“Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have” is a quote often ascribed to the British PM Sir Winston Churchill. In that spirit, and in light of the recent health care reform debate within the US, I wondered what the current picture of health coverage actually looks like.  The Census Bureau offers tools that allow us to see the same data set from different perspectives. Since 2008, the historical face of health insurance has changed significantly as depicted in Fig 1 below. The transition starts gradually and until 2013, most states remain in the brackets with lower insurance rates. But over 2014 and 2015, with the exception of Alaska and Texas, the uninsured rate across all states dramatically dropped below 14%.



Across the US, health insurance rates vary, both by region and by age groups as seen from the map in Fig 2. By 2015, the uninsured percentage of the population was mainly concentrated in the 18-64 ages, with the very young and very old having greater health coverage in comparison. Read Full Article →

This morning the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia released its 2016 population estimates for Virginia’s counties and cities. The most obvious trend in the population estimates is how much more slowly Virginia and most of its communities are growing this decade. Since 2010, Virginia’s population has grown by a little over 410,000 residents. During the same period of the last decade, Virginia added over 604,000 residents.

Population Change

Source:Decennial Census and 2016 State Population Estimates

As last week’s post noted, Virginia’s population growth is slowing in large part because many of its residents are leaving the state. The last time Virginia grew at a rate that was slow as the rate it is experiencing now was during the 1920s, which was also the last time many Virginians were leaving the commonwealth for other states.     Read Full Article →

In December, the Census Bureau released its annual state population estimates, which showed that Virginia grew by 44,000 residents last year, its smallest numerical gain in population since the 1970s. The main cause of Virginia’s slower growth is that, for the past three years, more people have been leaving Virginia for other states than moving in. Prior to 2013, IRS tax return data (which the Census Bureau uses to track migration) had never recorded out-migration from Virginia since the IRS began publishing the data in 1978.

1990 to 2015 Migration Virginia

*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 previous years. 

The most obvious reason why more people are leaving Virginia than moving in is the state’s economy, which has lagged behind the rest of the country since 2011, especially since the federal budget sequestration began in early 2013. Prior to the budget sequestration, Wells Fargo Securities ranked Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia as the areas most dependent on federal spending.

Since 2013, Northern Virginia in particular has been losing residents to other states. Fairfax County, which contains over a third of Northern Virginia’s population, has experienced a significant rise in residents moving to metro areas with healthier economies, such as Houston or Los Angeles.  Read Full Article →

Since the Changing Shape of American Cities report came out, I’ve fielded numerous questions about whether the trends cited had much to do with the subprime mortgage crisis and the recession that followed. The short answer is no. The recession may have accelerated things, but the shift began long before 2006. Data from 2000 shows a steady march from the 1990 “old donut” to the 2012 “new donut.”

But with the release of the new 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-year estimates, we have a chance to see a true post-recession data point, a full 3 years newer than the data used in the report. I’ve crunched those numbers and added them to the charting tool here.

For the most part, the new data shows no dramatic changes (unsurprising since the two 5-year estimates overlap by two years and thus are drawing on some of the same data). Where there has been change, it’s largely been a continuation of the trends noted in the paper. The most consistent trend is a slight increase in per-capita income in the center, visible on the composite map and present in most of the cities that experienced any visible change. A few cities that continued to experience transition over that three year-period include:

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles1


Richmond, VA


San Antonio, TX

San Antonio1

What stands out to me is that many of the most established cities, with the most visible new donuts already, also saw the least change. Many of the cities that looked like they had changed the least before are now starting to show signs of moving in the new donut direction. It may be that there is a natural asymptote for the cities at the forefront of the trend, while other cities are just a few years behind and are now playing catch-up.

Take a look for yourself and see if you see any other patterns.

2016 Inclusion works

Last month, in observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released data reflecting the work contributions of Americans with disabilities and the employment difficulties they may face. This year’s theme “#InclusionWorks” seeks to generate further awareness of workers with disabilities by embracing individual differences and fostering workforce diversity. Nearly 5.2 million people with disabilities were employed across the country in 2015, largely concentrated in management, professional, and related occupations (31.3%). This made me curious about the labor force characteristics of Virginians with disabilities.

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As our nation embraces–and as the workplace demands–postsecondary education for an increasingly wider swath of students graduating from high school, the question arises: what factors discourage, or even prevent, high school students from applying for admission to Virginia’s many fine postsecondary institutions?  Certainly, finances, family constraints, academic and career interests, and other issues may influence whether a high school senior undertakes the process of surveying schools of interest, collecting application forms, taking placement tests, and completing the complex process of submitting applications to one or more institutions of higher education.  Many educators and policy makers assume that the level of education of the students’ parents may have a significant impact on whether students apply to college and on how well they do once admitted; and initiatives are developed to support these so-called “first generation” students, once they are enrolled in a college or university in the Commonwealth.
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During the last three decades, growth in the U.S. working age population, ages 20 to 65, has easily outpaced total U.S. population growth. But in coming decades further growth in the working-age population is on track to be considerably slower, increasing at less than half the rate of the rest of the population. As the large baby boomer generation leaves the workforce, there will be hardly enough twenty-year-olds entering the workforce to replace them. Meanwhile, as Baby Boomers age, the population over 65 will swell and become the fastest growing age group in the U.S. This shift in the structure of the U.S. population – a relatively small population of 20-year-olds to replenish jobs vacated by a large population of Baby Boomers – will reshape local economies across the country.Change in Population

