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DC population grows more than any other local county

The US Census' newest county-level population estimates show that between 2012 and 2013, the District of Columbia added more residents than any other metro area county.

Loudoun County grew slightly faster by percentage. But even according to that measure, DC is second.

County 2012
District of Columbia 633,427 646,449 13,022 2.1
Loudoun (VA) 337,248 349,679 12,431 3.7
Fairfax (VA) 1,118,683 1,130,924 12,241 1.1
Montgomery (MD) 1,004,476 1,016,677 12,201 1.2
Prince George's (MD) 881,419 890,081 8,662 1.0
Prince William (VA) 430,100 438,580 8,480 2.0
Anne Arundel (MD) 550,175 555,743 5,568 1.0
Baltimore County (MD) 817,682 823,015 5,333 0.7
Howard (MD) 299,356 304,580 5,224 1.7
Arlington (VA) 221,275 224,906 3,631 1.6
Stafford (VA) 134,251 136,788 2,537 1.9
Charles (MD) 150,710 152,864 2,154 1.4
Alexandria (VA) 146,839 148,892 2,053 1.4
Frederick (MD) 239,520 241,409 1,889 0.8
Spotsylvania (VA) 125,772 127,348 1,576 1.3
Fauquier (VA) 66,526 67,207 681 1.0
Baltimore City (MD) 622,417 622,104 -313 -0.1

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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In percentage terms, Frederick County is the slowest-growing jurisdiction in the DC metropolitan area.

by Ben Ross on Mar 27, 2014 1:15 pm • linkreport

wow. Not to make too many assertions based on 1 year's data, but it does seem like the widely heralded slowdown in the greater DC area associated with sequesters, etc is mostly hitting the suburbs.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 27, 2014 1:16 pm • linkreport

They usually attach the margin of error for each estimate to their tables, but I don't see them on American FactFinder. They publish Rankings within each state, but don't indicate whether they were tested for significance.

by jh on Mar 27, 2014 1:17 pm • linkreport

And to think that Loudon County is 521 sq. miles while DC is 68 sq. miles.

by StringsAttached on Mar 27, 2014 1:18 pm • linkreport

oops! Dan, you omit City of Falls Church and City of Fairfax (though including City of Alexandria) If I read census table correctly, they each grew by 2.5% - faster than DC and faster than any jurisdiction except Loudoun. Though esp in the case of Falls Church, that reinforces the narrative of TOD based growth.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 27, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

also note well - Arlco had 1.6% growth even while being hurt by BRAC.

While PWC's growth is below DC's even though its a beneficiary of jobs growth at Ft Belvoir, and its not built out.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 27, 2014 1:24 pm • linkreport

I intentionally left out all the very small cities, because a) they're not "counties", and b) it's not really valid to compare a jurisdiction of 10,000 people to these giant counties.

I did include Alexandria, just because it's big enough to comparable. I admit it was a judgement call.

by BeyondDC on Mar 27, 2014 1:24 pm • linkreport

I think it goes to show that while we talk about cut backs in DC it is still very relative to what a lot of the country is going through. Much harder for people to reposition themselves if they are in trades or manufacturing than say a lawyer or an engineer or IT tech.

by BTA on Mar 27, 2014 1:29 pm • linkreport

DC added roughly 200 ppsm in one year. Since 2010, DC has added approximately 700 ppsm.

by jh on Mar 27, 2014 1:33 pm • linkreport


I dont think thats what it says at all. the outer suburbs are slowing down (I think - have not compared numbers to earlier growth rates), particularly on the maryland side.

What it says to me is that the shift in locational choice towards the District proper is strong, and accelerating.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 27, 2014 1:38 pm • linkreport

This also helps explain why, even with such a dramatic level of multifamily construction, rents/condo prices remain so high. Its not that the laws of supply and demand have ceased to function, but that demand in DC is strong. And that is almost certainly at the expense of the suburbs, esp the Maryland suburbs.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 27, 2014 1:40 pm • linkreport

"Loudon population grows faster than any other local county, and more than any other local county using a meaningful comparative statistic."

