Virginia Migration Trends

Net Domestic and International Migration, Virginia, 2010-2020. Source: “2021 State of the Commonwealth Report”

by James A. Bacon

Over the decade between 2010 and 2020, Virginia lost more than 80,000 inhabitants through domestic out-migration (a figure that captures the number of people moving across state lines within the United States). But it more than offset that loss through an international in-migration of roughly 300,000, according to data published in the “2021 State of the Commonwealth Report” by the Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy at Old Dominion University.

When broken down by metropolitan area, it turns out that the net domestic out-migration was concentrated in the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads metropolitan statistical areas. The Northern Virginia component of the Washington MSA lost a net of 157,000 domestic residents, while Hampton Roads bled 61,000. All of the state’s smaller metros, led by Richmond with 41,000, gained inhabitants through domestic in-migration.

A prime beneficiary of the domestic migration trends has been the Winchester metropolitan area, which receives special attention in the State of the Commonwealth report. Over the two decades between 2000 and 2020, notes the report, Winchester’s population increased at an annual compounded growth rate of 1.6%, for a gain of about 39,000 inhabitants. The largest contributor to Winchester’s growth by far was the Washington metro.

Components of population change comparing the U.S., Virginia, and Virginia’s metropolitan areas. Source: “2021 State of the Commonwealth Report.”

While Virginia has lost some allure for in-state inhabitants — “not a positive signal of the Commonwealth’s attractiveness,” observes the report — it still attracts a good share of international immigrants. The study does not delve into the question of why this is happening, but given the critical role of international migration in bolstering Virginia’s population and economy (and burdening its educational and welfare systems), this is a topic worth exploring.

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9 responses to “Virginia Migration Trends”

  1. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Whew. The teaser on Disqus ended at “through domestic…” and for a moment I was afraid it would be “violence”. Thank god it’s just migration.

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    The Richmond MSA is the real story here. It was, by far, the leader in domestic in-migration. That is a turnaround from previous periods.

  3. Over the two decades between 2000 and 2010, notes the report…

    2000 -2010 is one decade, not two.

    Did you mean to write 2000-2020?

    1. You are correct. Error corrected. Thanks.

  4. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    One question would be how many undocumented people we have? I started wondering about that when the NoVA counties started reported COVID statistics for different ethnic groups. When the COVID pandemic started, I believe our supervisor Chairman McKay mentioned that about 45% of Ffx Co households do not speak english at home. I saw a new sign yesterday saying no firearms in the park, they had to say it in quite a few different languages.

    1. how_it_works Avatar

      It is important to the NoVA economy to have a ready supply of clueless labor that will shack up 20 a house and work for crap wages.

  5. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Opinion is always welcome. But statements that migration to Virginia “is burdening its educational and welfare systems” appears to be more beer talk than objective conclusion. On the other hand, if the assertion is true, then as with all immigrant waves – like that of my parents – those systems will produce more productive residents.

  6. tmtfairfax Avatar

    But for foreign immigration, Fairfax County’s population would have declined for the last couple of decades.

    Some amazing people come here from all over the world. Many are extremely well educated and talented. They generally followed the rules to immigrate here. But many aren’t, most especially those who come here illegally. It wouldn’t be so bad if those who hire unauthorized workers had to cover society’s costs for providing extra services to those workers and their families.

  7. Most foreign-born in-migrants to the D.C. MSA have more degrees than you or I combined. Your true colors shined at the end there. What ignorance and bigotry.

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