy of La0.8Ca0.2MnO3 (LCMO) epitaxial thin films grown on (001) SrTiO3 and LaAlO3 a substrates exhibits strong correlation with substrate-induced strain states as determined by normal and grazing incidence x-ray diffraction. In a 250 Å thick LCMO (001)T film grown on SrTiO3 substrate, an in-plane biaxial magnetic anisotropy is observed, and it is accompanied by a substrate-induced in-plane biaxial tensile strain. In contrast, the observed magnetic easy axis for a 250 Å (110)T film grown on LaAlO3 substrate is perpendicular to the film plane, and the corresponding in-plane strain is biaxial compressive. In both cases the magnetic easy axes are along the crystallographic directions under tensile strain, indicating the presence of a positive magnetostriction. In thicker films (∼4000 Å) grown on both substrates that are nearly strain relaxed, the magnetic easy axis lies in the film plane along the  direction of the (001) substrate. © 1999 American Institute of Physics.