Publication Details

Virginia Population Shifts - Localities Face Challenges As Growth Slows


Luke Juday

Date Published:

January 4, 2017

Publication Type:


Publication Series:

The Virginia News Letter

In the decades after World War II, Virginia experienced rapid population growth driven by a number of factors, including the nationwide baby boom; the growth of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area; and the southward migration of Americans after the end of segregation and the invention of air conditioning. However, the tide is going out.

This article by Luke Juday, director of planning for Waynesboro and a former University of Virginia research analyst with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, analyzes the changes in Virginia’s population as some localities continue to grow by double digits while others have seen growth rates slow and many have experienced population declines since 2010.

With population stagnation or decline, many localities find themselves vying for a shrinking pool of residents while having to maintain overbuilt infrastructure and deal with deflated property values. Booming localities, such as Albemarle, Alexandria, Arlington, Charlottesville and Richmond, face different demographic challenges than those faced by declining counties like Henry, Lee, Madison and Wise.

Juday examines population trends in four types of Virginia localities, which are categorized as Booming, Shedding, Attracting and Declining, and concludes, "Localized economic and demographic trends are rarely static. Local governments cannot depend on inherited wisdom about their locales’ strengths and weaknesses, but must reassess often and think creatively to serve their residents in the face of larger economic trends."