Virginia’s immigrants: Where do they come from and where are they now?

The foreign-born, or immigrants, comprise more than 10% of the Commonwealth’s population.  Most of them are between 25 and 44 years of age. This young cohort is highly active both in terms of production (working) and reproduction (having children). The adult foreign-born, for example, make up 15% of the Commonwealth’s workforce; and a fifth of all native-born children below the age of 18 have at least one foreign-born parent. More details are available here.

Contributions of the foreign-born population to multicultural diversity can be explored in several ways; where they come from and where they stay plays a key role in this story. A hundred years ago, most foreign-born people were from European nations; today almost 80% of immigrants to Virginia originate form Asia or Latin America. The top five countries of birth for the contemporary foreign-born population are El Salvador, India, Mexico, Philippines and Korea.  What is also of significance is where these immigrants choose to live within Virginia.

Slide2The distribution of foreign-born people among Virginia’s 11 metropolitan areas (MSAs) can be seen in the map above. Close to 70% of immigrants can be found in Northern Virginia alone, with Hampton Roads and Richmond hosting about 10% each. Among the smaller MSAs, Charlottesville leads the pack with nearly 20,000 foreign-born individuals, many of whom are students, faculty or staff at the University of Virginia.  The non-metro, mostly rural areas are home to less than 3 percent of the foreign-born.

The map below shows the percentage of each MSA population that is foreign-born. Again, Northern Virginia leads the way, with nearly a quarter of its population being immigrants. Harrisonburg and Charlottesville MSAs have a high proportion (nearly 9%) of foreign-born people, closely followed by Winchester and Richmond (7%), and Virginia Beach and Blacksburg (6%).

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Official Poverty Estimates, in the US and the Commonwealth

This past weekend, The New York Times published an interactive map visualizing recently released Census data on poverty in America.  The NYT map gives information down to the census tract level; this level of precision allows the viewer to see poverty rates of not just counties and cities but, in fact, neighborhoods.

As for Virginia, poverty rates in Southwest, Southside and Hampton Roads far exceed the poverty rates of localities closer to DC.  According to these small area estimates, Falls Church County has the lowest poverty rate of around 3 percent, while Radford City and Harrisonburg City have the highest rates (34.2 and 37.5 percent, respectively).

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New Demographic Data on the 2012 Presidential Election

The recent release of the Census Bureau’s Voting and Registration data from the Current Population Survey finally allows us to look deeper into the population that turned out to vote this last November.  And the results are quite astonishing.

For the first time, in a long history of disenfranchisement and suppression, African-American voter turnout surpassed the turnout rate among whites.  2012 was a low-turnout election overall, especially when compared to 2008, and the turnout rates among most of the major racial and ethnic groups went down from 2008 rates.  The turnout rate among blacks in 2012, however, went up.

National Turnout Rates for 2012 Election by Race

* Turnout is measured here as total votes divided by the voting-age citizen population. Data are from the CPS microdata for the Voting and Registration Supplement.

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Lower turnout in 2012 makes the case for political realignment in 2008

Now that most states have finalized and submitted their official election results (yes, it does take that long), we can take a closer look into state and local turnout rates for the 2012 presidential election.

But first, an overview of the results…

As we all know, Barack Obama will be starting his second term after he is inaugurated in a couple of days.  While it would probably be hasty to say that Obama received a huge “mandate” from the election back in November, it’s fair to say he defeated Mitt Romney handily, with room to lose battleground states and still win.  In fact, one of the more surprising results from the presidential election is how little the electoral map changed from 2008.  The county-level results for 2012 and 2008 below illustrates this point:

GIF Animation of Nation Election Outcomes 2008, 2012

Obama’s margins over his Republican challenger shrunk in most battleground states and was enough to flip Indiana and North Carolina, the only two states to switch between 2008 and 2012.  But despite the slow and tenuous economic recovery, high unemployment, a controversial health reform law, and a slew of other things Obama had going against him during the campaign, nothing much changed.  This was also despite lower turnout rates across the country.

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Virginia Votes 2012: Turnout across localities

About two-thirds of Virginians voted last Tuesday!

65.3% of eligible Virginians voted in last week’s presidential election (based on unofficial results and an estimate of the number of eligible voters in Virginia*).  This represents a modest decline from 2008, when 66.7% of eligible Virginians voted, but the drop off in 2012 is minor at less than 2% and turnout in 2012 is still on the high end for Virginia historically.

Graphic showing voter turnout in Virginia over the past three decades

How does turnout across the state in 2012 compare to 2008?

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Virginia Votes 2012

Now that the votes are cast, we have some real electoral data to explore. My first question was how the distribution of Obama’s vote in Virginia in 2012 compared to 2008.

Using the unofficial results currently reported by Virginia’ State Board of Elections (with 2,573 of 2,588 precincts reporting), I plotted the percent of votes cast for Obama in 2012 and 2008 by county. The diagonal line shows the point at which vote shares in 2012 are the same as in 2008.

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Who’s winning the money game? Understanding campaign finance statistics

The big story right now in the money contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is how the Republican challenger has been out-pacing the President in fundraising in recent months.  In July, Obama and the DNC raised a total of $59 million while Romney and the RNC raised $78 million.  But like all statistics (especially financial ones) the true story behind the numbers is a lot more complicated.

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The U.S. Didn’t Win the Olympics After All

One thing we heard a lot throughout the Olympics coverage was the medal count. At the end of every day, NBC would flash up its graphic and Bob Costas would tell us that the U.S. or China was in the lead. Every time that happened, my demographer hackles were raised.

Turns out, reporting on Olympics medal statistics is a lot like reporting on Virginia statistics. If the VA media chose to report just raw numbers as measures of success, they would pretty much always conclude that areas of Northern Virginia are doing the best. Those areas have more educated people, more professional workers, more people moving in, etc, but a lot of those statistics are just driven by an underlying population that is much larger than that of localities in other parts of the Commonwealth. Reporting just the total medal count in the Olympics makes it look like the U.S. and China are the most successful at the Games. But are they really?

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