Virginia lost population through out-migration for the third year running in 2014-2015, according to IRS tax return data. As a consequence, the Old Dominion grew by the smallest number — 44,000 residents — since the 1970s. What little growth that did occur could be attributed to natural increase, births over deaths, write Hamilton Lombard and Kathryn Crespin in the StatChat blog.
Lombard and Crespin attribute the poor growth numbers to an economy pummeled by sequestration-related cutbacks in federal spending. More people have been leaving Northern Virginia, once the state’s population powerhouse, than have been moving in. The authors honed in on Fairfax County, the most populous county in Northern Virginia (and the state). Their data show that the county still draws in-migrants from the northeast corridor but is losing population to downstate Virginia, Florida, the Carolinas and Texas.
The StatChat post also examines demographic shifts by age. Virginia counties and cities with fewer than 100,000 residents (a proxy for rural/small-town Virginia) actually gained modestly among school-age children and folks over 35 but lost thousands of residents in the young adult cohort between 2000 and 2010 (preceding the previously described data). By contrast, larger localities saw big gains in young adults and a loss of 60- to 75-year-olds.
The data suggest to Lombard and Crespin that a temporary sequestration-related drain of Northern Virginia population is overlaid on a longer-term trend of rural/small town decline. “Even if the new administration and Congress decide to end the federal budget sequestration,” they write, “Virginia’s smaller communities won’t necessarily see increased in-migration and population growth as a result.”