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Surprising trends in Virginia's population

The latest review of population trends in the Commonwealth offers several surprises. First, says demographer Hamilton Lombard, people are fleeing Northern Virginia.

“The rise in housing prices – Northern Virginia has the most expensive housing on the east coast – is almost certainly a factor in helping push more people out. Since 2020 from Manassas to Potomac, that section of Northern Virginia has lost population.”

Virginia Population Change 2020 2023
Weldon Cooper Center
Localities represented in red and orange lost population. Blue-shaded localities gained population.

Many are leaving the state, but some are heading south.

“Richmond is one of the top destinations for people leaving Northern Virginia, and that’s fueled a lot of its growth," Lombard explains. "Chesterfield County added more new residents than any other county in the state since 2020.”

Hampton Roads is also losing population, but Lombard says some coastal counties are growing along with mountain communities.

“Ones over towards the Chesapeake Bay, parts of the Northern Neck – areas like Richmond County, Westmoreland, or overall in the Blue Ridge and Alleghenies – Craig County, Bath and Highland have grown in population.“

Read more from the Weldon Cooper Center

Lombard says remote work facilitates the move away from cities with expensive real estate and traffic congestion.

At UVA's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service demographer Hamilton Lombard tracks population trends in Virginia.

“The amount of working remotely has not declined for at least a year and a half. If remote work is going to stick around, the future for places like Northern Virginia is really uncertain. Northern Virginia has the federal government. It’s always going to be an attractive place in a certain sense, but it’s very expensive.”

He also notes that immigrants from other countries have helped to keep Virginia’s population growing.

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

Updated: February 3, 2023 at 5:22 PM EST
Editor's Note: The University of Virginia is a financial supporter of Radio IQ.
Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief