An additional half a million people now call Virginia home, compared to 10 years ago, according to the latest figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau earlier this month.
At 8,631,393 residents, the nearly eight percent statewide rise in population places Virginia at No. 12 on the bureaus’ list of most populated states, positioned between New Jersey at 9,288,994 residents and Washington at 7,705,281 residents. California ranked No. 1 on the latest list, with 39,538,223 residents, followed by Texas then Florida.
Locally, the Fredericksburg region gained 63,414 new residents in Stafford, Spotsylvania, King George, Caroline, Culpeper and Orange counties combined, including the City of Fredericksburg. The 2020 population in this group of seven jurisdictions alone is 471,357 people, up 15.5 percent from 2010 and nearly doubling the state’s total overall gain of 7.9 percent.
Nora Kim, a professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Mary Washington, said once the wealth of information contained in the latest census report is completely boiled down, a more precise picture of the numbers’ impact on the region can be thoroughly examined and analyzed.
Kim cautioned, looking at the numbers on the surface could at first be misleading, because the Fredericksburg region doesn’t have population numbers like Fairfax County, which is up 6.3 percent from 10 years ago and ranked as the most populated county in the state at 1,150,309 residents. Statewide, Stafford and Spotsylvania counties rank 13 and 14 respectively on the same list, just behind Alexandria and its 159,467 residents and just ahead of the City of Hampton at 137,148.
“[The region] has gained some population, but it’s not something out of the ordinary or going beyond what we see in Virginia as a state in general,” said Kim.
The biggest gains in the region came in Stafford County, where the population grew by 21.7 percent: from 128,961 residents in 2010 to 156,927 residents in 2020. The biggest increase in Stafford—at 274 percent—came from people identifying themselves as two or more races. The census reports 19,173 residents are in this category, up from 5,117 in 2010. Excluding white residents from the total count, Stafford County’s total minority population is now 42 percent.
“I did not know [Stafford County] had increased like that,” said Bishop Leonard Lacey, the senior pastor of United Faith Christian Ministry and the Aquia district representative on Stafford County’s Diversity Advisory Coalition. “That shows the change that has taken place and I doubt very seriously if the majority of citizens in Stafford County know the diversity of this county.”
Fredericksburg came in at one percentage point higher than Stafford County in the two or more race category of the census, followed by Caroline County at 37.7 percent, while Spotsylvania County recorded 35.5 percent. Culpeper and King George counties following at 31.32 percent 28.45 percent respectively.
Following Stafford in total numbers of residents gained in the last 10 years was Fredericksburg at 15 percent, followed by Spotsylvania County at 14.4 percent, King George County at 13.3 percent and Culpeper County at 12.6 percent. Both Orange and Caroline counties also increased, about 8 percentage points each.
Stafford County leads the region at 88 percent with the biggest increase in minorities in the last 10 years, followed by Spotsylvania County at 66 percent. Fredericksburg came in third at a 39 percent increase, while Culpeper and Orange counties each recorded 42 percent increases. Lowest in the pack was Caroline County at 18 percent.
Kim, said the region is most likely seeing an influx of minorities as a result of cheaper housing costs, when compared to those available farther north, closer to the Beltway.
“They’re spreading down to where they can have access to ethnic communities and ethnic markets in Northern Virginia, but at the same time, have affordable housing,” said Kim, who also said the Fredericksburg region attracts large numbers of government contractors and military personnel who transition in and out of the region.
“Those two sectors tend to attract more minority populations,” said Kim.
In Lacey’s role as one of seven members on Stafford’s Diversity Advisory Coalition, the group is charged to advise the county’s Board of Supervisors on policies or activities that could help foster diversity, equity and inclusion within the county.
“[Stafford County] is growing and they’re selling these houses, that means there’s money,” said Lacey. “But at the same time, there are citizens being squeezed out, there becomes a need for programs like food pantries, shelters.”
Lacey, who also served for 33 years as a Virginia State Police officer, said when he was in a patrol car years ago, he knew exactly where the low income areas were within a particular community but said in Stafford’s case, there are pockets of poverty and low income families scattered throughout every corner of the county.
“I can’t be naive enough to believe these people don’t need help and assistance,” said Lacey. “They are all over the place.”
Since 2010, the white population in Stafford County dropped by 3,412 residents, while the Hispanic and Latino communities grew by 11,771. With more than 42 percent of Stafford’s growth over the past decade coming from minorities and those who identify as being of two or more races, Black residents increased by 8,519, Asians were up 2,631 and those classified as falling under two or more races added another 14,056 residents to the county. Three other categories included in the 2020 census data added another 10,834 minorities to Stafford’s mix.