Category Archives: Demographics

Time for Amputation: NoVa Merging with “New D.C.”

D.C. Statehood. There has been a long running chorus of cries for D.C. residents to have full representation in Congress. From “Taxation Without Representation” slogans on D.C. license plates to the Biden Administration’s calls for DC to become the 51st state … this debate has gone on for a while. Most discussion devolves into pure politics. D.C. would bring two more liberal U.S. senators and a liberal U.S. Representative who can vote. People either love or hate that idea. Back in May I wrote a column on this blog about Northern Virginia joining D.C. in the 51st state.  In this column I’d like to put aside the politics and focus on the ethical considerations for making D.C. a state.

Because they’re Americans. The nearly 700,000 residents of Washington,  D.C., pay their full share of federal taxes. Residents of D.C. were subject to be drafted in times of war, fought and died in our country’s battles and are required to obey all laws passed by Congress. In other words, D.C. residents have all the responsibilities of American citizenship. However, they are not represented in the U.S. Congress. They have no senators and their one representative can’t vote. The biggest ethical reason to make D.C. a state is so its citizens have all the rights of being American, including the right to representation in Congress. Continue reading

Are Poor Rural White Wise County Evangelicals More Antiracist than the Wealthy, Urbane Citizens of Loudoun?

   

by James C. Sherlock

Many are fascinated with the nationally infamous Loudoun County School Board. Board members seem preoccupied with driving social change without pausing to look at data.  

I have thought someone ought to check how the Loudoun students have been faring in SOLs to see if there are academic issues that need to be addressed.  

State data show that in too many Loudoun high schools Black, Hispanic, immigrant and the poor students performed poorly in math SOLs. The data are presented relative to state average math SOL pass rates for those cohorts, which in many cases themselves are very disturbing in an absolute sense.

It is not a resource problem.  

Loudoun is the nation’s richest county in median household income and neighboring Fairfax County is among the top few. Median household incomes in Loudoun were $142,299 and Fairfax $124,831. The state average median household income was about half Loudoun’s.  

Again as before, 2018-19 remains the base year for assessments because that was the last year that SOLs were not interrupted by COVID and subsequently the last year for which the state has district and individual school evaluation data.

The Loudoun County School Board and its school superintendent need to investigate why students in all racial and social cohorts in profoundly poor Wise County in Southwestern Virginia crushed Loudoun students in high school math SOLs.

Maybe they will learn something. And then perhaps the students will.

You know, real school board work. Continue reading

The One-Sided Decision in the Reversion of Martinsville – the Start of a Trend?

by James C. Sherlock

The Martinsville Bulletin, perhaps the best remaining newspaper in the state for local coverage, published a must-read article on the reversion of Martinsville from city to town and joining Henry County.

Overview

Martinsville’s current city logo, above, was perhaps prescient. Martinsville has been hemorrhaging population, losing more than 18% in the past 10 years, and was financially stressed before that loss.

Reversion in Virginia is a one-handed game. The small cities hold all of the cards.

Henry County is vocally opposed but feels helpless to stop it. The Henry County Supervisors voted to skip the legal process to avoid the costs. They called the reversion MOU “the best we could hope for and voted for it to avoid years of court battles”.

They are right  What they avoided was the special court that would have overseen the reversion under Virginia law had they not come to an agreement. The county would have been a defendant in a trial.

The rules for that court specified in that law give the small cities every advantage in a trial. That same special court would have overseen the transition for a decade. Every decision.

The changes reversion portends for city and county residents are massive. Now that his has happened, does anyone think this will be the last reversion? Continue reading

Should Northern Virginia Join D.C. in the 51st State?

State flag of New Columbia (including NoVa)?