I fixed your headline for you.

by wd on Mar 27, 2014 1:48 pm • linkreport

@wd +1

by Nick on Mar 27, 2014 1:50 pm • linkreport

Any idea how much of the pop growth is due to birth/death and how much is people moving?

by Falls Church on Mar 27, 2014 1:53 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church

Yes. Birth, Death, and Migration data are all available. For DC 2012 to 2013:

Births 9589
Deaths 5151
Net domestic migration 6319
Net international migration 2858

by jh on Mar 27, 2014 2:01 pm • linkreport

In percentage terms, Frederick County is the slowest-growing jurisdiction in the DC metropolitan area. Baltimore city is growing slower(losing actually)

I do find it a little strange though. DC is a state like entity, not a county. Overall it is growing at a higher rate than MD or VA but lower gross.

by Richard on Mar 27, 2014 2:03 pm • linkreport


That's about the silliest thing I've ever read on GGW. For no purposes relevant to these data is DC a state like entity.

by wd on Mar 27, 2014 2:20 pm • linkreport

"the District of Columbia added more residents than any other metro area county."

DC is not a county so how is this correct? It would not be any other county due to DC not being a county.

Shouldn't it be "the District of Columbia added more residents than (counties within the metro area) or (other local jurisdictions in the metro area)

by kk on Mar 27, 2014 2:30 pm • linkreport

@Richard: no, D.C. is more of county like entity, corresponding nicely with the original county of Washington and the cities within the district. Its governing structure is fairly similar to a county board + executive. It is not sovereign, and an obnoxious layer of government above it constrains its actions in arbitrary and capricious ways. (Hi Richmond!)

by Mike on Mar 27, 2014 2:31 pm • linkreport

This really does say a lot about urban trends. Richmond, which continued its population decline longer than DC, has already gained 10,000 people since 2010...I am wondering what is up with Baltimore that puts it at odds with DC and Richmond.

by xtr657 on Mar 27, 2014 2:32 pm • linkreport

@xtr657: the proximity to the DC metro area.

by Mike on Mar 27, 2014 2:35 pm • linkreport

It is also amazing how stagnant or negative some of the population growth is in Virginia and Maryland in areas that are not part of the big Metros. It is really REALLY dire in southwestern and Southside VA.

by xtr657 on Mar 27, 2014 2:37 pm • linkreport

Fairfax and Arlington each had negative net domestic migration, but large increases in international migration.

Fairfax's total change was 12,241, which included a +9,261 in international migration.

Arlington was 3,631 and 1,993.

by jh on Mar 27, 2014 2:49 pm • linkreport

Thanks, jh.

Adds some interesting color. A big chunk of DC's pop growth is the ongoing baby boom there. The inner VA suburbs continue to maintain vitality by attracting large numbers of international immigrants, solidifying their position as the most internationally diverse area of the region. I'm guessing that's true for MoCo too. The DC area is pretty unique in that int'l immigrants tend to move to the suburbs instead of the city.

by Falls Church on Mar 27, 2014 3:07 pm • linkreport

Disappointing to see Baltimore lose population... again. Since the mid-2000s the city has posted a few very modest year-to-year gains (a couple hundred people or so), and each time the impression is "Finally we've turned the corner!"

But sure enough, an aggregate multiyear decline soon reasserts itself. The hemorrhaging is nothing like it was in the 70s-90s, but it's still disappointing to see Baltimore trailing all the other east coast cities.

by Marc on Mar 27, 2014 3:11 pm • linkreport

"What it says to me is that the shift in locational choice towards the District proper is strong, and accelerating"

2011: 2.40% growth or 1,218 residents per month in DC
2012: 2.23% growth or 1,150 residents per month in DC
2013: 2.06% growth or 1,085 residents per month in DC

Population growth rate in the District has fallen 11% in 2 years, pretty percipitiously. The numbers are pretty straightforward, clearly you are mistaken.

by CensusNerd on Mar 27, 2014 3:11 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church: unique for the East Coast, at least. This is a totally common phenomenon in the West (e.g., the entire San Gabriel Valley).

