Region's population boom ranks third in nation

Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Liz Farmer

The Washington region's population has boomed since the 2010 census, taking on nearly 122,000 people through last summer for the third-highest population increase in metropolitan areas across the country, according to data released Thursday.

The region's population increased by 121,911 between April 2010 and July 2011 to total 5.7 million residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's metropolitan area estimates. The increase ranks only behind those of Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, which grew by 154,774 and 139,699 residents, respectively.

The region's population rise is evenly split between the natural increase (births over deaths) and those moving to the area. Of the 60,963 that moved here, half of those were immigrants.

Nation's changing metro areas
 July 2011Change frmNaturalInternationalDomestic
RegionpopulationApril '10increasemigrationmigration
Dallas-Fort Worth6.5m154,77479,46428,73246,057
New York19.0m118,791140,465103,521-124,559
Los Angeles12.9m115,964118,72668,197-71,394
Riverside-San Bernadino4.3m80,14644,24911,16124,547
Source: U.S. Census metropolitan areas estimates 2011

Other large metropolitan areas like New York and Los Angeles saw less dramatic growth than Washington. In those cities the arrival of new immigrants was largely offset by the departure of residents headed to other destinations.

The biggest contributors to the recent growth in this region are Fairfax and Montgomery counties, with each gaining more than 18,000 residents in the 14 months following the census. Their combined 36,984 new residents accounts for more than 30 percent of the region's increase.

The surge in those counties is part of a trend in recent years toward living in more urban areas, said Brookings Institution demographer William Frey. Montgomery and Fairfax both benefit from proximity to Metro stations and concentrated development.

Farther out in Northern Virginia, Prince William County is challenging Loudoun County for the title of the fastest-growing county in the region. In the year since the census has been released, Loudoun and Prince William have both increased in population by 4.2 percent -- for the region's highest county increases.

And because Prince William is more populous than Loudoun, its actual gain in people was greater.

Part of the growth is because of Prince William's recovery from the housing bust. The county was hit much harder than Loudoun in the 2000s. But Frey said the continued growth in outer suburbs is also a trend that's more unique to Washington as its outer suburbs tend to be more urban than suburban.

"There's a big downturn in the outer suburban growth nationally in ... what we call exurbs and emerging suburbs," he said. "But [some of D.C.'s suburbs] are too organized to be called that."

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