New Census Data Suggests Southwest Virginia is Continuing to Shrink

Apr 22, 2019

New numbers from the Census show Northern Virginia continues to add population. But, the new numbers also show a slow and steady decline in Southwest Virginia.

Large parts of Southwest Virginia are disappearing. That’s according to new numbers from the Census Bureau that show places like Wise County, Henry County, Buchanan County – they’re all are significantly smaller today than they were a decade ago. Tazewell County alone has lost 10% of its population in the last decade.

Hamilton Lombard at UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service says the region has long struggled with attracting young people.

New Census data suggests Tazewell County has lost 10% of its population over the last decade.
Credit visittazewellcounty.org

“If you look at age migration, you definitely see older people moving back in," he says. "If they’re not still working they’re retirees. But what you don’t see a lot of is people coming back right after college or even in their late 20’s or early 30’s.”

Wendy Wasserman at the Appalachian Regional Commission says getting young people to come back is a challenge. But, she says, playing the long game involves making investments and following through.

“If we start thinking about creative ways to make more opportunities in the region then you don’t have to leave or creating a creative economy that blends things like local food and arts and culture and outdoor recreational tourism to make it more attractive for people to stay,” says Wasserman.

People are also moving out of Northern Virginia. But the area has such a large population of young people that the number of births is far outstripping the number of deaths.

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