Virginia's population growth outpaced the nation's, with highly varied growth across localities, according to the most recent official population estimates for the state developed by demographers from the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
Since the 2010 census, Virginia's population grew by 1.2 percent, to 8.1 million residents as of July 1, 2011, according to the center's estimates. The commonwealth grew faster than the nation, which grew by less than 1 percent over the past year. Compared to other states, Virginia posted the 13th-highest growth rate and the seventh-largest numerical population gain.
Within Virginia, the largest population gains were concentrated in the urban centers of Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads.
"Nearly all of Virginia's growth since 2010 occurred in metropolitan areas," said demographer Rebecca Tippett, who prepared the estimates. "More and more Virginians are living in or near cities."
Patterns of percent population change reveal a different picture of growth, however. While three Northern Virginia counties – Fairfax, Prince William and Loudon – experienced both large numerical and percentage growth since 2010, many of the fastest-growing Virginia localities were independent cities not part of the large urban centers. Fredericksburg was the fastest-growing locality between 2010 and 2011, with a growth rate of 4.9 percent. Norton and Buena Vista also top the list.
"In addition, in contrast with previous trends, a number of independent cities that lost population between 2000 and 2010 showed some growth in 2011," Tippett said. These cities include Martinsville and Danville in Southside, Hampton and Portsmouth in Hampton Roads, as well as Covington, Staunton and Petersburg.
Conversely, 35 localities in Virginia lost population between 2010 and 2011. Half of these experienced both natural decrease (more deaths than births) and net out-migration. The largest population losses were in counties in the Southwest and Southside regions of the state.
The Cooper Center's population estimates are the official figures for the commonwealth of Virginia. The estimates are based on changes since 2010 in housing stock, school enrollment, births, deaths and driver's licenses. They are used by state and local government agencies in revenue sharing, funding allocations, planning and budgeting.