Rural Exodus, Metro Influx Continue Unabated

The population of Virginia’s rural counties and small towns continues to shrink. Reports Radio IQ: “Large parts of Southwest Virginia are disappearing. That’s according to new numbers from the Census Bureau that show places like Wise County, Henry County, Buchanan County — they’re all significantly smaller than they were a decade ago. Tazewell County alone has lost 10% of its population in the last decade.

Meanwhile, in Northern Virginia… The U.S. Census Bureau’s new estimates for population as of July 2019 peg Fairfax County’s total at 1,140,795, according to Inside NoVa. That’s an increase of 0.3% from the year before and a growth rate of 6.4% from the last census eight years earlier. Arlington County’s population grew 14.4%, Fall Church’s by 20.3% and Loudoun County’s by 30%.

The demographic shift is inevitable. The economic logic of the knowledge economy favors large metropolitan areas over small metros, small towns and countryside. The same thing is happening all around the world, and it is pointless to fight it. The challenges for Virginia are twofold: How do rural jurisdictions shrink gracefully and how do fast-growth metropolitan areas accommodate the population influx?

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7 responses to “Rural Exodus, Metro Influx Continue Unabated

  1. I’m a bit torn on this issue. I really appreciate the wilds of south-west VA particularly the backcountry adventure opportunities. There’s something about loosing a cell signal a quarter mile off I-81 in that area that takes one back to a simpler place and time. But this can’t fare well for the locals still waiting for economic opportunities (broadband, school upgrades and other infrastructure).

  2. This is product of poor leaders and spoiled inhabitants. See where Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall was born and grew up with one year of formal education, the first of fifteen brothers and sisters, in one room cabin 1755 in Germantown, Virginia.

    See:

  3. There was a sound-bite radio story on this topic on WTOP yesterday, if I understand they were saying DC region also does have out-flux of residents, but higher concentration of immigrants from outside USA settling here, so the net effect is some growth. If you do not live here in NoVA, you probably cannot possibly imagine the level of new citizens we have here from all over the world. Loudoun County near the “cloud” is just “out of this world” with computer tech types compared to rural Va. whereas Fairfax Co. is more people from all over the globe and USA too.

    • TBill above is exactly right when he says “If you do not live here in NoVA, you probably cannot possibly imagine the level of new citizens we have here from all over the world.”

      How else did tiny town of Fall Church, densely populated since 19th century grow by 20.3% in last 8 years of N. Virginia’s great recession. Cities grow in good times and bad. Ask Mexico City.

      • Stated another way, sometimes it is a very good thing to lose population of one kind, so as to later regain population of another kind better suited to that place in changing circumstances. We saw this in the Rocky Mountain west, and the American South in the first half of the 20th century only to explode population-wise in the second half of the 20th century, while large parts of New England, New York and Pennsylvania did the exact reverse.

        All life, and living of life, are perennial ebbs and flows.

  4. Re: “The challenges for Virginia are twofold: How do rural jurisdictions shrink gracefully and how do fast-growth metropolitan areas accommodate the population influx?” Yes — but also, there is a distinct link, a bridge, between these two: how do we help the rural unemployed relocate to where the jobs are rather than remain trapped in despair? That means education before they relocate, and assistance settling where they relocate: specifically, assistance finding affordable housing, assistance finding that job they came looking for, and assistance identifying the public transportation or buying the car needed to get to that new job. In other words, just what you discussed earlier today: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/virginias-unaffordable-approach-to-affordable-housing/
    As you say, the demographic shift is inevitable, but whether it is handled “gracefully” or not depends on how we assist those actually making this transition.

  5. This recent news about broadband in Floyd County shows how some rural counties have some hope. It is interesting to me that the provision of broadband is being made possible because the local phone company is citizen-owned and not run by investors who expect immediate returns. Also, some federal money, cited by Morgan Griffith, ironically of all people, was a great help.

    https://www.roanoke.com/news/local/floyd_county/floyd-county-to-become-the-most-connected-rural-community-in/article_fdd60093-65eb-58c2-a77e-0a090e06900c.html

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