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Population Growth Overall

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Population Growth Overall

Key Facts Population Growth Overall

Northern Virginia is on the front lines of a demographic transformation shaping the United States. There has been an extraordinary amount of population growth in Northern Virginia.

2010 to 2020 Period

Key Facts:

Decennial Growth

  • Northern Virginia added approximately 320,000 people in this ten year period.  This is 96,000 or 23% less than the previous decade, signaling a significant slowdown in the pace of growth.  However, growth still continues at a high amount.

  • Virginia’s population grew by 630,369, of which 50.7% of that growth was in Northern Virginia. 

  • I​​n 2020 29.5% of Virginia’s population was in Northern Virginia, compared to 27.9% in 2010.

  • Growth peaked in 2010.  Growth in Northern Virginia has slowed since 2010.  It has trended down annually since 2010, but it is still large and impactful growth that the the region is facing.

  • The localities in Northern Virginia the growth is occurring in this decade is different in some ways than in the 1990s and 2000s.

    • The preponderance of population growth of Northern Virginia continues to be located in the outer-ring suburbs of Prince William, Loudoun Counties, and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.  However, the share of the region's growth that is in the outer-ring has dropped from 65.1% to 61.5%. 

    • Arlington has seen its share of the region's growth more than double from what it experienced in the 2000's.

    • Alexandria has seen its share of the region's growth become 2.2 times what it experienced in the 2000's.

    • Intensification of developmental pressures this decade in the inner-core is a response to the millennial generation preferences, demographics, urbanization, transportation and other market pressures.

Annual Growth

  • The annual growth for each of the last three years has been the lowest since 2000.  Growth from 2017 to 2018, 2018 to 2019, and 2019 to 2020 was estimated to be 14,300, 19,200, and 11,700 respectively.  Two factors known to be contributing to this are the region's economic dependence on the federal government and immigrants.​​​​​

    • ​The Washington metropolitan area has an economy that is heavily dependent on the federal government. When federal jobs are cut, federal contractor job cuts follow too.  The presidential administration in office from January 2017 to January 2021 cutback federal jobs and federal contracting jobs until the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.  Federal employment (excluding contractors) in the Washington metropolitan region was 367,200 in 2016 prior to the new presidential administration. It dropped to 362,400 by 2019. In 2020 it improved to 369,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Slower population growth in Northern Virginia was in parallel with the federal workforce decline from 2017 to 2019. 

    • Immigrants have driven Northern Virginia's growth for the past two decades.  In 2000, Northern Virginia's population was 21% foreign born and today it is estimated to be approximately​ 28% foreign born.  International migration slowed significantly from 2017 to 2020.  To put this into perspective from 2013 to 2017 the annual international migration into the region ranged from 20,300 to 23,300 people, while from 2017 to 2020 it ranged from 10,600 to 16,100 people according to the U.S. Census Bureau.   See the immigration section of the NOVA Region Dashboard for more information on immigration in Northern Virginia.


2000 to 2010 Period

Key Facts:

  • A population increase of 415,000, surpassing a previous decennial record of 360,000 added during the 1980s.

  • The population growth during the decade was equivalent to adding a number that exceeded the 2010 population count for Prince William County.

  • An average annual gain of nearly 42,000.

  • A ten-year growth rate of 23% compared to 9% nationally.

  • The population growth of Northern Virginia exceeded the population growth recorded in 35 of the 50 U.S. states.

  • Two-thirds of the population growth of the Washington metropolitan region settled on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.

  • Two-thirds of the population growth of Northern Virginia was located along the outer-ring suburbs of Prince William, Loudoun Counties, and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.  This was the first time in the history of Northern Virginia that the preponderance of new population growth moved to the outer rim.

Decennial Census Data

The Decennial Census is based on a survey of the entire population.  It is conducted once a decade.  The 2020 Decennial Census population was released on August 12, 2021.  The Decennial Census town population data is shown in the interactive charts that follow. 

Annual Estimates Data

Annual estimates of population paint a portrait of the annual growth patterns in the towns of Northern Virginia.  Annual estimates are not based on a full census of the population.  Rather they are estimates based on a compilation of multiple administrative data pieces such as birth records and residential building permits.  The estimates are benchmarked to the Decennial Census.  These latest estimates are benchmarked to the 2010 Decennial Census.  The 2020 Decennial Census data was released on August 12, 2021.  Using the results of the 2020 Decennial Census, the annual estimates for 2010 to 2019 shown below will be adjusted later on by the U.S. Census Bureau sometime in 2022.  Until the data is adjusted, the following data will not correspond exactly with the results of the 2020 Census, but the estimates are relatively close.