@Marc: trying to phrase this non-snarkily... Of what are traditionally considered "East Coast" cities, would you agree that Baltimore a) has the smallest, and b) has done the least to improve, the transit system it does have?

by LowHeadways on Mar 27, 2014 3:33 pm • linkreport

Population growth rate in the District has fallen 11% in 2 years, pretty percipitiously. The numbers are pretty straightforward, clearly you are mistaken.

I don't think we share the same definition of "precipitously."

by Alex B. on Mar 27, 2014 3:38 pm • linkreport


can you grap similar figures for the suburban counties? Because I was speaking to locational choice, not to total growth.

last time I recall looking at such figures, DC was lower in total pop growth than several suburban counties, and I think lower than second in percent growth - and not as close to Loudoun in % growth (I don't recall LoCo's earlier percent growth though)

If the entire region is seeing more significant declines in growth, but DC a much more modest decline, then that suggests to me a continued locational shift to the District.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 27, 2014 3:44 pm • linkreport


by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 27, 2014 3:45 pm • linkreport

2010 to 2012, both PWC and ArlCo were growing faster than DC

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 27, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

It's hard to trust Census estimates as they have been historically inaccurate, especially DC's estimates. Census estimates said DC's population was still in decline in 2005, prompting Mayor Williams to ask for a revision, and Census projections said DC's population would decline last decade when it actually grew a lot according to the actual count.

by Burd on Mar 27, 2014 3:51 pm • linkreport

Low Headways:

Oh, absolutely! As a first step, I tried to highlight the frequent services that *do* exist right now...

...and have advocated for a frequent grid of bus routes to serve as a foundation for future rail expansions:

But yeah, Baltimore still feels like the "sunbeltiest" big city on the east coast in terms of its car culture (even amongst Millennials in the waterfront nabes) and in terms of its "traffic sewer" downtown streets. So I suppose it has a hard time competing with DC, Philly, NYC, Boston for hardcore urbanites, except on cost of living.

But mediocre transit is but one thing holding the city back: no matter what it does, no matter how many policies it tries importing from other cities, Baltimore just can't get a grip on crime, and is up there with Detroit, Cleveland, Memphis, etc. in its murder rate. (A while ago it used to look down on DC for its crime; now it's the other way 'round.)

Even Philly, which has a lot of physical, social, and economic similarities with Baltimore, doesn't really suffer from the same aggregate disorder save for some bad pockets.

by Marc on Mar 27, 2014 4:00 pm • linkreport

these are estimates not projections, and would have to be way off to reverse the general tendency identified by the OP.

In short from the 1950s or so to 2003, the suburbs had more than 100% of the region's growth, as DC was in decline. From 2003 to 2008 the suburbs had ALMOST 100% of the regions growth, asd DCs growth was very small. From 2008 to 2012 or so, the suburbs still had a disproportionate share of the regions growth, as they were overall growing faster than the District. Now the District has a disproportionate share - though there is still more growth in the suburbs, as they have a much larger base.

Depending on where in MoCo and FFX the growth is occuring, and on how you define "the core" it may well be that we are close to the point where 50% of the regions growth is in the core (DC+ArlCo+Alex+Falls Church+Inside the beltway parts of MoCo, FFX and PG + Tysons)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 27, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

AWITC, nice summary of the big pic. Just goes to show how it's still early innings in the current trend since this is the first year DC had a disproportionate share of growth. Demographic trends tend to move slowly but work in super-cycles, so I'd expect the new trajectory to continue for a while.

by Falls Church on Mar 27, 2014 4:37 pm • linkreport

Richard -- DC is not like a state, it's like a county. SF and Philadelphia are also city-counties. (So are places like Indianapolis-Marion County or Nashville-Davidson County but they are different, including city and rural areas.) Philly became a city-county in the mid-1800s. Not sure when it happened for SF. Obviously, NYC's five boroughs are considered separate counties as well.

AWITC -- the point you make about more DC neighborhoods becoming in-demand at the metropolitan scale is one I make a lot. And I agree that's the cause for escalating prices beyond what people consider "normal" it's because the market demand is greater than on in-city only terms.