Sources: Decennial Census Counts, *Weldon Cooper Center National Population Projections

Comparing the U.S. age distribution in 1980 with the current U.S. age distribution below, reveals how the working-age population grew so quickly between 1980 and 2010, and why growth is now hard to come by.workingagecomparison Read Full Article →

No other age group experiences as much change within such as short period of time as young adults do. Until around age 18, the vast majority of children live with family and attend school. But then a great dispersion takes place, many young adults move away to attend college (69 percent of 2015 high school graduates enrolled in college), young adults will also often move to work in their first full-time jobs. Between 15 and 24, nearly 30 percent of Virginia’s young adults move in any given year, in comparison, after age 45 less than 10 percent of adults move annually. In Virginia, some localities attract more young adults than others, likewise, some localities lose more of their young adults than others.

Migration Rate Virginia

Data is from the 2010-2014 American Community Survey, accessed using University of Minnesota, IPUMS

Recently released census age estimates show that so far this decade some of Virginia’ cities and counties with universities are experiencing an influx of 15 to 24 year olds, but most of Virginia’s counties are experiencing a significant outflow of their 15 to 24 year old population. Between 2010 and 2015, 88 of Virginia’s 95 counties had more 15 to 24 year olds move out than in, this is up from 69 counties between 2000 and 2005. Out-migration was largest in rural counties. In contrast, Virginia’s cities and counties with universities received a large inflow of 15 to 24 year olds, with 24 of Virginia’s 38 independent cities experiencing an increase in their 15 to 24 year population from in-migration. Read Full Article →

In June, the National Center for Health Statistics released the total number of births in the U.S. during 2015. Given that the economy has been growing for six years since the recession ended in 2009, most economists were expecting the number of births to increase. However, there were actually fewer births in 2015 than in 2014 with the U.S fertility rate (the number of births per 1000 women ages 15 to 44) reaching an all-time low.CDC

Source: Chart produced by the Centers for Disease Control

Altogether there have been 3.4 million fewer births since 2007 than would have been expected if pre-recession fertility rates had not declined. The continuing decline in births has caused economists to worry about its long term impact on society and the economy. Recently, the Census Bureau cut its 2008 projection of the U.S. population in 2050 from 439 million to 398 million, in part because of lower fertility rates. The Social Security Administration has also warned that the decline in births could cause the size of the social security deficit to double because there will be fewer workers to support the rapidly growing retiree population.

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One of the predominant long-term trends in American demography has been the steady rise in the portion of the population that lives in cities or nearby them. The percentage of the U.S. population living in metropolitan areas has risen from 56 percent in 1950 to 87 percent in 2015. The percentage living in large metropolitan areas (over a million residents) has nearly doubled to 57 percent. In addition to the growth in population, the geographic size of metropolitan areas has  increased noticeably since 1950. For much of the 20th century, this was due to urban areas becoming more sprawled out. But a major reason for this geographic growth today is that as the urban cores of metropolitan areas have grown larger, they have attracted a rising number of commuters from nearby rural counties, in many cases causing the rural counties to become part of their metropolitan area.

Percent living in metro area by sizeData is from the 1950 to 2010 Decennial Census, as well as the 2015 Census Population Estimates

The expansion of metropolitan areas into rural America
The widespread construction of interstates and highways after World War II made it much easier for workers to commute longer distances to job centers. At the same time, agricultural employment declined in nearly every rural U.S. county, while manufacturing jobs in most small towns also began to disappear by the 1980s. The result of these two trends has been that residents in most rural counties have grown more dependent on nearby cities for jobs. Counties get included in a metro area once a certain percentage of their working residents are commuting into a nearby city, rather than participating in the rural county’s economy. In many rural counties, as the map below shows, the proportion of workers commuting to a nearby city has risen above a quarter of all workers, causing counties to become part of another city’s metropolitan area.giphy (1)The Office of Management and Budget determined the 1960 to 2015 metropolitan area boundaries

In Virginia, the portion of commuters who traveled over an hour each way to work rose from 6.5 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2014. But in rural areas that are within commuting distance of city centers, the percentage of residents who drove over 60 minutes to get to work often doubled or tripled in the same period. In some counties on the edges of large metro areas, such as Warren County, Virginia, located 70 miles west of Washington DC, it is common for between a quarter and a third of residents to commute more than an hour to get to work. Read Full Article →