U.Va. Study: Rural Communities Growing Older Through Migration

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Virginia’s rural communities are growing older through a combination of out-migration of the young and in-migration of retirees, according to University of Virginia researchers in the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service’s Demographics Research Group.

This finding and others related to migration patterns across Virginia are reported in a Census Brief released Monday – the first in a series of short publications depicting trends in census and other data of interest to the commonwealth.

While out-migration from rural localities of younger college- and working-age residents has been noted for some time, analysis done for the Census Brief shows a significant impact as well made by retirees and pre-retirees moving into these areas.

“We knew that Virginia as a whole gained population through employment-driven migration,” said researcher Hamilton Lombard, who prepared the brief. “It was surprising to find that many rural areas are attracting retirees moving into their communities.”

Migration patterns vary across regions:

  • Northern Virginia and Richmond attract the emerging workforce (25- to 34-year-olds) and have an out-migration of older residents.
  • The Blue Ridge Corridor, influenced by major college and university towns such as Blacksburg and Charlottesville, show slight growth from migration of older residents, and a strong in- and out-migration associated with college students.
  • Exurbs outside of Virginia’s major cities attract migration of age groups who are likely raising families.
  • Rural areas, particularly Eastern Virginia and the Valley-Mountain regions. attract older retirees and pre-retirees.

“Knowing the composition of the population, and the likelihood it will grow older, or younger on average, is important for community planning,” said Qian Cai, director of the demographics research group.  “Additional schools may be needed in communities with in-migrating young families, and elder-friendly community design and facilities may be increasingly required in rural areas.”

The Census Brief is available here.

Media Contact

Meredith Gunter

Demographics Research Group, Weldon Cooper Center