Adjusting to Virginia’s New Demographics

It is conventional wisdom now that the massive influx of out-of-staters, mostly northerners, into Virginia is altering the state’s political complexion — challenging the once-invincible power base of the Republican Party. House Speaker William J. Howell allowed as much when speaking yesterday at a gathering of the Virginia Foundation for Research and Economic Education.

Howell said the state’s newest residents may not embrace the “shared values we have in Virginia,” reports Jeff Schapiro with the Times-Dispatch. The changing demographics of Virginia are “something that we have to adjust to.”

Maybe the GOP will adapt to the changing demographics, maybe it won’t. (I shy away from predicting political outcomes.) What you can count on is that the political center of Virginia will shift left, towards larger, more activist government, whichever party remains in control. Here’s my question: Will northern-born voters bring the same values and re-create the same kind of political economy that constricted economic opportunity in their home states and brought them to Virginia? Are the attitudes of the newcomers toward the size and role of government compatible with Virginia maintaining its “Best State for Business” rating?

Bottom line: Is Virginia’s government destined to look more like New York’s and New Jersey’s and less like North Carolina’s and Georgia’s? If so, what will that mean for our long-term prosperity?

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30 responses to “Adjusting to Virginia’s New Demographics”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    “The value of New England’s products and services is expected to post growth averaging 2.6% per year during a forecast period through 2011, compared with the 2.9% growth rate forecast for the nation, according to the forecast by a panel of economists.

    Growth in total employment is expected to average 0.9% per year in New England, below the national average of 1.2%. Regional per capita income is forecast at 2.3% per year, compared with the nation’s 2.5%. “


    “Housing production across much of New England is not expected to be adequate to meet demand in the years to come, and this market correction we are experiencing will make it even more difficult for developers,” Goodman said. “This underscores the need for the development of prudent state policies to develop more affordable housing in New England.”

    The New England Economic Partnership is a 36-year-old nonprofit forecast organization with members from private industry, government and academia.

    New England Democrats have been instrumental in such environmental initiatives as preventing new powerplants, landfills, and development. One result is that such enterprises and the people to run them have been exported.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Before we get too arrogant about the South, let’s consider that much of the South has some of the — if not the — lowest per capita income levels and highest infant mortality rates in the U.S. We’re talking Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia.
    You also could argue that Virginia hasn’t been a truly “Southern” state for decades.
    Unlike a number of other Southern states or would-be Southern states, Virginia enjoys a safety cushion of immense federal spending. It is the No. 2 defense industry state after California.
    It is ridiculous and insulting to question whether these “Northerners” will bring their negative ways with them. They should be welcomed since they will bring fresh ideas and perhaps a higher and better-informed level of debate than what we see typically on this blog.

  3. Virginia is turning to new leadership (in this case the Democrats) because the Republicans have done a poor job of governing. When state GOP leadres blame this on the migration of northerners it is both absurd and demonstrative of why people are giving up on the Republican Party in VA.

    The Republicans are falling out of favor in Virginia (and across the country) beacuse the Republicans have widely failed during their time in power.

    Unfortunately, I think that electing old school Democrats in place of old school Republicans will accomplish little to nothing.

    The bigger problem with people migrating to Virginia is that never really move here in their hearts and minds. They leave their hometowns because those hometowns have too little economic opportunity. Whether the opportunity is generated by federal spending is irrelevent. The jobs are here and now so are the people.

    The people who migrate to Northern Virgina often see their time here as temporary. I can’t even remember the number of people who tell me that they look forward to the day that they move back to Cleveland, Texas, wherever. I have gotten to the point of offering them my credit card to fill up their gas tanks and get headed back today. In many ways, these are people who ran away from economic problems in their hometown and will run away from Virginia as soon as we have economic problems here.

    They will change the political climate in Virgina mostly be being mentally absent from the political process. They will vote for whatever party they like nationally without much consideration as to the issues in Virginia. This will benefit the Democrats (thanks to President Bubba) over the forseeable future.

  4. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon 9:36: I think you will have to stay insulted.

    There are differences between the Northern sub-culture (and many sub-cultures in that pot) and the South (and some different sub-sub cultures in that pot). You can aggregate and disaggregate from the broad terms North and South or get more specific. (FYI, the current President of Harvard is from The Valley – and guess what field of history is her PhD?)

