Soaring numbers of Hispanics and Asians pushed Virginia’s population over 8 million in the past decade, transforming the state into a far more diverse place, according to census figures released Thursday.
The state’s white population barely grew. As a result, fewer than two-thirds of all Virginians are now white.
The 2010 Census numbers underscore how the home of the former capital of the Confederacy is evolving into a mosaic of races and ethnicities from around the world. It has grown by a third in the past two decades, and its very character is changing. Today, seven of 10 Virginians live in three big urban areas, and Virginia’s once-mighty rural areas are shrinking. Dozens of small towns, mostly in the rural southwest and Southside, lost residents.
Loudoun County was in a league of its own in the past decade, adding 142,000 residents. As with the state as a whole, much of the growth was fueled by minorities. The Asian population quintupled, Hispanics tripled and blacks doubled. Non-Hispanic whites increased at a much slower pace and today account for a little more than six in 10 residents in the county.
Statewide, the number of Hispanics almost doubled, to 632,000. Hispanics now make up 8 percent of Virginia residents, and a third are younger than 18, a harbinger of future growth as young people come of age and have children. In contrast, just about one in five of all non-Hispanics in Virginia is a child.
The state’s Asian population also took off, climbing by 68 percent in 10 years.
In a state that in living memory had anti-miscegenation laws on the books, there was a striking jump in the number of Virginians who describe themselves as multiracial. The number rose from 90,000 to 233,000 in the past decade. A third of the growth was in Northern Virginia, and most of the rest was in the Hampton Roads area and Central Virginia.
As recently as 1990, non-Hispanic whites made up 76 percent of the state’s residents. A decade later, their numbers had fallen to 70 percent, and last year, they accounted for less than two-thirds of the state’s residents.
Meanwhile, the state’s non-Hispanic black population held steady at just over 19 percent.
Virginia’s Hispanic population has shown the most dramatic increase. Qian Cai, director of the demographics group at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, said immigration alone is not responsible for all the growth.
Virginia faces additional deadline pressure because it is one of 19 states that must have its redistricting approved by the U.S. Justice Department, because of a past pattern of discrimination. Even now, minorities make up less than 15 percent of the 140 members of the General Assembly.
The redistricting creates opportunities for lawmakers from Northern Virginia, who have long complained that too many of the region’s tax dollars are sent to other parts of the state.