Who (What Age) is Moving to the Charlottesville – Albemarle Area

Sometimes, asking a simple question yields a tremendous response. A few weeks ago I was in a meeting in which a speaker noted that builders were building new homes primarily for the 55+ community (not explicitly 55+ communities; that’s a different thing). Builders are building an awful lot of homes in the Charlottesville – Albemarle area that do speak to the “want a first-floor master suite” market segment, but not everything is targeted just at that demographic segment.

Luke Juday with the Demographics Research Group of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service answered my question, and gave permission for me to post his response (edited only a bit here and there for the transition from email response to blog post).

“It’s difficult to accurately gauge migration by age with the tools we have now, but I would say that’s almost certainly a very incorrect statement.

The vast majority of people moving between areas are in their 20’s.

Young families also move out to suburban areas of the same metro. Here’s a Census graph that shows the percentage of people who will move in a given year by age:
young adults on the move

Any college town (Jim’s note: such as Charlottesville) is going to have a huge influx at 18 years of age. Then there will probably be a mass exodus four years later. Any urban area will have a large influx at 22 and a slower exodus as people have kids and get into their 30’s and 40’s. Charlottesville has a little bit of both going on.

Most survey-based migration data is pretty bad, though there is some hope for IRS data that’s being used now. The most accurate picture you can get is by looking at age structure changes between decennial censuses. I do a lot of that. Basically you just count how many 10 year-olds there were in 2000, then count how many 20 year-olds there were in 2010, then factor in the death rate for each age based on health department data.
Charlottesville Albemarle migration


Looking at this chart – you can see a net gain of almost 3000 people coming for college at 18. At 22, about 2/3rds of them are gone without being replaced, but a lot stay or come in their late 20’s. Note this chart doesn’t mean that 1700 people left at the age of 28 – just that there were 1700 fewer 28 year-olds in 2010 than 18 year-olds in 2000.

The age breakdown might help to see here

Charlottesville and Albemarle 2010 age breakdown


Charlottesville and Albemarle 2000 age breakdown

The problem with drawing conclusions from these is that you have to compare them to the state as a whole.

Basically, Charlottesville always has a huge college-aged population and it has a growing population of post-college 20-somethings. We lose people consistently in their 30’s as they hit mid-career and go looking for more job opportunities, but we also gain people in late middle-age as they look forward to retirement. My own hypothesis is that we have a lot of companies like Worldstrides, Merkle/RKG, SNL, and parts of UVA that have a very big gap between the “worker bees” who are all 20-something college grads and the hierarchy of stable professionals, who are all in their 40’s and 50’s.

There aren’t as many mid-level jobs here. Those companies come here to feed off the steady supply of new grads who want to stay in Charlottesville and don’t need a huge salary to do so, but at the same time those companies need to lure experienced people to fill top positions and provide direction and stability. Just a hypothesis, though.

Summary: lots of people move here for college or when they are young. Lots of them then leave, but some stay. We have some slight positive net migration in the upper age brackets, but for the most part that population is very stable.

Now… what could the speaker have meant by it? He may have been referring to the group with the biggest change in population. Because the Baby Boomer generation is so much larger than the previous generations – and the generations after it aren’t any bigger, the “Population Pyramid” is turning into more of a “population column” or “population obelisk” with the Baby Boomers in the vanguard. So that means, every time they reach a new stage of life, they dramatically increase the number of people at that stage of life. I did a post about this where I made a little gif to illustrate:


Gif courtesy of Luke Juday with Cooper Center

Gif courtesy of Luke Juday with Cooper Center

So you’ll notice if you overlay that 2000 chart on the 2010 chart, the biggest increase in population is coming from people in their 50’s and 60’s, as well as from people in their 20’s. In the case of older people, that’s not because we have a huge influx of migrants at that age – it’s just a large generation aging. It’s kind of like if you’re running a school and you see that you 8th grade class is going to be twice as large next year, not because 8th graders are suddenly moving in, but because the current 7th grade class is twice as large.

In the case of the 20-somethings, we really do have an influx going on.

Or, because we’re a college town, it shows up in the statistics as just college grads not leaving as rapidly as you would expect them to. (Jim’s Note: We are seeing a massive building of apartments in the City … many of which are quite expensive. Think: UnCommon, CityWalk, the new Blue Moon diner apartments — and quite a few more)

We have significantly fewer people in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Some of that may be just that Generation X is not as large as the Baby Boomer generation, but it could also be a real change in desirability for that group, I don’t know.

Population by age

One other thing my coworker Hamilton and I have been throwing around lately is that a lot of new home purchases are being driven by older middle-aged and retiring Baby Boomers, who have the most capital and are most likely to buy in the outer ring of suburbs that has newer homes.”


Jim’s quick thoughts

  • The one constant is the Charlottesville + Albemarle remain highly desirable places to live, and it is incumbent upon all and each of us to maintain and contribute to that quality of life.
  • People who live in each of our growing segments (think: Pantops, Crozet, 29 North, Hydraulic, Rio, South/Wegmans, etc)  want to walk/ride bikes to the places they need/want to go
  • Albemarle needs to bring in employers. Badly.




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