    In any case the differences can be discerned, quantified and displayed on normal curves using standard social science methodology (which I taught at West Point).

    DC is New Rome. And the Baby Boomer generation is retiring and many Northerners find Virginia affordable and appealing.

    Virginia has always considered itself “Above the South” – double entendre and more intended.

    Culture commands. Demographics are destiny – until the ideas that motivate humankind change the demographics and transform the culture.

    Which is why I usually say that we get the ‘best Yankees’ in Tidewater who are retired military, hate taxes, socialism, believe in National Defense and are Conservatives – highly influenced by their Christianity.

    Different folks are drawn by the magnet of the New Rome. It’s all about power. And the money power attracts.

    If that influx were under 30% of the population in any city or county, I’m confident that the still ascending Southern culture would dominate, convert and.. command as much as a sub-culture does. I’m not positive that the tipping point is 30% – but whatever it is, when it is reached you have a bit of conflict more than assimilation.

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Speaking as a Richmonder, I quite agree that northerners have brought fresh thinking — particularly to the business world. Most of the fast-growth companies that have arisen in this city have been created by outsiders. I shudder to think what the Richmond economy would look like without northern and foreign entrepreneurs.

    But take a look at the political economy of New York and New Jersey — is that something we really want to replicate here? If you’re originally from NY or NJ, maybe so. But you do have to worry about killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

    The tax and regulatory regime of New York state has damaged the economy of just about every metropolitan region in the state, with the exception of New York City, with its world-class financial industry. And how about Michigan, from whence VW is fleeing? There’s a high tax/big government state experiencing an economic melt-down in the middle of an economic expansion.

    As for your observations of the “south,” I would add this: There are really two “souths”. There are the prosperous Atlantic Coast states — Virginia, NC, GA and Fla (with SC as an exception) and the much poorer inland southern states: Ala., Miss., Tenn., Ark., Ken. Then there’s Texas, which does its own thing. The Southern Atlantic Coast states are one of the fastest growing, most prosperous regions of the country.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    I think regardless of where a community begins on the political spectrum, growth moves it to the center.

    As the old south was generally conservative, the newcomers will pull it left toward the center.

    I believe in that dynamic and take comfort in it because the extremes of both parties trouble me deeply.

  7. And I wonder just why it is Virginia is seeing this migration of northerners or better yet what is going on up north that would persuade those individuals to move to the Commonwealth.
    It is true that NVA is certainly becoming less of a traditional Virginia, but yet have we not seen that in the fcat that the federal government for the most part is a large component of that areas workforce. It would make since that residents of that area would favor a larger ie “big” government model and support more liberal programs on the federal level would it not?
    This election may be more telling of the changing of the VA Beach area with regard to party lines given the very fact of the traditional pro-Republican orientation of the military establishment and ideology supporting a stronger defense.
    We should also determine exactly how many Democrat to Republican Governors the Commonwealth has elected? Have we historically been more supportive of Republicans on the federal level and Democrats on the state level…over the course of our histroy that is?

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Both JABs,
    Interesting that neither one of you is a real Southerner. I guess when you’re not, you have to try harder.
    As for Bowden, I’m not insulted, just bewildered at these constant, pompous little lectures on sub, sub, sub cultures. Who do you think you are anyway?
    As for the president of Harvard U., they didn’t hire her because is a “Virginian” with a history degree, they hired her because she is politically a lot easier to handle than Larry Summers, which is too bad because I know him personally and believe him to be a bright and nice guy. He ran afoul of the gener elites that I’m sure Bowden will understand. If so, it’s the only topic on which I might ever agree with Bowden.(And please, don’t tell me aagin about your two Ivy League grad degrees!)

  9. E M Risse Avatar

    Are we sure that those moving into the Commonwealth of Virgina are from New York and New Jersey?

    The new folks in our cluster are from New Mexico (2), California, Ohio and Georgia.

    Also what is true for the New York New Urban Region (NUR) — the urbanized part of New Jersey except for the Jersey Shore USR is in the New York NUR or in the Philadelphia NUR — is not true for the rest of New York state. The New York Captial New Urban Region (Albany Schenectdy Troy) were we lived for half a decade reminds me a lot of the Richmond New Urban Region from many perspectives.


