Soon after Mike Duggan was elected Mayor of Detroit in 2013, a city that has lost over half its population since 1950, he stated that: “the single standard a mayor should be defined on is whether the population of the city is going up or going down.” Since Duggan’s election, Detroit’s unemployment rate has been nearly halved, while its economy has grown faster than the country overall. Today, Detroit’s gross domestic product is the highest it has been since the 1990s, when the city’s population was 30 percent larger. Yet Detroit’s population has continued declining each year since Duggan’s election.Detroit Population and Gross City Product

Source: Census American Community Survey and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

While Virginia’s population trends are quite different than in Detroit, much of the Commonwealth is also experiencing population decline with the majority of its counties losing population since 2010, according to the 2017 population estimates. As a result, discussions about population decline have become more prevalent in Virginia, often with the presumption that population loss indicates a larger problem within a community. Read Full Article →

For decades, Virginia’s population has grown steadily, adding around 900,000 residents each decade. After accounting for slowing growth due to an aging population, Virginia’s population should have increased by around 590,000 residents by this point in the decade; however, the Weldon Cooper Center’s 2017 population estimates show that Virginia’s population has only grown by 469,000 residents since 2010. This slowdown in population growth means that Virginia has over 100,000 fewer residents than expected, the equivalent of Albemarle or Spotsylvania County.Annual Population Growth

Source:Census Bureau State Population Estimates

The most obvious reason why Virginia’s population has grown more slowly than expected over the past few years is the federal budget sequestration which has hobbled Virginia’s economy, particularly in Northern Virginia. Since the federal budget sequestration began in 2013, Virginia has had more people moving out than in each year. A rise in retirees leaving Virginia for warmer climates and young adults moving to metro areas with stronger economies and cheaper housing has also boosted out-migration from Virginia. Read Full Article →

Every year the Demographics Research Group is asked to give presentations on Virginia’s demographic trends, and this year, as is true every year, the demographic trends we explored depended on our audience’s area of interest  —school enrollment change for the Board of Education, population growth trends for the House Appropriations Committee, or population projections for the Virginia Planning Association. However, behind all of these trends, there was one significant driving factor: aging. The aging of Baby Boomers is not only swelling the 65+ population, but is also having a ripple effect across all age groups, slowing growth in the working-age population and often causing decline in the school-age population.

The growth in Virginia’s population over age 65 is a widely known trend and is commonly recognized as the most significant demographic change currently taking place across the U.S. But the expected rate of growth in the 65+ population is still stunning. In just 20 years (between 2010 and 2030), Virginia’s population age 65 and older is expected to jump from 976,937 to 1,803,404, contributing to the majority of Virginia’s population growth during the period. Outside of Northern Virginia, 85 percent of the projected population growth is predicted to come from those 65 and older. Benjamin Franklin famously said “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Barring a catastrophic spike in deaths, the aging of Virginia’s population is also a certainty.

Population Pyramids for Virginia

Source: 2010 Decennial Census and UVA Weldon Cooper Center Age Projections Read Full Article →

Recently, the Cooper Center’s Demographics Research Group (on behalf of Virginia’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education) collected feedback about the workplace readiness skills of entry-level workers from nearly 400 Virginia employers and workforce professionals. One of the comments most frequently made by the survey respondents was that young, entry-level workers need more hands-on/real-life work experience to prepare them for the demands of the workplace. Youth labor force participation has recently been declining, however, which means that a larger share of this age group is postponing their obtainment of the valuable work experience that employers desire.

As the graphs below demonstrate, while Virginia labor force participation from 2001 to 2016 increased by 59 percent among those age 65 or older and decreased by only 3 percent among 25-to-64-year-olds, it decreased by 11 percent among 20-to-24-year-olds and by 24 percent among those age 16 to 19. At the national level, the recent labor force participation rate among teens—including in the summer months—is the lowest it has been since Current Population Survey (CPS) data were first collected in 1948.

Blog photo-CPS line graph

Blog photo-Bar graph

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics,  (*2016 data are preliminary)

Read Full Article →

Late last week the IRS released their annual migration flows data, which showed that more people are moving out of Virginia than into it for the fourth year in a row. Virginia’s recent shift into out-migration is notable because prior to 2013, the IRS had never recorded out-migration for Virginia since it first began publishing migration data in 1978.  Though Virginia’s population is not declining, it is now dependent on having more births than deaths to continue growing.  As a result, Virginia’s population growth has slowed from around 90,000 annually during the 2000s to close to 50,000 annually during the past four years.1990 to 2016 Virginia Migration

*Census migration data (2014-15 net domestic migration). IRS migration data (total net migration) used for all other years. Though the 2014-2015 IRS data showed a similar trend, changes in the way the IRS published the data affected the comparability of 2014-15 IRS migration data with data from other years.  Read Full Article →

The recent wave of populism and anti-establishment voting behavior in the United States made me want to take a closer look at how the structure of the U.S. political representation system might be contributing to the development of these sentiments. In what ways has this system fallen short, for example, in responding effectively to U.S. population growth and distribution over time—perhaps aggravating a sense of political alienation among voters?

