for the suburbs
Virginia. Farm country, open fields, back roads, old barns. That
may be one image, but it is increasingly not the statistical picture.
At the turn of a new century, an estimated 5.4 million of Virginia's
6.9 million residents, or 78 percent, live in Metropolitan Statistical
Areas, and a high proportion of these metro-Virginians live in
suburbs, according to 1999 census estimates from U.Va.'s Weldon
Cooper Center for Public Service.
result is that Virginia is not only a metropolitan state, but
increasingly a suburban one," said Julia H. Martin, the center's
director of demographic research. "Over half its total population
consists of suburbanites, who outnumber those who live in rural
counties and non-metropolitan cities by over two to one."
Martin, who conducted the census analysis with research analyst
Donna J. Tolson, calculates that about 52 percent of the state's
residents now live in suburban areas.
much of the country, Virginia may be undergoing a "rural rebound˛
in population growth, Martin says. Many of the state's rural counties
that were losing population during the last several decades are
now gaining. But the growth is mostly at the rural edges of metropolitan
areas, simply expanding their outward push, she says.
startling fact illustrating Virginia's intense suburbanization
trend is that among the state's 59 non-metropolitan counties,
37 share a border with at least one metropolitan locality, Martin
points out. These border counties "are an important group
for understanding Virginia's growth patterns,˛ she says, "since
historically they have been prime candidates for metropolitanization.
As growth spreads outward from the central cities of our metropolitan
areas, and increasingly it spreads from heavily urbanized suburbs'
like Fairfax County, these once-rural counties become suburbs
and are eventually officially included in Metropolitan Statistical
rural counties have gained almost 92,000 residents since 1990,
and over 70 percent of the rural growth has taken place in metro-bordering
counties, says Martin. The neighboring suburbs are growing even
In addition to the outward spread of population from cities and
suburbs, another factor likely playing a role in Virginia's growth
is interstate highways. There is "certainly much evidence"
that interstates are a growth factor, Martin says, citing growth
along the corridor of I-81 in the Shenandoah Valley, I-66 through
Northern Virginia and even I-77 in rural Southwest Virginia.
from an interstate may be what matters most in slowing population
growth, she says. The three slowly growing areas of Southwest
Virginia, Southside and the Northern Neck all contain significant
numbers of localities that are more than one county away from
interstate, she points out.