The point I make is that demand is being driven by the highest (or higher) wage earners, not the average wage earners.

by Richard Layman on Mar 27, 2014 4:42 pm • linkreport

... and Arlington is an urban county. (It was part of Alexandria but Alex. City is separate, and the rest of the county went its own way and the county never incorporated as a city.)

by Richard Layman on Mar 27, 2014 4:55 pm • linkreport

It's also interesting to note that as of 7/1/2013 the population of DC Metro was 5,949,859. This means we have probably just passed the 6,000,000 threshold.

by Tom S. on Mar 27, 2014 5:01 pm • linkreport

That's more people than the entire country of Norway. And no lutefisk.

by Crickey7 on Mar 27, 2014 5:32 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church

The DC area is pretty unique in that int'l immigrants tend to move to the suburbs instead of the city.

I think that really, really depends on what metro area you're talking about and how you differentiate between "the suburbs" and "the city". Houston's immigrants mostly move into "the city"--but we're not talking downtown condos here. We're talking the vast swaths of Houston that are more suburban than anywhere in the City of Alexandria (which you may have lumped in with the suburbs, but is for the most part far from suburban).

Boston's immigrants, too, very much settle in the farther out suburbs rather than downtown and Botston is another old-style city with small area, with close-in, relatively urban and dense suburbs.

by Catherine on Mar 27, 2014 5:56 pm • linkreport

Aha! I knew something was missing!

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 27, 2014 5:57 pm • linkreport

Falls Church -- it isn't unique so much that immigrants arrive in the suburbs, it's in part a function of succeeding waves of immigrants continue to arrive after earlier waves in the core succeeded and then outmigrated, so new arrivals go directly to the suburbs (see _Arrival City_) without that initial stop in the city.

It's also a function somewhat of comparatively high costs of housing in the center city, even when the city was down economically, the fact that the close in neighborhoods were mostly occupied, often by higher income households, and outer neighborhoods were primarily low income, predominantly black, and crime ridden.

... although these days I do see Hispanic households in places I wouldn't have imagined 10 and 20 years ago.

by Richard Layman on Mar 27, 2014 6:09 pm • linkreport

"we will bury you" - DC

by Orgasmaddict on Mar 27, 2014 6:35 pm • linkreport

Hispanic households have money too. They're not all immigrants either.

by selxic on Mar 27, 2014 7:01 pm • linkreport

Interesting article!

I remember a year or two back reading that of the major US cities, the urban core had a higher percentage growth but that the outer suburbs had higher absolute growth and the inner suburbs had no growth at all.

Now, at least in D.C., the core still has the highest percentage growth (compared to the average of outer suburbs) and the while the inner suburbs had lower average growth they had as much if not just a bit more absolute population growth compared to the outer suburbs.

by Dave S on Mar 27, 2014 7:34 pm • linkreport

So most of the growth in the area was in the suburbs, Loudoun County grew at a rate almost twice as fast as DC, and neighboring Baltimore continued to lose population.

There are multiple potential headline opportunities here besides highlighting the increase in DC's population.

by Greater Greater Suburbs on Mar 28, 2014 10:22 am • linkreport

GGS -- given that DC comprises 1% of the land area of the DC Metro, of course the suburbs are always going to grow more population wise than DC on an absolute basis. Plus only 2/3 of DC's land area is capable of supporting residential population. (But there are lots of vagaries to this in the region, e.g., Montgomery County's Ag Reserve takes a lot of development potential off the table.)

I do think the Baltimore thing is interesting. They are growing downtown and shrinking elsewhere in the city. It would be interesting to know more about the shifts. Are they losing poorer residents, gaining them, gaining more higher income residents, losing them, etc.?

I think that Baltimore is beginning to develop the kind of critical mass of positivity in the core that will start to generate extranormal population gains in the intermediate term. But that region is so deconcentrated and continues to be.

p.s. to Richard -- even Rhode Island is 20x larger than DC, as small as it is.

by Richard Layman on Mar 28, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport


I wouldn't go as far to call Baltimore a "sunbelty" city, even compared to other cities in the Northeast. While the transit system isn't stellar, bus ridership is among the highest in the nation and people do use the two existing rail lines. The Red Line will being construction within a year and, when open, will further improve transit ridership by finally creating a true, fully connected, transit system.

