Cooper Center demographers defined eight regions for the Commonwealth of Virginia based on communities’ shared demographic, social, economic, and geographic characteristics. Historically, the population and economy of Virginia’s regions were shaped by the local topography and climate. Virginia’s transition over the past century, however, from a rural, agriculture-based economy to an urban, service-based economy has eroded many of the differences between Virginia’s historic regions while also creating new, distinctive regions within the Commonwealth.
Today, access to a metropolitan area’s labor market is the most significant factor in shaping a community’s population. Consideration of metropolitan-area commuting characteristics was therefore a key element in the determination of Virginia's regions. While some of Virginia’s regions are essentially a single metro area, such as Northern Virginia or Hampton Roads, others, like the West Central Region, are a combination of multiple metro areas.
Being part of a metro area alters the socioeconomic characteristics of many communities and attracts commuters with similar socioeconomic characteristics. This means that communities in the same metro area may be more similar to each other in terms of demographic characteristics—such as educational attainment, labor force participation, unemployment rates and health insurance coverage—than they are to more closely neighboring non-metropolitan localities. Communities with low labor force participation rates, such as Buckingham or Sussex counties, are notable exceptions to this general rule.
In defining Virginia's regions, non-metro communities (those communities that typically have a larger share of their population living in rural areas) were compared with both metro and non-metro communities in neighboring regions to determine the region to which they were most demographically similar. This analysis revealed that, with some exceptions (like King George and Surry counties), most non-metro communities were more similar to communities in neighboring, predominantly rural regions. Virginia’s shift to a largely urban-based population and economy has diminished demographic diversity not only among communities in metro areas but also among communities in rural areas like Southwest Virginia as well.
- Colonial Heights
- Isle of Wight
- James City
- Falls Church
- Manassas Park
- Buena Vista