U.Va. Demographers Define Virginia Regions to Give a Clearer Picture of Change

April 14, 2011 — To provide a more accurate picture of how Virginia is changing, demographers at the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service have defined eight regional profiles based on the 2010 Census and American Community Survey data.

The profiles include information on population size and change over the past 10 years; age, race, and ethnicity of the population; educational attainment; income and poverty; and labor force participation and employment.

"Understanding Virginia's regional differences is important in designing and providing programs and services to address the varying needs of Virginians across the commonwealth," said Qian Cai, director of the Cooper Center's Demographics & Workforce group. "Statewide statistics are driven by trends in Northern Virginia and obscure the realities of other parts of the state. For example, eight localities in Southside Virginia lost population in the last 10 years, while Northern Virginia experienced a 24 percent growth rate. Five percent of households in Northern Virginia fall below the poverty line in contrast to 19 percent in Southwest Virginia."

Nearly one-third of Virginia's population lives in Northern Virginia, while the bulk of the commonwealth's land mass is in Southside, Southwest and the Valley regions. As a result, population density ranges from a low of 56 persons per square mile in Southside to a high of 918 persons per square mile in Northern Virginia.

In addition, American Community Survey data allow annual updating of the socioeconomic characteristics of each region, which often demonstrate dramatic differences.

"For example, one of the characteristics we examined was educational attainment," said Rebecca Tippett, author of the regions study. "While Virginia has a higher percentage of adults with a bachelor's degree or more education than the national average, this is actually because of high educational attainment in the Richmond and Northern Virginia regions. The remaining six regions are below the national average."

Using data reflecting shared economic conditions, such as cost of living and commonly accepted geographical boundaries, the Cooper Center's eight regions are the Valley, Southwest, Southside, Central, Northern, Richmond, Eastern and Hampton Roads.

The Valley region includes Alleghany, Augusta, Bath, Botetourt, Clarke, Craig, Frederick, Highland, Page, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren counties, and the cities of Buena Vista, Covington, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Roanoke, Salem, Staunton, Waynesboro and Winchester.

The Southwest region includes Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Floyd, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Montgomery, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise and Wythe counties, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, Norton and Radford.

The Southside region includes Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Franklin, Greensville, Halifax, Henry, Lunenberg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward, Southampton, Surry and Sussex counties and the cities of Danville, Emporia, Franklin and Martinsville.

The Central region includes the counties of Albemarle, Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell, Culpeper, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, Orange and Rappahannock counties, and the cities of Bedford, Charlottesville and Lynchburg.

The Northern region includes the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, King George, Loudoun, Prince William, Spotsylvania and Stafford, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas and Manassas Park.

The Richmond region includes Caroline, Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, Powhatan and Prince George counties, and the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell, Petersburg and Richmond.

The Eastern region includes Accomack, Essex, King & Queen, King William, Lancaster, Middlesex, Northampton, Northumberland, Richmond and Westmoreland counties.

The Hampton Roads region includes Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Mathews and York counties, and the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.

— By Rebecca Arrington

Media Contact

Rebecca P. Arrington

Office of University Communications