“There is a lot of migration into the less-populated, more rural counties, but they still have high death rates. So when you look at migration, and then you look at the deaths, there’s sort of a disconnect,” Lombard said. “They see more people moving in, but they aren’t seeing an actual increase in population – yet.”
Big Change Ahead?
Lombard said remote work could reshape the state’s population trends similar to “the cataclysmic demographic shift that Virginia experienced during post-war suburbanization” in the 20th century.
According to the study released this week, migration from Northern Virginia helped Winchester become Virginia’s fastest-growing metro area. The population increased at nearly five times the rate of Virginia as a whole.
Migration also contributed to a historic influx of new residents to rural counties circling Richmond. The four fastest-growing counties in Virginia in this decade are New Kent, Goochland, Louisa and Caroline, all in or adjacent to the Richmond metro area.
Decades of migration into the Richmond area and weak growth in western Virginia means the number of residents in the Richmond metropolitan area may soon surpass Virginia’s population living west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. That would be for the first time since before the American Revolution, Lombard said.
Closer to Grounds, Albemarle County saw a 3.3% increase in population with 3,753 people moving into the county in 2023. Of that number, 3,393 were migrants moving into town from other locations.
Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest locality, continued to experience population decline due to out-migration in 2023. Loudoun County was once Virginia’s fastest-growing locality – it is still its wealthiest – but last year only an estimated 11 people moved into the county than left it. A decade ago, Loudoun County attracted nearly 10,000 more residents each year than moved out.
The migration is mostly a redistribution of Virginians and not from people moving in from out of state, according to the study. Between 2022 and 2023, population in both Virginia and the U.S. grew by less than half a percentage point.
“For Virginia, this is the slowest it has grown since the Civil War,” Lombard said. “For years, there has been a statewide decline in births and the population has been aging, so we’ve been heading in this direction for quite some time.”