But the big factor that doesn’t seem to be well-understood is simple population math. College attendance has climbed over the years to the point where an overwhelming majority of American young people will enroll in college of some kind at some point. This makes college enrollment extremely sensitive to fluctuations in the number of young people available. The generation currently in college or recently out of it is one of the largest this country has managed to produce. It’s no wonder there was a spike in enrollment, recession or no, back in 2008-09 if one looks at the number of Americans who were just reaching 18-19 years of age. Since then those numbers have fallen sharply and will continue to fall more slowly for the foreseeable future as the U.S. birth rate hovers below replacement (on a positive note, most of that decline is attributable to a precipitous decline in teen pregnancy).
Here is the United States’ population by age from 2010-2013.
If you grew up in one of Northern Virginia’s suburban counties, such as Prince William, or in any of Virginia’s metro areas, you likely grew up with the impression that growth is as certain as the seasons. For decades, many counties in Virginia have grown relentlessly, constructing thousands of homes each year to house new residents. With more residents come more schools, roads, offices and shops. Except for the hard times around the Civil War, Virginia’s population as a whole has grown continuously since it was a colony.
But outside Virginia’s largest urban areas, population growth is not a fact of life. In 2013, the population of most of Virginia’s counties and cities had declined from when it peaked in the past.
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”Continue reading →
The Weldon Cooper Center, under contract with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), developed and released in 2012 the most recent round of official state population projections for Virginia. These projections, consistent with others commissioned or developed in the past by the VEC, focus primarily on trends in the number of people currently living in Virginia and expected to live in Virginia ten, twenty, and thirty years from now
It’s one thing to think about growth in terms of numbers of people, but another to think about it in spatial terms – as the growth of physical urbanized areas. For a while now, I’ve been working on a GIS model that will do that. I’ve posted it before on my own blog, but since then I’ve cleaned it up and made it follow our regional population projections more rigidly.
Here’s a land cover raster (an image showing what primarily covers each 15Mx15M square of land) of Virginia in 2006. All developed land is in red. It’s a great image of the shape of our metro areas.
We’ve just released the new 30-year population projections for Virginia, its 134 localities, 22 planning districts, and large towns – projections of total population; population by age, sex, and race; and population by age, sex, and ethnicity. So there’s a lot of data involved. We’ll be blogging about it more in the days to come.
Today, I want to highlight the projections for total population. The state is projected to grow by more than 800,000 people in each successive decade, reaching 10.5 million by 2040, but this growth isn’t evenly distributed across the state. The table below shows the projected 2020 population and growth rate by region compared to the 2010 Census counts.