U.Va.'s Weldon Cooper Center Releases 2006 Population Estimates for Virginia Counties and Cities

Jan. 25, 2007 -- Virginia’s population reached 7.6 million on July 1, 2006, including more than 560,000 new residents since 2000. The state’s population growth is due, almost equally, to natural increase (more births than deaths) and to net in-migration (people moving into the state minus people moving out of the state).

Michael Spar, who produced the estimates, noted an overall trend toward slower growth since 2000. While Virginia registered annual growth of 1.3 percent between 1990 and 2000, the growth rate has dropped to 1.2 percent since 2000. Last year Virginia gained 78,500 in population, significantly lower than the average of 92,000 of previous years.

It comes as no surprise that Northern Virginia localities lead the commonwealth in population growth. Eleven Virginia localities gained over 10,000 residents since the last census. Loudoun heads the list with a phenomenal population increase of 100,000. Prince William had the state’s second largest increase, at 88,400, and Fairfax County, the state's largest jurisdiction with more than a million persons, added 46,800 new residents. Nearby Stafford and Spotsylvania counties gained 28,100 and 27,300, respectively, and Frederick County made this year’s list with an increase of nearly 11,400. Two suburban counties around Richmond City — Chesterfield and Henrico —  gained 32,600 and 24,600 respectively. In Hampton Roads, Chesapeake gained 16,400; Suffolk 15,900; and James City County 11,100.

Although no locality came close to matching Loudoun County’s growth rate of 59 percent from 2000 to 2006, several other Northern Virginia jurisdictions had notably high growth rates. Manassas Park, Prince William, Stafford and Spotsylvania grew by 30 to 35 percent since 2000. Other fast growing localities include Culpeper (29 percent), Fluvanna (28 percent), King George (27 percent), Suffolk (25 percent) and James City County (23 percent).

While most localities have gained population since 2000, 33 counties and cities lost population. They consist primarily of older central cities, such as Richmond, Petersburg, Portsmouth and Roanoke, and rural localities in Southside and Southwest Virginia. Older central cities are losing population because people are moving out, even though there are more births than deaths in these cities. However, population losses in Southside and Southwest Virginia are the result both of people moving out and an excess of deaths over births.

“The balance of Virginia population is pretty much tilting toward metropolitan areas and away from older central cities and rural areas,” Spar said. “Losing younger working-age population in Southside and Southwest Virginia presents a continuing economic challenge for an increasingly older population; meanwhile burgeoning metropolitan areas face new demands on water, school, transportation and efforts to preserve Virginia’s historically high quality of life.”

The Weldon Cooper Center's population estimates are the official figures for the commonwealth of Virginia. They are used by state and local government agencies in revenue sharing, funding allocation, planning and budgeting purposes.

For more information, please contact the Demographics & Workforce Section, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, U.Va. Mike Spar, research associate, (804) 371-0202, e-mail: mas6g@virginia.edu; Qian Cai, director, (434) 982-5581, e-mail: qc6q@virginia.edu.

The Web link for tables, charts and maps to go with this article is www.coopercenter.org/demographics.