  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Ever hear of anybody retiring to Cleveland? BKD

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Actually, Cleveland has great sports (the Cavs, Browns and Indians), great culture (The CSO is one of the world’s best orchestras), some really great ethnic cuisine and a nice summer and early fall. The surrounding area looks more like rural New England than the flat Midwest (Cleveland was once part of the “Western Reserve” of Connecticut and for some reason Clevelanders love to have fall “clam bakes.”)
    Otherwise, the weather is bleak and uninviting. It might be a place for retirees who don’t mind the cold.
    Cleveland has long been the butt of jokes but actually cleaned itself up long ago.

  12. Always interesting to read the “real Southerner” comment.

    Robert E. Lee moved to Alexandria, VA when he was 3 years old. He attended the Alexandria Academy and prayed at the Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandria. His boyhood home is still a landmark in Old Town Alexandria.

    I guess he’s wasn’t a real Southerner either.

    I’ve met a whole lot of people from Atlanta, GA and Austin, TX (just to name two places) who seem a lot less “real Southern” than people I know in Woodbridge and Winchester.

    And the funny thing is that the less these people really know about the south the faster they declare others not to be “real Southerners”.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Cheers for your savvy understanding about the “Southern” moniker. I have lived in places farther South than Virginia and people there are hardly as self-concsious about being “Southern.”
    If anything, they are truly “Southern” in the sense that they are far more friendly, gentlemanly and hospitable than the transients and ex-military types on this blog who wave the stars and bars in your face all the time while they push their in-your-face diatribes against Northerners, Westerners, Mid-Westerners, gays, foreigners and anyone not appropriately white, patriotic and Protestant.
    Again, thanks for your insight.

  14. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Thanks Groveton for your comment.

    Anon: What is a real Southerner?

    You ask “who do you think you are anyway.” I’m not the subject of discussion. I’m writing about the topic. If you can address the issues, rather than focus on personalities, you will stay on topic better.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Thanks for your advice. But while we are on the topic and because you brought up personalities, you might want to consider how you come across. I usually find your tone — and often your points — patronizing and offensive. Most of the people on this blog are generally well educated and intelligent, but your style is to treat us as morons in need of little lectures that are condescending in the extreme. Look, I have lived and worked in the South for many, many years and not just in Virginia. I really do know its demographics, economics and politics — probably better than you do.
    Besides, this, I am politically as far away from your view on most topics as you might imagine. I gather your cock-sure attitude results from West Point, right?

  16. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon: The topic isn’t me. It is demographics in Virginia.

    If you know the South’s demographics then you followed the commentary about different sub-cultures, which makes your criticisms odd indeed.

    I don’t follow what you’re trying to say about demographics in Virginia.

  17. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    I cannot speak for other areas outside Fairfax County, but data I’ve seen suggests that most in-migration since 2000 has been from outside the US. In fact, while Fairfax County has gained population since 2000, net in-migration has been negative by more than 90,000 people. That population loss has more than been made up by immigrants.

    The interesting question to my mind is: What are the demographics of our new neighbors in Fairfax County? How many of them are engineers, Ph.Ds, finance majors, etc. versus those with little, if any, formal education, many of whom seem to be here without permission. I don’t know what the breakdown is, but would like to know.

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    I think thee salient demographic in NOVA is likely to be age, before long.

    12,000 baby boomers are retiring every day. What are we going to replace them with, and who is going to take care of them?


  19. Anonymous Avatar

    In regards to the Lee comment. Lee was born at Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County, in Virginia. I’m a little confused as to the allusion that Lee was not a Southerner by birth?

  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    good discussion (mostly).

    A comment – there are TONs of small midwest towns with good housing stock… and cheap.. relative to places like NoVa.

    Why would.. say someone from Cleveland… retire to NoVa where housing is ungodly expensive… roads are a nightmare, etc rather than a small town?

    two theories:

    50 miles south of DC in Fredericksburg (which is predominately NoVa job commuters) -retirement homes are a big industry.

    If you ask these folks why HERE, they say – “we wanted to be close to our son/daughter and our grandkids”.

    theory #2 – people don’t want to live in timbucktu in terms of shopping and cultural opportunties.

    they have gotten used to urban amenities and they don’t want to do without…

    thoughts? comments?

