Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
 

Population Overall

Reports, maps, and charts are best viewed on a desktop or tablet.

Population Growth Overall

Key Facts Population 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.  In 2021, the Northern Virginia population was estimated to be 2,537,934, an increase of 73% from 1990 when the population was 1,466,350.

The COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States in March 2020 and has lasted through 2022.  It changed the country's demographic migration patterns significantly.  It also significantly impacted births and deaths.  It greatly impacted Northern Virginia's demographic patterns as well.  From July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021, Northern Virginia's population declined in a one year period for the first time since Census Bureau annual record keeping began in 1970.  It declined by an estimated 12,000 persons.

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 obtained from the U.S. Census, which benchmarks them to Decennial Censuses.  Decennial Census data represents the population as of April 1 of the year, whereas the annual estimates are as of July 1 of each year. The 2020 to 2021 estimates are benchmarked to the 2020 Decennial Census.  The 2010 to 2019 estimates are benchmarked to only the 2010 Decennial Census, and not both the 2010 and 2020 Decennial Census at this time.  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 in late 2022.  Until the data is adjusted, the 2010 to 2019 data will not be consistent with the results of the 2020 Census.  

Key Facts:

2020 to 2021 Annual Growth  

The COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States in March 2020 and has lasted through 2022.  It changed the country's demographic migration patterns significantly.  It also significantly impacted births and deaths.  Whether these shifts are temporary remains to be seen.  It greatly impacted Northern Virginia's demographic patterns as well. 

 

  • From July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021, Northern Virginia's population declined for the first time since Census Bureau annual record keeping began in 1970.  It declined by an estimated 12,000 persons. 

  • Three of Northern Virginia's jurisdictions experienced growth, those being the counties of Loudoun and Prince William and the City of Fairfax. These three jurisdictions are outer jurisdictions.  The other six jurisdictions experienced declines.  

  • Northern Virginia domestic out-migration was the factor that contributed to Northern Virginia's population decline during the first year of the pandemic.  

  • Natural Change:

    • In U.S. counties, natural decrease was significantly higher than in the prior two years.  Natural decrease occurs when there are more deaths than births in a population over a given time period.  In 2021, more than 73% of U.S. counties experienced natural decrease, compared to 45.5% in 2019 and 55.5% in 2020.*

    • Northern Virginia had a natural increase of 15,090 persons.  This is significantly less than pre-pandemic times.  From 2011 to 2019, natural increase ranged from 20,500 to 24,800 annually.  A large increase in deaths compared to the pre-pandemic times is what contributed to the change.  Therefore, this phenomenon is believed to be temporary.

    • Manassas Park is the only Northern Virginia jurisdiction that experienced a natural decrease (-37). 

  • Domestic Migration:

    • Domestic migration patterns in the country shifted in 2021.  In many cases, there was a population shift from larger, more populous counties to medium and smaller ones. Many people moved during the pandemic when work-from home became widespread for office workers.  This shifting contributed to population increases in 58.0% of counties, decreases in 41.8% of counties, and no change in 0.3% of counties.*

    • Northern Virginia domestic out-migration was the factor that contributed to Northern Virginia's population decline during the first year of the pandemic.  There was a net loss of 34,018 persons from domestic migration, meaning that more domestic persons left the region than moved into the region. Northern Virginia has a large share of office jobsWork-from home became widespread for office workers nationwide, leading to much domestic migration of office workers who transitioned to remote work.  

    • Northern Virginia's negative domestic migration was significantly different than pre-pandemic times.  From 2014 to 2019, Northern Virginia had been experiencing a negative domestic migration of between 13,700 and 20,200 annually. 

    • Eight Northern Virginia jurisdictions had negative domestic migration. Only one jurisdiction had positive domestic migration and that one was the outer jurisdiction of Loudoun County.

  • International Migration:

    • Positive for 71% of U.S. Counties.*

    • Northern Virginia had a positive increase in international migration, with an increase of 6,607.

    • All nine Northern Virginia jurisdictions had a positive increase in international migration.

* Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Over Two-Thirds of the Nation's Counties Had Natural Decrease in 2021, Press Release, March 24, 2022.

2017 to 2020 Annual Growth

The annual growth from 2017 to 2020 had 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 contribute to this during this period were 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 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.   For more information, see the NOVA Region Dashboard section on immigration in Northern Virginia.

 

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 regional, county, and city population data is shown in the interactive charts that follow. 

Key Facts:

Decennial Growth

  • In 2020, Northern Virginia's population was 2,550,337 according to the Decennial Census.  The population increased from 1,466,409 in 1990, a 74% increase in the 30 year period from 1990 to 2020.

  • Northern Virginia added approximately 320,000 people in this past decade, 2010 to 2020.  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 from 2010 to 2020, 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% in the 2000 to 2010 period to 61.5% in the 2010 to 2020 period. 

    • 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.