One State, Eight Regions

Virginia is a surprisingly diverse state — not diverse in the multi-cultural sense, although that is increasingly true, but in the sense of having eight distinct regions. To provide a more accurate picture of how Virginia is changing, the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service has published eight regional profiles based on the 2010 Census and American Community Survey. The researchers draw no broad conclusions, but the data makes interesting reading for public policy junkies. The eight regions include:

Northern … 2,595,000 (32.4%)
Hampton Roads … 1,641,000 (20.1%)
Richmond … 1,167,000 (14.6%)
Valley … 784,000 (9.8%)
Central … 588,000 (7.3%)
Southwest … 580,000 (7.2%)
Southside … 505,000 (6.3%)
Eastern … 141,000 (1.8%)

Northern Virginia continued to dominate population growth during the 2000s, not only experiencing massive in-migration from other regions but undergoing a baby boom of sorts. Statewide, nearly six in every 10 births took place in Northern Virginia. The region gained more than half a million people, accounting for half the state’s growth.

Hampton Roads, the state’s second largest metro area, was a mixed story demographically. The region gained 90,000 people during the decade but that was due only to its surplus of births over deaths. The region actually lost 25,000 people due to net out-migration.

Richmond, the third largest metro area, gained 150,000 people during the decade, about one-third from births and two-thirds from net in-migration. The region saw significant percentage increases in its Asian and Hispanic populations, although whites and blacks still predominate.

The Valley, which stretches from Roanoke to Winchester, experienced moderate population growth, about 75,000 people. Eighty percent came from in-migration, clustering mainly in the urban areas. Highland County, already the state’s least populated county, lost 200 people, or 8% of its population, during the decade.

Central Virginia, which encompasses the central piedmont, gained 80,000 people over the decade, more than four-fifths of which was due to in-migration. Growth was concentrated around Lynchburg and Charlottesville.

Southwest Virginia, which enjoys the distinction of being the “whitest” region demographically, added only 16,000 people during the 2000s. What’s remarkable is that the population grew at all, as the region had 3,500 more deaths than births. In-migration accounted for the difference. My hunch is that the bulk of the newcomers landed in Montgomery County, home to Virginia Tech.

Southside Virginia also experienced a stagnant population. Deaths outnumbered births by 3,510, offset by modest in-migration for a net gain of 7,000 people. Given the economic hardships the region has experienced, it is remarkable that the region grew at all.

Eastern Virginia, which includes the Eastern Shore, Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck, experienced negligible growth, about 500 people, during the decade. A trickle of in-migration (mostly retirees looking for Chesapeake Bay frontage, I’m guessing) offset the natural decrease of deaths over births.

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