By Don Rippert

Taxation without representation. The Democratic Party’s control of Congress and the White House has reopened the question of statehood for Washington, DC. This is not a new issue. The question of statehood for D.C. has been actively debated since 1980. Since the 98th Congress, more than a dozen statehood bills have been introduced. Two made it out of committee. The closest any bill came to success was a 1993 effort that was defeated 277 to 193 in the US House of Representatives. Support for D.C. statehood lies almost entirely along party lines with Democrats favoring statehood since it would yield two U.S. Senators and one Representative — all of whom would almost certainly be liberal Democrats. Republican opposition has been insurmountable over the years. Maybe a major repackaging of the idea of statehood for D.C. could break the logjam. Continue reading

Who Hit the Brakes on NoVa Growth?

Hamilton Lombard. Photo credit: UVA Today

by James A. Bacon

Northern Virginia’s population is growing, but not nearly as fast as before. According to a new study by University of Virginia demographer Hamilton Lombard, Northern Virginia accounted for 66.5% of the state’s population growth between 2010 and 2019, but slipped to 33.7% in the last year.

“While Northern Virginia is still growing in population, its recent slowdown is remarkable given how long so much of Virginia’s population growth has been concentrated in Northern Virginia,” Lombard said in an interview with UVA Today. “Since 1980, Northern Virginia has contributed to over half of the commonwealth’s entire population growth. Earlier in the 2010s, over two-thirds of Virginia’s population growth occurred in Northern Virginia.”

“Yet, since the mid-2010s, population growth in Northern Virginia has slowed considerably as more residents have left the region, often moving to other Southern states,” Lombard said. “Some of the initial out-migration may have been driven by the federal budget sequestration and shutdowns, which slowed growth in the region’s economy.”

Northern Virginia has driven demographic, political and economic change in Virginia over the past three or four decades. The region now dominates the state in much the same way that Chicago overshadows the rest of Illinois and New York City runs the Empire State. A marked slowdown in the region’s growth could have momentous consequences for Virginia’s economic prosperity and political economy. Here’s the big question: Was 2020 a transitory blip or does it portend longer-lasting changes? Continue reading

In 2019, 34% of Virginia’s Black 4th graders Could Not Read – Mississippi Offers Hope


by James C. Sherlock

Since 2013, Mississippi has made unprecedented, best-in-the-nation improvement in the academic achievements of its children starting as measured in nationwide testing. The improvements were especially pronounced in 4th graders who benefited directly from its 2013 literacy law.

I have done a deep dive into those results and traced them back to public policy.  There are actionable lessons for Virginia school districts seeking improvements in the literacy of their students. Mississippi has far better school literacy laws, and a markedly better Board of Education and education strategic plan than Virginia.  

Fundamentally, Virginia is going in a different direction than Mississippi in terms of child academic achievement because the Governor, the General Assembly and Board of Education want it that way. It is simultaneously going in a different direction in measures of child academic achievement. Continue reading

Podcast: How the General Assembly Has Changed

By Peter Galuszka

I haven’t contributed much to BR lately since I am slammed with non-Virginia work. I did manage to help out on a Podcast about how the General Assembly has changed the state over the last two years as Democrats have gained power.

This Podcast is produced by WTJU, the University of Virginia radio station. I do a weekly talk show on state politics and economics and, on occasion, work on Podcasts.

Joining me is Sally Hudson, a delegate from the Charlottesville area. She is Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics. Sally studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford and is one of the youngest members of the General Assembly.

I hope you enjoy it.

A Tale of Three Virginias

Source: UVa Weldon Cooper Center; statchatva.com

by Shaun Kenney

For those who have taken the opportunity to get to know the Old Dominion, one would be well served to drive the Colonial Parkway.

Built by the Rockefeller family in the 1930s, the road is designed in such a way that you could travel the length from Jamestown through Williamsburg and to Yorktown without even so much as noticing the colonial capital.

This is by design, of course. Yet it is also a way of understanding how unique Virginia is among her sister colonies turned states. Whereas New England built townships upon the rocky yet rich black soil, Virginians built farms and plantations upon cheap land, pushing further west when the soil gave out or new opportunities arose.

Townships and cities were the oddities.

