Graph of the Day: People Still Leaving Virginia

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.

Fairfax County net out-migration to counties shown in red, in-migration from counties shown in green. Source: StatChat.

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.”

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2 responses to “Graph of the Day: People Still Leaving Virginia

  1. This chart tells two trends although only one is fully acknowledged in article.

    Several years back I opined the Fairfax County was dying. These figures confirm that opinion, rending it current fact.


    In a Nutshell, today a couple in their thirties with two kids will EACH spend up to 4.5 hours a day commuting between their home in Woodbridge Virginia to their job in Tysons Corner or thereabouts unless they pay up to $60 a day in tolls. This takes a horrible toll daily on parents and kids so they move out.

    Where do they Go?

    Note that suburban Maryland right across the Potomac river is thriving. Note also that smaller towns in the Carolinas that are well managed are exploding with growth. Note also that smaller towns not property managed are dying.

    • Note also how the chronic lifestyle and transport failures that have festered for so long in Fairfax County now infect and despoil the entire region of northern and central Virginia, all within commuter range of Fairfax and Washington DC.

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