Northern Virginia growing as state population drops elsewhere

Colors indicate change in the U.S. Census Bureau population estimates. See the interactive version of this map. CNS graphic

RICHMOND – Population is booming in Northern Virginia and shrinking in many rural localities in the southern and southwestern parts of the state, according to data released Thursday by the U.S Census Bureau.

The population of the city of Falls Church grew 5.2 percent between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, the data showed. That was more than any U.S. county with at least 10,000 residents. (The Census Bureau puts Virginia’s cities in the same geographic category as counties.)

Three other Virginia localities grew more than 3 percent over the past year: Loudoun County and Manassas Park near D.C., and New Kent County east of Richmond.

Since 2010, Loudoun County’s population has increased more than 27 percent, to more than 380,000. That percentage increase ranks fourth among all U.S. counties with at least 200,000 people.

The growth in Northern Virginia is largely due to large employers located there and in Washington, said Hamilton Lombard, research specialist at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, which worked with the U.S. Census Bureau on the population estimates.

“A lot of that is still commuters to D.C., but you have big job centers now in Northern Virginia by itself,” Lombard said. “Fairfax has more people in it than D.C. does.”

Since the census in April 2010, the population of Fairfax County has grown more than 6 percent, to almost 1.15 million, the Census Bureau’s estimates show. The District of Columbia has about 694,000 residents; however, its population has increased more than 15 percent since 2010.

Like the nation’s capital, Virginia’s state capital has shown robust growth after decades of population decline.

Since 2010, the population of the city of Richmond has increased more than 11 percent – more than the suburban counties of Chesterfield (less than 9) percent, Henrico (almost 7 percent) and Hanover (6 percent).

Lombard said Richmond’s turnaround reflects a national trend of more investment in cities.

“It had a higher vacancy rate, a lot of empty homes – it was losing population for decades,” Lombard said. “You get around to the time of the housing crisis, and a lot of people couldn’t buy; they had to rent. That also made Richmond more attractive, because they had more rentals. It’s quite remarkable how it’s turned around and started growing.”

Lombard attributed part of the growth to the redevelopment of historic properties.

“Virginia has a very generous tax credit system that encourages redeveloping historical buildings,” Lombard said. “That’s created a lot of new residential units and really pristine historic areas.”

Of Virginia’s 133 counties and cities, 78 gained population over the past year – and 71 have more residents now than in 2010. Fifteen localities have grown by more than 10 percent since 2010 – including Fredericksburg (17 percent), Prince William County (15 percent), James City County (12 percent) and Charlottesville (11 percent).

In contrast, 62 of Virginia’s localities – mostly in the south and southwestern regions of the state – have seen a decrease in residents since 2010. The population has fallen about 9 percent in Bath and Tazewell counties and almost 11 percent in Buchanan County and the city of Emporia.

August Wallmeyer, author of “The Extremes of Virginia,” which focuses on the economic development of the state’s rural areas, said there are many reasons for the population decrease, such as a lack of economic opportunity and a decline in “low tech” industries such as coal mining, tobacco farming and textile manufacturing.

“The principal reasons are lack of jobs and economic opportunity,” Wallmeyer said. “The jobs part, I think, is related primarily due to the poor public education system that has not prepared people in these areas for modern-day, information-centered, technological-type careers.”

Wallmeyer said younger people are fleeing these areas due to what he sees as poor public education systems that lag far behind the schools in the wealthier areas of the state.

“I quoted in my book the chancellor of Virginia’s community college system as saying that if you looked at the poorer areas of the state, and considered those areas as a state by themselves, in terms of educational attainment, they would be dead last in the nation,” Wallmeyer said, “while the rest of Virginia – the urban quarter, the wealthier part of Virginia – would rank No. 2 in the nation.”

Wallmeyer said efforts by federal and state governments and regional coalitions to improve the economy in these poorer, rural areas have been largely unsuccessful.

“There are some people I have talked to in my research, some public officials, who say, only half-jokingly, ‘In my little county, the last person to leave, please cut off the lights, because there’s nothing left,’” Wallmeyer said.

According to the latest data from the Census Bureau, Virginia remains the 12th most populous state with about 8.47 million residents. That is an increase of less than 6 percent since 2010 and less than 1 percent over the past year – about the same as the U.S. as a whole.

Lombard said one big takeaway from the new data is how much slower Virginia has grown this decade.

“We’re getting close to eight and a half million, but the growth rate we’re hitting annually is really the lowest it’s been since before the Great Depression,” Lombard said. “The country’s population has been gradually slowing down a little bit just because of the population aging, but Virginia has slowed down a lot more quickly than the rest of the country.”

As for predictions, Lombard expects more people will be living in Northern Virginia.

“By our projection, by 2040, half of Virginia’s population should live in Fredericksburg, or north of it,” Lombard said.

(8) comments


You can thank Corey Stewart for building the thousands and thousands of crappy apartment buildings and ghetto townhouses all over the county. He has made Prince William county the "go to" location for democrats to live.