  21. NoVA Scout Avatar

    There is a group of Republican pols on the Virginia scene who, lacking skills of governance, have found that they can get along in their political quests with generous, sloppy dollops of talk about Family Values or even “Virginia Values.” This is really nutrition-less stuff in a governance context because it means nothing concrete and provides nothing programmatically toward Virginia’s government serve the legitimate needs of the citizens. Conversely, government that thinks itself capable of imposing “values” on its citizens is a government that not only is engaged in futility, but is also taking its eye off the ball of providing major infrastructure, education, and public safety. Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue with success, and there are several prominent Republicans in high office in this state who have displayed not the slightest evidence that they have a clue about the craft of governance (or anything else other than coughing up stem-winders built from cliches).

    Howell’s comments are essentially code (we call it Bolling-speak in my neighborhood) for saying that it’s getting more difficult to sell this snake-oil and we’re going to have to find a new miracle product with which to flim-flam the rubes for our personal benefit. If I’m being unfair and Howell’s genuine conclusion is that we’re going to have to talk turkey with the citizens about why our (Republican) brand is the better provider of government services, better manager of taxpayors’equity in the Commonwealth and he really believes it, then his comments are welcome. But I am more inclined to think we’re going to see more of a turning up the volume on the Virginia Values noise.

  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think NOVA scout’s comments about the difference between non-partisan Governance verses attempts to institute government-induced “values” is … dead on.

    The party of “values” has just as many scoundrels and violators of “family values” as the party often castigated as lacking values.

    In the end, many voters – whether they be native born Virginians or “come-heres” care a lot about how their lives are affected in positive everyday ways(or not)- mainstream values if you will….

  23. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry G., retirement patterns are interesting. From what I hear, and I’m certainly no expert, a majority of people retire in place, in the same towns they lived in before. The main reason, as you noted, is the desire to remain close to family and friends.

    However, a significant number of retirees move. Again, as you note, proximity to children frequently is a decisive factor. Also, retirees are looking for safe communities with the kinds of amenities they are looking for — golf courses, waterfront views, quailty health care, opportunities to access culture and learning.

    One more element in the mix is the role of developers who create retirement communities tailored to the needs/wants of older people.

    There you have it.

    Nova Scout, Republicans have been dishing out a lot of bunkum in recent years, but I think you need to give the guys in charge of the GOP caucus some credit for at least trying to grapple with some important issues. The transportation/land use reforms they instituted this year will have a big impact, mostly for the positive, I think. Just because the press doesn’t cover them doesn’t mean the reforms didn’t occur.

    My criticism of the GOP leaders is that their thinking isn’t bold enough. They would argue that they can’t get too far ahead of the electorate, or they’ll get clobbered in the polls. Possibly. The level of public understanding of the complex issues of governance is pretty pathetic. If you’re not talking about Paris Hilton, you lose people pretty quickly…

  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: retirements

    … JB … yes… it is a bit curious when retired parents MOVE to where their grown-up kids took a job (quite often in urbanized areas like NoVa)

    .. but what happens when the grown-up kids take a new job in a different urbanzied area?

    there must be more to the decision than .. just the kids… since I’m sure that most folks do understand that people (including their grown-up kids) change jobs .. every 2 years…

    OR… is the idea that job-rich urbanized areas _become_ the new home town for grown-up kids – who will simply change jobs within the urbanized area rather than move to another urbanized area?

    the above might well be meaningless blather.. but I’m willing to bet that some demographer somewhere… has written a thesis on eactly this subject… and that companies like Del Webb.. have read it


  25. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: bold Republican thinking

    ummm… okay.. I’ll stiffle it for now…

    how about naming some bold Republican thinkers in Virginia….

    Would you consider Gilmore a “bold” thinker?

    How about Mark Warner?

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t know where your retirement figures come from. I certainly don’t have any data, just a few observations.

    If people retire in place it is probably because their home is paid for, or nearly so. To move is a huge expense that only takes you away from neighbors and friends. My parents retired to relatives home, after they died, because they had none of their own.

    This was in an old factory town in Tennessee, and it was originally a factory house. Aside from putting them close to Grandma while she was still alive, it was very inexpensive.

