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VA Census Results: Shrinking Counties and Diversifying at Large

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US Census Bureau

Most counties in southside and southwest Virginia declined in population over the past ten years, according to data released by the U. S. Census Bureau Thursday.

The data release has implications for the timeline and result of political redistricting in Virginia.

The biggest declines were in southwest. Buchanan County lost a bigger share of its population than any other county, falling by more than 15%. Meanwhile Loudoun County, in northern Virginia, grew more than any other locality, nearly 35%.

These shifts align with national trends, according to Mark Perry, a demographer with the Census bureau.

“When we look more closely at the patterns of population increase and decrease for counties this past decade, we see a strong relationship to population size, with small counties tending to lose population, and more populous counties tending to gain people,” he said in a briefing Thursday.

Spotsylvania County grew by 14%, Albemarle County by 14%, Henrico County by 9%, and Montgomery County by 6%.

Virginia cities largely grew in population. Roanoke gained 3%, Charlottesville grew by 7%, Richmond by 11%, and Lynchburg by 5%. But both Norfolk and Hampton lost a small percentage of people.

The data release means that the Virginia Redistricting Commission has 45 days to submit maps for the General Assembly. It looks as though the commissioners will have to draw maps that shift representation away from southwest and southside Virginia, given the population decline in those counties.

Trends show a diversifying Virginia
20210813_race_ethnicity_census_virginia.mp3
Jahd Khalil has more on race and ethnicity trends

Overall the number of people who reported their race as white only declined by 5%. People that reported themselves as white in combination with another race more than doubled, increasing 227%.

Percentage wise, the Manassas area saw the biggest decrease in its share of white residents, with about 30% fewer white people than 10 years ago. Fairfax saw a big shift in pure numbers -- a decrease of 109,000 white people compared to a decade ago.

Most localities in Virginia have a smaller percentage of white people than they did ten years ago. But places like New Kent County and the city of Richmond saw substantial increases in their shares of white residents.

After the last Census, Richmond was a Black-majority city, but now Richmond is only about 40% Black.

Another big change was in ethnicity. In this census 44% more people reported having Hispanic or Latino ethnicity in Virginia compared to the last count. 

You can review the census data release on the Census Bureau's website, or view it on the Virginia Public Access Project.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

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