For almost 400 years, this concept of Virginia was Virginia. We were an agrarian society of farms and farmlets, ranchers and miners, fishermen and merchants. True, we built a great manufacturing city in Richmond and a great port at Hampton Roads — our own Athens and Piraeus — but much like our Colonial Parkway, these major ports could go unnoticed. Continue reading

Is Virginia a Low Tax State? It Depends on What You Measure.

Source: Virginia Compared to Other States, State & Local Tax Revenue

by James A. Bacon

The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission has updated its scoreboard comparing Virginia on key metrics to other states — a project championed by Sen. Tim Kaine when he was governor. The idea was to allow Virginians to track the progress of the commonwealth in comparison to peer states on the basis of metrics of spending, taxes, and social well being.

There’s a lot to explore in this database, and I’ll highlight other metrics in future posts. But today, let’s focus on state and local taxes per capita — the most important measure of the size and scope of government. (It is an incomplete measure, to be sure; it does not include indirect levies such as high electric rates to advance green energy goals, but it’s what we have.)

Bottom line: Virginia, once considered a low tax state, has moved into the top 50%. As of Fiscal Year 2018, the most recent date for which JLARC collected data, Virginia ranked 24th in the country at $4,994 per capita in state and local tax collections. But there is another way to spin the data… Continue reading

The Nonsensical Narrative of an Impending White Minority

Mark-Paul Gosselaar (left) and Alexis Bledel.

by James A. Bacon

America’s media and cultural elites are increasingly obsessed with race and ethnicity, viewing every public policy issue through a racial prism. But the American people aren’t cooperating. In their real-world behavior, race and ethnicity are becoming less important. The distinction between “whites” and “Hispanics,” never clear to begin with, is steadily eroding. Meanwhile, the increase of intermarriage between all racial/ethnic groups has given rise to a category of people, numbering in the millions, who identify as members of two (sometimes more) races.

Those are the thoughts that come to mind as I read Hamilton Lombard’s latest contribution to the StatChat blog about the misleading narrative of a disappearing white majority.

As Lombard writes, media headlines have touted a population tipping point in which the “white” majority of Americans will be overtaken numerically by minorities of other races and ethnicities. This narrative, I would add, has fed the fears of white supremacists who vow they will not be “replaced” as well as the aspirations of leftist politicians who believe they can ride minority grievances to power. Continue reading

Prioritize Vaccine by Age, Not Race

by Carol J. Bova

The last thing the government needs to do is polarize citizens by prioritizing COVID-19 vaccination for favored races and ethnicities. Statements like those of Harald Schmidt, assistant professor in the University of Pennsylvania Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, amount to reverse racism.

“Older populations are whiter,” said Schmidt, as quoted in the New York Times. “Society is structured in a way that enables them to live longer. Instead of giving additional health benefits to those who already had more of them, we can start to level the playing field a bit.”

Those who decide who gets the vaccine should not consider race or ethnicity. Health departments should target those who, by virtue of their occupations and age, are the most vulnerable to catching and spreading the virus. Where possible, because there won’t be enough vaccines to do everything right away, priority should be given to those who, by virtue of their age and co-existing conditions, are most vulnerable to dying from it. Insofar as African Americans and Hispanics disproportionately work in exposed occupations or suffer from medical risk factors, they will be more likely to qualify for a vaccine — but not because of their race and ethnicity.

Continue reading

High Housing Costs and Virginia’s Brain Drain

Hasta la vista!

Between 2010 and 2018 Virginia’s population grew by more than half a million residents, ranking 9th in the nation, due to strong natural increase (births over deaths) and steady international immigration. But the Old Dominion was only one of two states in the top 10 — the other was California — to experience negative net domestic migration, reports Lisa Sturtevant, chief economist for the Virginia Realtor’s Association in the Realtors’ blog.

Nearby southeastern states have shown strong domestic in-migration. What’s Virginia’s problem?

