Is the population of Arlington County growing or shrinking? The latest 30-year projection by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service in Charlottesville forecasts that the county will decline by nearly 10,000 to under the 200,000 mark by 2040. But Arlington planners, looking out their windows at the 1,380 new housing units under construction, project that an additional 36,000 residents will move to the densely urbanized jurisdiction by 2040.
The question is of more than academic interest, for state and regional organizations base their long-range planning on the Weldon Cooper forecast, not the forecasts of individual localities. And, as The Washington Post points out, the projections are used to allocate state funding for everything from roads to schools.
The Weldon Cooper’s Demographics & Workforce Group uses a methodology that to a large degree extrapolates from past trends. But, as argued repeatedly on this blog, the United States has reached an inflection point in which population growth is shifting from the metropolitan frontier back toward the urban core. The real-world picture in Arlington looks very different from the theoretical projections coming out of Charlottesville. As the old joke goes, who are you going to believe — me or your own lying eyes?