Part of the problem is that the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives—the “people’s chamber”—has been frozen at 435 for over a century despite the addition of four new states to the Union and an increase of nearly 220 million residents to our nation’s population during that time. As the graph below demonstrates, the average number of people served by each House member has increased from 34,436 in 1790 to 710,767 in 2010 and could potentially reach over 874,000 by 2040 if the cap on House size is not removed.

District Size

Sources: Population Data – U.S. Census Bureau, 1990 Census Apportionment Data, Table B; 2000/2010 Census Apportionment Data, Table 1; 2014 National Population Projections, Table 1
*No apportionment was made on the basis of the 1920 Census.

Read Full Article →


“How many unauthorized immigrants are there in Virginia?” This is a question we get asked quite often, but there is really no good data or any official statistic on it. Migration numbers are difficult to estimate and counting the number of unauthorized or undocumented migrants can be especially challenging given the limited availability of records. Neither censuses nor surveys conducted by federal agencies directly ask the question of immigration status; they cover only citizenship. In the American Community Survey (ACS), which is the largest nationwide survey replacing the decennial census long form, individuals are asked about their citizenship status in the following three categories: native-born/U.S.-born citizen, naturalized U.S. citizen, or non-U.S. citizen. Non-citizens include both authorized and unauthorized immigrants, and there is no information about a non-citizen’s immigration status. In addition, since surveys require self-reporting, unauthorized immigrants tend not to answer the citizenship question or avoid filling out the survey altogether; therefore, some are missing even from the count of non-citizens.

Read Full Article →

While the population of Virginia as a whole is projected to continue growing steadily over the next two decades (albeit at a slowing pace), the growth patterns of the 95 counties and 38 independent cities that make up Virginia vary tremendously, ranging from high growth to continuing decline. What can the age distribution of a locality tell us about its population trend? How are individual age groups trending? This post takes a unique visual look.

We’ll look at three topics that vary across localities:

  1. Overall population change
  2. Population age distribution
  3. Population change by age

For the graphics in this post, individual charts for each locality are laid out in a grid roughly the shape of Virginia so that we can look for potential geographic patterns while preserving even visual weight. The localities are color coded by regions (defined for their similar demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, and of course natural geographic proximity).

Overall Population Change

Read Full Article →

“All models are wrong, but some are useful” – George Box

Trying to predict the future is a risky business because it is inherently uncertain, but we need to do so in order to plan.

The Cooper Center recently released Virginia population projections for 2020-2040. The projections were developed by extrapolating historical population trends. As part of our comprehensive research efforts, we also study population change in terms of births, deaths, and migration (though our official projection model does not require these input data, historical population trends are driven by trends in components of population change). This blog post focuses on how U.S.A. fertility rates have changed over time and how they might look in the future.

Total Fertility Rates


The total fertility rate (TFR) is the most frequently used statistic to describe birth trends. The TFR for a given year is the number of children a hypothetical woman would have in her lifetime if she followed the age-specific fertility rates (ASFR) observed in that year. The chart above shows U.S.A. TFR grew from about 2 children per woman in the 1930s during depression to more than 3 during baby boom. Currently, the TFR is slightly below 2 children per woman. Read Full Article →

Last month our office released Virginia’s population projections for 2020 until 2040. If you combed through the data tables, then you may have noticed one striking prediction—Whites will make up less than half of Virginia’s population by 2040. Recently, the Census Bureau made a similar projection for the nation as a whole. While these types of predictions about how the U.S. population will change have received a good deal of attention in recent years, there has been little examination of how the U.S. non-White population could manage to grow from 12 percent of the population in 1960 to over 50 percent by the 2040s. The addition of new census race/ethnicity categories in recent decades, such as Hispanic and Two or more races, has played an underappreciated role in the growth of the U.S. minority population. Census Race Projections

Source: Census Bureau U.S. population projections. Aside from Hispanic, all other races are non-Hispanic.

Both our projections and the Census Bureau’s expect Whites to become a minority not because the U.S. White population will shrink considerably but because the U.S. non-White population is expected to grow much faster. Though all non-White racial/ethnic groups are predicted to grow in size, Hispanic Americans are expected to contribute to the bulk of population growth between now and 2040, making up 59 percent of all population growth nationally and 77 percent of all growth in Virginia. But any projections for over 2 decades out that rely on one group maintaining such rapid growth should be treated with some caution. Read Full Article →