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Demographers: Census Data Shows Virginia's Urban-Rural Divide Is Growing

Virginia is still growing, although not nearly as fast as it did in the last decade. And that urban-rural divide everyone's always talking about is growing wider.

Shonel Sen at the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service says the projections from the summer of 2019 about those trends are now showing up in stark relief in new data from the 2020 Census. "So pretty much what we had anticipated is that given this pattern of regional population shares, we will see about 70 percent of the state's population will reside in the three largest metro areas. And that is what the Census 2020 headcount also validates," Sen says. "So the projections that we had are actually validated by the Census counts."

John Provo at Virginia Tech says the continued decline of rural Virginia’s population is a troubling trend. "It's a very bad spiral," Provo admits. "Certainly there's a relationship between people and jobs, and we can't grow opportunity in places where there aren't people to fill jobs."

Southwest Virginia may be seeing some signs of hope on the horizon, though. Two medical glove manufacturers recently announced a new manufacturing facility in Wythe County with 2,500 jobs.

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

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.