Area Population Continues Upward Trend
By D'Vera Cohn
reprinted from the Washington Post
The Washington area added 75,000 new residents
last year, according to new census population
estimates released today. One in four lives in
Loudoun County, which grabbed a growing share
of new arrivals and is one of the nation's fastest
The region that extends from the western shore
of the Chesapeake Bay to Northern Virginia horse
country now numbers 5.9 million people, according
to the new figures. It is the fastest growing
metro area outside the Sunbelt.
The new census figures showed Fairfax County,
the biggest local jurisdiction, with slightly
more than a million people, a level that county
demographers believe was reached in 2002.
"D.C. ranks in the upper third of major
metro growth, well ahead of its East Coast and
Midwest counterparts and just behind the high-flying
metros located in Florida, Texas and the fast-growing
Southeast and Mountain West," said Brookings
Institution demographer William H. Frey, who analyzed
census figures for the nation's 43 largest metro
areas. All have populations over 1.5 million.
Frey said the Washington region is growing because
of a unique combination of factors: It is an attractive
destination for new foreign-born arrivals, but
native-born residents are not leaving, as thousands
are in other immigrant-rich areas such as New
York and Los Angeles.
Behind the region's numbers is a story of two
different patterns of growth. Older, closer-in
counties are expanding because of new immigrants
and births. Newer exurban areas are growing mainly
because of new residents coming from other U.S.
communities, including some closer-in suburbs
in this area.
The ring of counties the farthest from the District
accounted for most population growth during the
period covered by the new estimates, from mid-2003
to mid-2004. Loudoun alone added more than 18,000
new residents, and ranked third among counties
nationwide in its rate of growth.
From 2000-2004, it grew 41 percent, a bigger
increase than any other county in the country.
During that same period, Stafford and Spotsylvania
counties also were among the 25 fastest-growing
jurisdictions, according to the census figures.
Nationally, according to the Census Bureau,
Flagler County in Florida ranked first last year
for its 10.1 percent one-year population increase.
Kendall County, outside Chicago, ranked second,
at 8.3 percent, and Loudoun grew 8.1 percent.
Relatively few new immigrants moved to local
exurban counties, according to the census figures
-- less than a hundred arrived last year in the
southern Maryland communities of Calvert, Charles
and St. Mary's counties, for example.
But thousands of new foreign-born residents
are coming to the region's big suburbs that wrap
around the Capital Beltway. More than 25,000 settled
in Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George's counties
last year, the census numbers show. Those jurisdictions
also had more than 40,000 new births last year,
many of them to immigrant parents.
The census figures showed that 83 of the 100
fastest-growing communities last year were in
the South and West, continuing a pattern that
has prevailed for decades. None were in the Northeast.
Census Bureau demographer Katherine Condon said
the national trend also is for exurban areas --
counties located in metro areas but far from urban
downtowns -- to expand the most rapidly. Only
seven counties in the fastest-growing 100 are
not located in large or small metropolitan areas,
The census estimates indicate that Arlington
County's population declined slightly, and Alexandria's
held steady. Estimates by Virginia state demographers
for those two communities are somewhat higher.
A previously released estimate said the District
declined by about 9,000 people.