migration from rural Virginia jurisdictions to urban areas is not a new phenomenon, as shown by the population changes between 1950-1960
Source: Library of Congress, “The national atlas of the United States of America,” Population Migration
500 years ago, the population of Virginia was concentrated rather than diffused consistently across the landscape. Native Americans lived in villages, or traveled in groups on traditional trails.
Today, the population of Virginia is concentrated in the modern equivalent of those villages, urban areas – or travelling in narrow corridors constructed by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Those urban areas are defined by a Federal agency, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). It has established criteria for the concentrations of people known as Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: 1
Each metro or micro area consists of one or more counties and includes the counties containing the core urban area, as well as any adjacent counties that have a high degree of social and economic integration (as measured by commuting to work) with the urban core.
The criteria for a jurisdiction to be included in Metropolitan/Micropolitan Statistical Areas have changed, as population has grown. In 2013, the standards were: 2
Metropolitan Statistical Areas have at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.
Micropolitan Statistical Areas have at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.
The definition of Standard Metropolitan Areas started before the 1950 Census. OMB does not intend for the boundaries to serve as a general purpose geographic framework. but the changing designations do reflect the increasing economic links between central cities and nearby jurisdictions, as suburbs have expanded and commuters travel longer distances to jobs in the urban core.
After the 1990 Census, Virginia’s urban population was concentrated in 8 areas defined as Metropolitan Statistical Areas by the Federal government:
- Johnson City–Kingsport–Bristol (Tennessee-Virginia)
- Norfolk–Virginia Beach– Newport News (North Carolina-Virginia)
- Washington, DC–MD–VA–WV PMSA and CMSA
Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas in Virginia in 2004
Source: Bureau of Census, State-based Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Maps – 2004
- Bureau of Census
- official definitions of Metropolitan/Micropolitan Areas
- Housing Virginia
- Cost Burden: Households Paying More Than 30% For Housing
- StatChat (Demographics Group at University of Virginia(
- What is considered a rural area? (May 30, 2018)
more than half the renters in Richmond, Hampton Roads, and near universities in Harrisonburg and Blacksburg spend over 30% of income for housing
Source: Harvard University, Millions of Americans Spend Over 30 Percent of Income for Housing