Category Archives: Demographics

In 2019, 49% 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

Place, Class and Race and K-12 Educational Success in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

In order to better understand the contributions of place, class and race on K-12 academic achievement in Virginia, I did a great deal of research over a period of several days and from it constructed a spreadsheet, Reading and Math Virginia 2018-2019 SOL results by State and Division by Subject by Subgroup.

I have found the results very informative, even stunning. If you think you understand Virginia at this level of granularity, you may be surprised.

My experiment (and the spreadsheet) is anchored by the bottom quartile of 133 Virginia counties and cities as ranked by health outcomes by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for 2020. Poor health outcomes not only represent a major obstacle for academic achievement, but are an excellent proxy for the relative poverty of that bottom quartile.

I recorded English Reading and Mathematics 2018-2019 SOL results (Virginia Department of Education) among the public school students in each locality. Results are broken out by race, economic disadvantage, English Learners, gender and students with disabilities.

I then listed for comparison the identical SOL results for Fairfax County, Arlington County, Loudon County and Falls Church City, unsurprisingly the top four Virginia localities in health outcomes.

Finally, I compiled 2017 demographic information (U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Commerce) for three of these disadvantaged counties that had outstanding SOL scores. You will I think be astonished at some of those data standing alone, much less when put in context of the results in their public schools. Continue reading

More Evidence Demolishing the Oppression Narrative

by James A. Bacon

Hamilton Lombard has posted some fascinating data on the University of Virginia Demographic Research blog, Stat Chat, that illuminates the income gap between whites and blacks. For Lombard’s spin on the data he presents, I suggest that you read his commentary here. It’s different from my take. I wouldn’t say that his interpretation and mine are in conflict, but I don’t want to imply that he would necessarily agree what I’m writing here.

The black-white income gap. The first point worth noting is that between 1950 and 1970 (inside the magenta circle in the chart above), when blacks’ economic opportunities were curtailed by segregated institutions, the gap between black and white incomes narrowed significantly. In the 50 years since then, the income gap between blacks and non-blacks has not budged.

“The fact that the income gap for Black Virginians has not changed considerably since 1970 is particularly notable,” writes Lombard, “because the intention of the Civil Rights Era reforms and the Great Society programs that have existed since the late 1960s are in large part to help close the income gap.” Continue reading

New Regions Won’t Fix Ignoring the Obvious

by Carol J. Bova

Governor Ralph Northam opened his July 14 press conference with statements on the increase in cases of the COVID-19 virus in Virginia. “We have not seen the spikes that some other states are now seeing, but we’re seeing some troubling numbers and an increase in cases largely out of the Hampton Roads area.”

He talked about the statewide positivity rate for COVID-19 testing, using graphs for five regional Health Districts and reviewed the seven-day average for each: Northern region, 6.7%, Southwest region 4.8%, Northwest region 5.9%, and Central region 6.6%. He then called out the Eastern region for a rate of 10.1%.

There are at least two serious problems with his presentation.

The regions cover too wide a geographical area to address as a single community, and each varies in population, density, culture, and composition. Continue reading

The Shocking Number of Hispanic COVID-19 Deaths for Ages 35 to 64

by Carol J. Bova

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) death certificate reports are the one reliable indicator of the impact of Covid-19 on the various population groups in Virginia. The CDC racial/ethnic breakdown from 2/1/20 to 7/4/20 of all deaths from COVID-19 alone, together with COVID-19 and pneumonia, shows Virginia Hispanics accounted for 12.6% of all COVID-19 deaths. That does not appear to be far out of line with a 10% Hispanic population in the Commonwealth in 2018, especially when allowing for an unknown number of undocumented Hispanic persons plus Hispanic population increases since then.

What is shockingly out of line is the CDC Virginia death certificate numbers show 42.7% of Hispanic COVID-19 deaths within the 35- to 64-year-old age bracket, as shown in the chart above.

Why has this happened? Are comorbidities like diabetes, auto-immune conditions or obesity responsible? Continue reading

Inequity Accounting for Hispanic COVID-19 Cases

by Carol J. Bova

Last week Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William, wrote a letter to Governor Ralph Northam decrying the high rate of COVID-19 infection in Virginia’s Hispanic population. She blamed “longstanding and systemic factors, such as disparate access to information, testing, and treatment.” Jim Bacon responded that Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data did not support Foy’s assertion. But even Bacon took the VDH numbers as an accurate reflection of reality. In truth, VDH “confirmed cases” numbers, which suggest that Hispanics account for 43% of all COVID-19 cases in which race/ethnicity have been identified, are not reliable.

Originally, VDH number crunchers broke down confirmed cases as Black, White, Other, and Unknown. In mid-June they created Latino as a new demographic category, describing it as “Individuals of any race who identify as ‘Hispanic or Latino.’” To create the Latino category, VDH moved 11.3 percentage points from the White cases and 23.6 percentage points from Other and Unknown Race cases. The result: Hispanics accounted for 33.9% of all cases.

Ignoring 16,500 cases in the Unknown category increases the apparent proportion of Black and Latino cases and provides talking points for Del. Foy and the Governor that Latinos have 43% of all cases whose ethnicity was identified.

Continue reading