Virginia’s Regions: Northern Virginia is Different

This week, the Demographics Research Group updated its profile of Virginia’s regions. The eight regions of the Commonwealth were identified by the Demographics Research Group based on proximity, geography, demographic characteristics and shared socioeconomic conditions. While there are many shared characteristics across Virginia’s regions, our profile shows that a number of differences exist as well.


Northern Virginia stands out the most among Virginia’s regions, but this is not a new trend as Charles Grymes notes on Virginia Places:

“Northern Virginia has been “different” ever since Lord Fairfax established a land office issuing Northern Neck deeds independently from the colonial government in Williamsburg”

Our profile of Northern Virginia shows that over 54 percent of the region’s adult population has at least a bachelor’s degree, that is nearly 20 percent higher than any of Virginia’s other regions. Similarly, nearly three-fifths of Virginia’s population growth since 2010 has occurred in Northern Virginia.

Richmond is remarkable in how similar its characteristics are to the state as a whole. If you look through Richmond’s profile, you can see that its age structure, employment levels, population growth trends, racial and ethnic distribution, and income and poverty levels, are closer to Virginia’s than any other region. The cause is likely due to Richmond’s location – occupying the center of Virginia’s urban crescent and straddling the Fall Line between the Piedmont and Tidewater.

All of Virginia’s regions also share some demographic trends. Every region in Virginia had more people move in than out between 2010 and 2013. All but one region gained population during the period as well. And except for Northern Virginia, every region also had at least one locality that had more deaths than births during the period.

While data can neither capture the natural beauty of Virginia nor reflect fully the characteristics of her citizens, we hope these profiles provide compass points of information for newcomers to the Commonwealth, as well as a useful framework for those of us who call Virginia home.

Visit our regional profiles page to download the full report, read the online version, or to check out the interactive online maps of the regions containing demographic and economic data.