There is a lot of buzz amongst urbanists and demographers about millennials’ preference for urban areas. We’ve found evidence to support this narrative in some areas of Virginia, including indications that they may be staying even after having kids.
But there’s also a lot of talk about baby boomers retiring and moving into cities. Maybe this is happening in other parts of the U.S., but it’s certainly not the case in Virginia. On the contrary, they appear to be heading for the hills. In fact, despite Forbes Magazine naming Virginia its 5th best state to retire in, Virginia does not appear to attract many retirees in general.
Virginia is aging quickly, as can be seen on the map below. From 2000 to 2010, the median age in the Commonwealth rose from 35.7 to 37.5. In some localities, it rose by as many as 5 or 6 years in just that 10-year period. But most of that is due to a gradual decline in birthrates, not older people moving in. From 2000 to 2010, migration accounted for only a slight (1-2%) increase in the population of age groups around retirement age, and that increase was smaller than the state’s overall growth rate.
Like many people, I’ve been inclined to explain Virginia’s decades of explosive population growth in terms of migration and the Federal government’s expansion in Northern Virginia. While that’s certainly part of the equation, “natural increase” has actually driven most of the growth, just as it has across the country. Natural increase simply means more people are born than die in a year. Even in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, natural increase is the largest generator of population growth. But “natural increase” does not mean that we are having lots and lots of babies. In fact, it has much more to do with the fact that we had a lot of babies a while back and since then people started living a lot longer.
You hear, on this blog and elsewhere, about the “aging population,” but I wanted to show exactly what that means. Here’s the one gif you need to see to understand population growth in Virginia:
Virginia is often ranked as one of the top states for retirees, according to lists published by groups like AARP or Bankrate. Temperate climate, good healthcare, and standard of living are all listed among Virginia’s advantages. During the past decade, however, few retirees moved to Virginia, and more 65- to 74-year-olds moved out of the state than in. Additionally, despite both college towns and cities being promoted as attractive retirement spots, in Virginia’s major cities more retirees moved out than in and there was no great influx of retirees moving in to college towns such as Blacksburg or Charlottesville. Instead rural and suburban regions were the only areas in Virginia to experience growth due to in-migration of retirees.
Every year, the Cooper Center produces the official population estimates for the commonwealth of Virginia. The current estimates are based on changes since the 2010 census in housing stock, school enrollment, births, deaths, and driver’s licenses. They are used by state and local government agencies in revenue sharing, funding allocations, planning and budgeting.
Since 2010, Virginia has grown faster than the nation, growing by 2.3% between the 2010 census and July 2, 2012, to nearly 8.2 million residents. Within Virginia, the largest population gains continue to be concentrated in the urban centers of Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads. And much of Virginia’s overall growth remains driven by the rapid growth of Northern Virginia, with 54% of the state’s growth between 2010 and 2012 occurring in NoVA.
Figure 1. Numerical Population Change, 2010-2012
Although many growth patterns in the population estimates appear to be the continuation of past trends – Northern Virginia’s continued growth, stagnant growth and population loss in more rural areas of the state—the 2012 estimates also show signs of population aging and renewed growth in Virginia’s independent cities.
In addition to producing total population projections for 2020, 2030, and 2040 for Virginia and its localities, we also produced projections of future population by age, sex, and race, and by age, sex, and ethnicity. Today, I want to highlight the age structure of projections for the state of Virginia, with specific attention to population aging.
Population aging is occurring worldwide, as improvements in living conditions and medical care lead people to live longer, healthier lives. Not only will larger numbers of individuals be reaching older ages (65 and older) than ever before, but a rising proportion of the population will be at older ages in the future. These population changes are anticipated to have wide-ranging impacts: families may face increased caretaker demands; new businesses and services may develop to serve this large population with new and changing needs; and, in the United States and other countries, population aging has long-term implications for the economy.
Earlier today our office released my latest Stat Chat publication, Virginia’s Health Rankings. The publication presents data from the America’s Health Rankings and County Health Rankings & Roadmaps projects. These data sources include annually updated health rankings of the 50 states and of all counties in the U.S, as produced by the United Health Foundation, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The data allow us to compare Virginia to other states and to compare Virginia localities to each other. The data also provide one way to evaluate the health of our communities relative to other areas of the country. The Stat Chat publication provides a brief overview of the data sources and several maps showing the health rankings of all 50 states and of Virginia’s localities. Additionally, our website features an interactive map, with which you can examine the health rankings of each VA locality.