    I guess you could say they retired back where they came from, but it was largely based on responsibilities and economics.

    I know a number of people who retired out of or from Fairfax and went to Western Loudoun, Fauquier, or even farther west and south: Winchester, West VA, and Rappahannock. You couldn’t drag them back to Fairfax with a team of oxen.

    Everybody else I know who has retired went South or Southwest, except a few that went overseas. Portugal, San Juan de Allende, Costa Rica, and strangly enough, Poland. And a couple of people who retired to their boats or RV’s to travel.

    If job-rich urbanized areas become the new home town for grown-up kids – who will simply change jobs within the urbanized area rather than move to another urbanized area, then that will be a big problem in planning sustainable and functional settlement and travel patterns.

    Maybe we need sustainable jobs first. Could it be that that “right to work” or “employment at will” is a major factor in our inability to achieve functional settlement patterns?


  27. Anonymous Avatar

    “Conversely, government that thinks itself capable of imposing “values” on its citizens is a government that not only is engaged in futility, but is also taking its eye off the ball of providing major infrastructure, education, and public safety.”

    Interesting comment, since much of the conversation here concerns itself with how government should provide the correct incentives or disincentives to encourage the “desired behavior” much of which depends on certain assumed values.


  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    It’s not that hard for those getting out of school.

    they look around and see what jobs are offered for their degree and the vast majority are in … urbanized areas…

    then once they get there… if they need to change jobs.. and they’re already invested in a place to live… the first option is to look around in the same urbanized area….

    .. unless the person is so career-focused… that they’ll go anywhere at anytime to get that next upgrade position…

    I call this the CEO-track… ๐Ÿ™‚

    but for most smucks… it’s simply about making enough money to pay for a car and a place to live.. and whatever extras make you happy.

    The “parents”.. simply “follow” their kids … so they can be near them… and their grandkids…

    and they don’t need to be next-door, basically.. within a half-day drive or so…for many…

    Now.. Del Webb also will build a retirement community in Podunk, Az also.. for those brave retirees who are NOT tethered to their kids…


  29. Anonymous Avatar

    I left SW VA in 1967 to take a job in the DC area. I did this simply because there were few jobs in SW VA that paid well, epecially for women. I lived there until 2002, when I retired and moved to Blacksburg.

    It’s my observation that most of the people who talk about all of the cultural attractions in NoVA/DC tend to partake of them mainly when they have out-of-town company. Most weekends they spend with kid-activities, yard/house work, work/work, and running all the errands that they didn’t have time for after long hours at work and commuting.

    I suspect that being near the children/grandchildren plays a much bigger part of why retirees stay in NoVA. I’d guess that it is a matter of time before all but the most affluent retirees get pushed out because they can no longer afford to live there or the communities that they live in will have changed in ways that make living there less attractive, especially if they are not compelled to live near a job.

    I was asked to go back in 2004 and work for about 8 months and agreed to do so. I was stunned at the degree to which the area had become even worse than I remembered: over-crowding, traffic, lines for everything, crazy drivers (I left my car in Blacksburg and took public transportation everywhere), high housing costs, deteriorating neighborhoods, etc. I was asked to go back in 2006 and said “No, thanks”.

    Ray, I’m one of those retirees that you mention who couldn’t be dragged back other than for a visit. A substantial number of my friends in NoVA and colleagues at work feel the same way. The second they can leave (ie retire), they’re gone.

    Although I don’t have children myself, I can understand wanting to be near them. However, travel these days isn’t by covered wagon. I honestly don’t know why anybody who doesn’t have to be in NoVA because of a job or children (I have a couple of retired friends who still have children in school) would want to live there.

    I live in a house that would cost at least twice as much in NoVA, pay much smaller local taxes, can be in the country in 10 minutes max, and don’t bother to lock my door until I go to bed at night. My mortgage is about half what the rent on my old apartment would be now. Last month I put in over 100 hours of community service work ranging from raising money for the local no-kill shelter to helping seniors and disabled folks navigate the wonders of Medicare Part D. I stay productively “employed” and contribute a lot to the community.

    Who needs the NoVA hassle if you don’t have to put up with it?

    Deena Flinchum

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