Virginia, once a popular destination for people seeking a high quality of life and a strong economy, is now facing a decline in population growth and an increase in out-migration. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Virginia had a net loss of 13,674 residents between 2021 and 2022, the first time the state experienced a negative net migration since the 1970s. Why are people leaving Virginia, and where are they going?
Reasons for Leaving Virginia
One of the main reasons people are leaving Virginia is the high cost of living, especially in the northern part of the state, where housing prices, taxes, and traffic congestion are among the highest in the nation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Virginia ranked 11th in the country in terms of per capita personal income in 2022, but also 11th in terms of regional price parity, a measure of the differences in the price levels of goods and services across states. This means that Virginians have less purchasing power than residents of other states with similar incomes.
Another reason people are leaving Virginia is the lack of economic opportunities and diversity, especially in the rural and southwestern parts of the state, where coal mining, manufacturing, and agriculture have declined in recent years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Virginia ranked 35th in the country in terms of annual employment growth in 2022, with a rate of 0.9%, below the national average of 1.5%. Moreover, Virginia ranked 40th in the country in terms of racial and ethnic diversity in 2022, according to the U.S. News and World Report, with a score of 31.8 out of 100, below the national average of 49.6. This means that Virginia has less social and cultural variety than most other states.
Destinations for Leaving Virginia
People who are leaving Virginia are mostly moving to other states in the South and the West, where the cost of living is lower, the economy is more dynamic, and the diversity is higher. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the top five states that gained the most residents from Virginia between 2021 and 2022 were North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee. These states offer warmer climates, lower taxes, more affordable housing, and more job opportunities than Virginia.
Some of the most popular cities that Virginians are moving to are Charlotte, Raleigh, Atlanta, Nashville, and Austin, according to a report by the moving company United Van Lines. These cities are known for their fast-growing industries, such as technology, finance, health care, and entertainment, as well as their vibrant cultures, cuisines, and lifestyles. According to the U.S. News and World Report, these cities ranked among the top 25 best places to live in the country in 2022, based on factors such as quality of life, job market, value, and desirability.
Virginia, once a magnet for people seeking a prosperous and comfortable life, is now losing its appeal and its population to other states that offer more advantages and opportunities. The high cost of living, the lack of economic diversity, and the low level of social and cultural variety are some of the main reasons why people are fleeing Virginia. The most common destinations for these migrants are other states in the South and the West, where the living conditions, the job prospects, and the diversity are more attractive and favorable. Virginia may need to address these issues and challenges if it wants to retain and attract more residents in the future.