in Virginia's Counties, Led by Suburban Influx, Now Averages Eight
Times That of Cities
21, 1999 -- Virginia's counties are growing some
eight times faster than its cities and now are home to two-thirds
of the state's residents, according to new state population estimates
from the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public
of Virginia's old central cities are continuing to lose population,
while their fast growing suburban neighboring jurisdictions are
struggling with problems of rapid development.
counties -- suburbs near larger cities -- are growing the fastest
of all, gaining an estimated 477,000 new residents in the 1990s,
according to the Cooper Center's 1998 official state estimates.
By comparison the state's larger cities have gained a total of only
about 44,000 during the decade, according to demographers Julia
H. Martin and Donna J. Tolson. Net migration -- new residents moving
into counties from
cities and from other states and foreign countries -- accounts for
a large part, some 60 percent, of this rapid county growth, the
population analysts said. Virginia's estimated 1998 population is
6.8 million, compared with 6.2 million in the 1990 census. The growth
rate of about 1 percent a year is not as rapid as in the 1980s.
But the counties' growth rate is averaging 1.6 percent a year in
this decade, compared with a 0.2 percent rate for cities.
is now spreading beyond metro counties into once-rural counties
adjacent to them, Martin and Tolson said. Counties such as Louisa
and Nelson in the fast-growing Charlottesville area, and the northern
Shenandoah Valley counties are typical of these. The average annual
growth rate for this group of counties is a close second to the
metro county rate.
the end of the century in Virginia, "the preference for a suburban
lifestyle continues the trend that began with the building of the
first suburbs shortly after World War II," Martin said. "The trend
now extends not only into classically suburban counties but increasingly
into nonmetropolitan areas as well." At the same time, she said,
"cities remain landlocked, unable MORE 2 to expand their land areas,
and in many cases unable to provide amenities that might attract
the population to return."
of the 20 localities that have gained the most population since
1990 are counties, and all but three of these are metro counties.
The only cities in the top 20 are Manassas and Manassas Park in
the Washington, D.C., suburbs, and Chesapeake, a county-sized city
in the Norfolk area.
of the 29 declining localities are cities. They include some of
the largest in the state: Roanoke, Lynchburg, Richmond, Portsmouth
and Norfolk. Two other central cities of Metropolitan Statistical
Areas (MSAs) -- Bristol and Charlottesville -- also lost population.
All the declining central cities are located near rapidly growing
counties, with suburbanization playing a significant role in their
decline, Martin said.
General Assembly Commission on the Condition and Future of Virginia's
Cities, chaired by House Speaker Thomas W. Moss Jr. (D-Norfolk),
is grappling with these trends.
Julia Martin, (804) 982-5582 or (804) 977-6025. Donna Tolson, (804)