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.
Recently, I’ve been comparing a number of traits of metropolitan areas based on distance from the core. Here I’m looking at the average densities of each metro area as you travel outwards from the center, calculated using census blocks and 2010 short-form census data. I’ve graphed them in groups of three. Cities with a strong core will have high densities on the left (near the center) that fall off as you travel outwards. Cities whose densities fall off quickly on the right have clearer edges, while those that taper off slowly are more spread out. Click on the graphs to view them full screen.
First are the three major metro areas. Note that the Northern VA graph includes only Virginia census blocks, not the rest of the DC area. Northern VA has the largest population by far, with fairly high densities even several miles into the suburbs. Richmond has the smoothest curve. I used downtown Norfolk as the core for Hampton Roads, but the area’s polycentricity is obvious.
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
With input from Hamilton, I’ve been looking recently at how metropolitan areas change as one travels from the center to the periphery. The following charts show the percent of the population 25 and older with bachelor’s degrees. The graphs are based on concentric rings coming out from the center of downtown. I’ve included reference maps with distances and put lines on the graphs to correspond to the circles on the map.
It’s important to note that this is for adults who are 25 and older. While college towns have high numbers of educated residents and that shows up on the graphs, these numbers do not include actual undergraduate students or recent graduates.
Data for 1990 and 2000 comes from the long-form census. Data for 2012 is from the American Community Survey’s 2008-2012 5-year estimates. The census long form survey disappeared after the 2000 census, so questions that would have been on the long form (like education level) are now collected as part of the American Community Survey.