According to Sturtevant, the state’s biggest challenge is recruiting and retaining young workers. In continuation of a decade-long trend, about 6,00 more 25- to 34-year-olds moved out of Virginia in 2018 than moved in 2017 and 2018. These young people aren’t fleeing economically deprived rural areas. They’re leaving the high-cost areas, particularly Northern Virginia.

Says Sturtevant: “Even though professional opportunities are attractive and wages are high, home prices have gotten so high that it is increasingly challenging for young adults to buy homes. Many have been moving to places where jobs are still good but the cost of living is lower and it is easier to buy a home.”

— JAB

5G and Rural Virginia

A horse pulling fiber in Kentucky. Photo credit: Pro Publica

by DJ Rippert

A tale of two places.  The next generation of consumer wireless technology is called Fifth Generation or 5G. It is being rolled out in select parts of the United States right now. 5G will be a boon to urban and suburban Virginia. Absent heavy government subsidies, it will likely have a minimal direct effect on rural Virginia. Of course, any technology that favors high population density areas over low population density areas expands the rural-urban gap. The reasons for 5G’s value in high density areas vs low density areas run the gamut from physics to economics. However, there are some engineering scenarios and demographic situations where 5G might be effective in select rural areas without massive governmental subsidies. Those will be discussed later in this post. And, of course, massive government subsidies are always on the table. Continue reading

The Jaw Dropping Political Contributions of UVa’s Board of Visitors

By DJ Rippert

Waiting for Godot. A recent article on this blog titled, “UVa Board Backs Ryan on Lawn Signage Issue,” seemed to suggest that The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors (BoV) was a critical link in UVa’s governance structure. My interpretation of the article was that the author (Jim Bacon) believed the BoV might rise up with indignant fury and put UVa President James Ryan in his place by insisting that a profane sign on university property be taken down. My own thinking was that such a belief was naive. I’ve always viewed UVa’s BoV as a club of well meaning rich people who were appointed to that board in appreciation for the large political donations they make rather than a serious oversight organization.

That view was reinforced in 2012 when the BoV tried to act like an honest to goodness board by ousting UVa’s underperforming president – Teresa Sullivan. Virginia’s political elite would have none of it. Republican Governor Bob McDonnell threatened to fire the entire board for having the temerity to put down their martini glasses and take action. Since that attempt at actual governance the BoV seems to have returned to its roots as an organization willing to rubber stamp whatever UVa’s leadership decides to do. The idea that the BoV might question Ryan’s acceptance of a sign on a university-owned dorm room door saying “F*** UVa” seemed far fetched to me. However, the article’s author – Jim Bacon – is wise in the ways of all things Virginia. Maybe he was right and the Board of Visitors was appointed based on their willingness to actively manage UVa rather than their political donations.

As a starting point, I decided to research the political donations of the board members. I was stunned by what I found. I defined the board by including the seventeen independent board members and the faculty representative. I did not include the student representative in the donation calculations. The 18 members of the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, their employers and their spouses have donated $35,252,122 to Virginia politicians since 1997 (when records first started being tracked).  The individual board members and their spouses (to the extent I could determine their spouses) have donated $4,859,820 to the state’s political class since 1997. Their employers have donated $30,392,302 over the same period. These totals count donations to Republicans, Democrats and political organizations classified as “other” by VPAP. Continue reading

Reform K-12 Education to Increase Diversity in Virginia’s Colleges — and in Life

by James C. Sherlock

Much is appropriately made of the relative lack of diversity in Virginia’s state-supported colleges and universities. Some trace that exclusively to racial discrimination. My research indicates it may also reflect the educational disadvantages of being poor.  

Here I will offer a path to begin to fix both.

I have researched and written a good bit about the wide variations in K-12 student SOL pass rates among Virginia’s poorest school districts. See Rev 1 Reading and Math Virginia 2018-2019 SOL results by State and Division by Subject by Subgroup.

Some students, parents and school districts in Virginia’s poorest communities exhibit extraordinary success in those standardized tests across all races and among economically disadvantaged students. That success is measured not against other poor districts, but among districts statewide.  

Continue reading