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.
As Hamilton noted when posting the map of updated Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Areas, the MSA’s are calculated with commuting statistics. If more than 25% of workers in a locality commute to a nearby metropolitan area, that county is considered to be closely linked to it. This is a useful cutoff point, but like all cutoffs, it is completely arbitrary. I mapped five of the state’s largest MSA’s to show the degree to which their surrounding counties are dependent on them. This is important to understand since a significant part of Virginia’s “rural” areas are becoming increasingly exurban – dependent on nearby urban economies rather than agriculture or local industries. Again, 25% is the cutoff for inclusion in the MSA (see Hamilton’s map linked above). That includes all workers commuting to one of the core counties of the MSA. The “core counties” are not explicitly listed anywhere that we’ve been able to find, but there is a definition and by working backwards from the commuting numbers it’s not too hard to figure out.
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.