Thanks Corey, your greed has turned the Commonwealth a dark blue crime infested mess for the next 100 years!!!


You are on the right track but Corey Stewart doesn't bare the blame for where we are. Stewart just rode the only horses that were available to him.

The voters own all of the mess lock, stock and barrel. First you have socialistic minded liberal Democrats that are indoctrinated from birth to hate everything that makes up America, including their own ilk.

Then it is virtually impossible to get 3 Republicans in the same room to agree with each other long enough to win anything. They fight each other like dogs and cats, get pissed off and sit out elections if everything doesn't go their way. Then they set out to bad mouth, damage and destroy whoever the "winning" Republican was. Look no further than President Trump right now.

A house divided against itself will not stand.

Virginia is not the Commonwealth that people cherished and loved anymore. Those that are leaving are doing so because they are sick to death deep in their souls of what it is now. They know that 100 years nor any length of time will fix it.

The handwriting is on the wall in front of them. There are other places that are much better to go to live their lives.

Joseph George for Neabsco District

As the likes of insidebugs and CCW continue their divisionary and hateful talk, we will continue to improve our communities for all residents of Prince William County.


Joseph let's take a brief look at how life is being improved for our prince William County Communities. Perhaps it will better demonstrate whose being hateful and diversionary and who isn't.

Just because you disagree with someone does not mean that that person, or persons is diversionary, hateful or any other disparaging thing.

Samples from 6 or 7 days taken from Prince William County Police Daily Incident Reports:

IMHO, compared to a few years ago there isn't much left that encourages a lot of people to remain here (And /or in Virginia).

1. Armed robbery (drug transaction)
2. Use of a firearm in commission of a felony
3. Abduction
4. Assault
5. Stabbing (2 men with machetes / robbery)
6. Robbery, victim's face slashed with a knife
7. Strong armed robbery, 32 year old male victim knocked down by 3 men, kicked repeatedly.
8. Residential burglary
9. School burglary, computer equipment and money stolen.
10. Shooting a shotgun into an occupied dwelling.
11. Indecent exposure.
12. Assault and battery on a (female) law enforcement officer.
13. Armed store robbery with a knife, money stolen.
14. Commercial burglary.
15. Malicious wounding, school staff member's face beaten severly.
16. Threats to bomb schools – (several recently)
17. School burglary
18. Domestic malicious wounding.
19. Strangulation, abduction, domestic
20. Shooting, life threatening injuries. Suspect still at large.
21. Aggravated Malicious Wounding, woman stabbed multiple times.
22. Armed robbery, 7-11
23. Armed robbery Walmart
24. Strangulation, domestic
25. Strangulation, domestic
26. Murder, car set on fire.
27. Armed robbery, Quality Inn
28. Strong armed robbery.
29. Commercial burglary, Self Storage business.
30. Abduction, brandishing a firearm, domestic.
31. Rape, Malicious Wounding by Caustic Substance, Domestic


So why don't you quit complaining so much and leave. No one will miss your inane whining.

CCW , so express what is "wrong" with the County by looking at the blotter report (great job) instead of all of the community support or charitable events around the County, as well as those people/groups that are doing good and thoughtful things.

Glad you made your point, as well as in glad that my view of our County is much different than your view. Hopefully, one day, our views will both be as good.


Joseph you'd be wrong to assume that I don't see and/or support the good things that you mentioned. I do. And I give thanks at dawn, during the day and dusk everyday that God Blesses me, my family and our nation with.

Albeit, as I understand this article on one hand it is pointing out population increase while at the same time an equal; maybe even greater decrease on the other. If you agree then is it reasonable to assume the articles is also asking a question? In other words, "Why are those that are leaving doing so"? This would be especially important in response to what you're advocating which is look at the brighter sides of things and hang in there.

When we returned to Prince William County a few years ago there were six (6) Prince William County Police Officers assigned to the western end of the county. We knew and were friends with all of them, plus many of the Manassas City Police (including officer John Conner) and Manassas Park's first mayor Murphy.

The Scriptures tell us that we will hate the ways of the world in our elder years. In many ways I guess that I didn't wait that long. In other ways I steadfastly refuse to put up with a bunch of the maturation restrictions some like to impose either.

Prince William County has changed tremendously. I don't care for or like a lot of those changes. I believe that many of those leaving Virginia feel the same way I do. But, here in these opt-ins I am not willing to cop an attitude by flinging any kind of slop back at those commenters whose remarks are guttural and ill-natured towards myself and others.

I've watched your opt-in comments on and off for awhile now. You do your homework, your heart appears to be in the right place and you're willing to defend what you feel is best for each situation.

I respect that.

CCW, needless to say, after watching your commentary for some time, I'm pleasantly surprised of what you've just said. I believe, due to that, you're willing and able to work towards improving the community, even if some aspects of it you do not like or agree with. We'd all like to live in paradise, but we all know that time with come when we leave in our Earthly form and the Father calls us home.

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