Transience and Fresh Blood, Two Sides of the Same Coin

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Every community needs fresh blood — newcomers who bring  different perspectives and creative ideas. But it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. If everyone is a newcomer, communities lose social cohesion. Transients don’t have the same stake in a community that the old-timers do and they’re less likely, all other things being equal, to participate in the political process, engage civically and contribute to local causes.

I thought it would be interesting to see which localities in Virginia are most dominated by newcomers. Working with Internal Revenue Service migration data, which tracks the movement of tax filers between 2010 and 2011, I calculated the percentage of in-migrant tax filers for that year as a percentage of all tax filers, and then ranked Virginia’s localities. (Click here to view a spreadsheet of all Virginia localities.)

Though not especially surprising, the findings are interesting. The most transient localities in Virginia, as seen in the chart above, are cities and the state’s most urbanized county, Arlington. Prince George County, southeast of the Richmond-Petersburg region, is the only anomaly.

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The localities with the least fresh blood tend to be rural, poor and geographically isolated, predominantly in the mountain regions of Virginia, but some from the red clay country of the Southern Piedmont.

There is an extraordinary difference in the degree of transience. Fredericksburg had almost nine times the number of newcomers expressed as a percentage of all tax filers in 2011 that Dickenson County did.

By itself, this data is little more than a curiosity. It becomes useful when correlated with transience/fresh blood with economic indicators such as job growth, income growth, housing prices and other cost of living indicators, education, voting participation and various indices of social engagement.

– JAB

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6 responses to “Transience and Fresh Blood, Two Sides of the Same Coin

  1. I’d be curious to see Stafford and Spotsylvania and those two and Fredericksburg comprise our region which is heavily commuter-centric – and exurban – and many work at Federal Govt and/or contractor jobs – at the Pentagon, Quantico, Belvoir, and other job centers that tend to be transient.

    so – looking at the 3-jurisdiction region – 300,000 people but there is not only “new” folks but turnover…

  2. larryg,

    I think that’s the most interesting region of the state from a demographers perspective.

  3. One noticeable pattern looking at the more mobile localities is that they are mostly cities, which have higher percentages of renters than in their neighboring counties. And renters are more likely to move than home owners.

    The localities with lower migration rates are mostly rural ones with large older populations, many of whom don’t have to file a tax return.

    • In the Fredericksburg Area – which includes beyond the city itself the two adjacent counties of Spotsylvania and Stafford is chock-a-block with single family home subdivisions which have “affordable” homes ( 300-400K) relative to the same type of home in NoVa which will go for twice as much.

      They buy here – then when/if they leave they put it up for sale … we always have “churn” along those lines (as opposed to a lot of folks renting) although during the housing crash – there was a world of hurt… for them – and many locally-working teachers and deputies got bargains.

      but now we’re back to normal order… and we’re routinely approving several hundred home subdivisions again.

      • How can that be? Doesn’t everyone want to live cheek to jowl in apartments?

        • well, 300,000 out of 2 million don’t … but you do have to discount Fredericksburg where folks love living cheek by jowl and walking to VRE in the morning!

          but the lifestyle does not come cheap either in terms of time and money both individual and taxpayer.

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