The race and ethnicity data from the 2020 Census provides a glimpse of how the racial composition of our country—and Virginia, specifically— is changing. Virginia, like most of the United States, is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. As people move here from different parts of the world, over time and through generations, our nation is becoming even more of a melting pot. While there are some caveats about the 2020 Census data in general—such as the use of data distortion to increase privacy and specific concerns about how race and ethnicity counts may be overrepresented in some cases and underrepresented in others—at the state level, the data can be helpful to identify overall race and ethnicity trends.

Virginia continues to become more racially and ethnically diverse, mirroring national trends

As a vast state with a wide range of communities both large and small, Virginia’s demographic patterns are a microcosm of larger national trends. Virginia’s population is still majority White, though the White population’s share of the total population has been shrinking for decades. The Hispanic/Latino population in Virginia is surging, and more Virginians are identifying as multi-racial than ever before. These trends are playing out more profoundly in the state’s urban and suburban communities, but also in many smaller towns and cities across the Commonwealth.

As of 2020, more than half of Virginians (58.6%) were White alone (not Hispanic/Latino). The Black population in Virginia is the second largest racial group, at 18.3% of the state’s overall population. About one out of every ten Virginians is of Hispanic or Latino heritage (10.5%), and approximately 7.1% of the state’s population is Asian.

One of the biggest changes in the Census is the number of Virginians identifying themselves as more than one race. Approximately 4.7% of Virginia residents—or about 405,000 people—are bi- or multi-racial. This rate is more than double what it was ten years ago, making it the fastest growing segment of Virginia’s population.

Hispanic/Latino and multi-racial residents accounted for most of Virginia’s population growth over the last 10 years

As noted in a previous blog post, Virginia’s population growth rate has slowed to its lowest level since the Great Depression. Despite this slowdown, the state still had more than 630,000 residents added to its population between 2010 and 2020. Most of this growth was driven by increases in the numbers of Hispanic/Latino and multi-racial residents.

There were more than 277,000 Hispanic or Latino Virginians added to the state population over the last ten years, which is a 43.9% jump. Also, the 2020 Census data shows that over 223,000 additional Virginians  identify as more than one race, compared to the 2010 Census—this represents a 123.0% surge.

These trends in Virginia align with what is happening at the national level and reflect several factors that are a product of both the increasing diversity in our county as well as greater awareness of the complexity and depth of racial identity. Some of the specific factors include the rise in interracial marriage and parentage and changes to how the Census Bureau collects and tabulates its race data. While the primary race categories remained the same in the 2020 Census as in previous decades, additional boxes were provided for respondents to write-in more nuanced information about their origin, such as specific nationalities, and also Native American tribes.  The way in which the information was coded/tabulated also changed.

An interesting takeaway from the most recent census data was that the White population—while still the largest racial group in Virginia and the country as a whole—actual had fewer residents in 2020 than in 2010. There were approximately 123,000 fewer White alone (not Hispanic or Latino) residents in the state than ten years ago, which is a modest 2.4% decrease. Similar trends occurred nationwide (-2.6%), and this represents the first time the White population in the United States has decreased between decennial censuses since the data collection began in 1790. This reflects the increased diversity in our country, particularly with the younger population, but it also is a result of how people are identifying themselves. As cultural changes and conversations about race in our society continue to evolve and broaden, it is likely that more White people that have multi-racial heritage are indicating this on the census forms.

As more 2020 Census data is released in the coming months, be sure to check back with us for the latest analysis and insights on how the demographic landscape in Virginia is evolving, as well as what impacts it could have on the housing market.

For more information on demographic and economic trends in Virginia, be sure to check out Virginia REALTORS®‘ other Economic Insights blogs and our Data page.