The population numbers don't come close to telling the entire story. While the overall population might still be in a very slight decline, the population of downtown and the Inner Harbor/Harbor East is booming. There's been a flood of new high-end residential development over the past few years and it's only just beginning to grow. Midtown will also see rapid growth over the next decade or so with intense development around the Univ of Balt/Penn Station and State Center. Time will tell when the growth downtown (among the highest in the nation) will surpass the exodus in the more depressed parts of the city.

Baltimore's biggest problem is that it has to compete with DC. If Philadelphia was located 30 miles from DC I can guarantee you that it would be losing residents too. Crime (especially violent crime) is definitely still a serious problem in the city, but it's not aggregate disorder, as you mention, and is mostly concentrated in certain sections (as in Philly).

by King Terrapin on Mar 28, 2014 11:19 am • linkreport

With Fairfax County, I'd guess a huge portion of the net increase in international migration is Korean. I think it has little to do with urban vs suburban or price of real estate and more to do with Annandale and Centreville and wanting to live in a community of their fellow Koreans.

by jh on Mar 28, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

@King Terrapin

Of course, with proper high-speed rail, Philadelphia can/could[/will?] serve as something of a bedroom community for New York.

I think if Baltimore's transit system were better and if MARC ran much more frequently - and close to 24 hours - it could easily serve that purpose for DC. Throw high-speed rail in and it becomes quicker to get from Baltimore to Union Station than it would to get there from Greenbelt.

by LowHeadways on Mar 28, 2014 12:19 pm • linkreport

I think it has little to do with urban vs suburban or price of real estate and more to do with Annandale and Centreville and wanting to live in a community of their fellow Koreans.

I think it's less community and more family (and not just among Koreans). A huge portion of immigrants come through family connections since the US immigration system prioritizes family unification very highly (even extended family). That's part of the reason US immigrants assimilate so well -- once your whole family is here, you don't go back or long for the "motherland" as often and you consider yourself to be more "from here".

So, immigrants move to where they already have family and friends and they tend do be in immigrant communities. But, it's not out of a direct desire to live in a community of fellow nationals, although that's sometimes the case.

by Falls Church on Mar 28, 2014 1:45 pm • linkreport

Actually Annandale is less than a third east Asian (it has lots of hispanics, some africans who have moved west from landmark, some middle easterners and south asians, quite a few older whites, and some young white families. And of the east asians, quite a few are viet namese, not korean. The mix of business does not reflect the diversity of the neighborhood.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 28, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport


The striking thing is that A. about a third of all growth in the metro area was in DC, ArlCo, City of Alex, and City of Falls Church (while all of those have some autocentric suburban areas, the growth was certainly almost all in the WUP areas). I am not sure how much of the growth in all other jurisdictions was in WUPs - probably esp so in MoCo - to a lesser extent in FFX (halstead, Mosaic, and Tysons) Even LoCo has some growth in WUPs depending on what you count.

So we are almost certainly at a point where over half the total growth in the region is in WUPs. That is striking in what it suggests about change in preferences, and is taking place even as WUPs command a premium in price per sq ft.

Of course those who choose to minimize the importance of this broad cultural change, like Kotkin, prefer to focus on city vs suburb, ignoring the growth of the new lifestyle IN the suburbs - and also the portion of urban pop decline that comes from low density areas within central cities (indeed it would be interesting to see the difference between DC overall and the most auto centric parts of DC - but that will await the decennial census.) It doesn't matter how much we celebrate suburban WUPs and suburban TOD, those with blinders on stick to their old categories.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 28, 2014 2:04 pm • linkreport

Speaking of Baltimore, interesting article in Atlantic Cities today

by BTA on Mar 28, 2014 2:51 pm • linkreport

By the way, anybody have population density maps of Washington DC metro area and one of Greater DC/Baltimore area.

The following link has some maps including maps showing population density changes since 1792 but I was hoping to find something more up to date.

by Tom S. on Mar 28, 2014 2:55 pm • linkreport

@Tom S.

You can make good maps at:

You can also go to but I don't think they have density.

by jh on Mar 28, 2014 3:24 pm • linkreport

Thanks jh. That's a fun site.

by Tom S on Mar 29, 2014 1:10 am • linkreport

Jefferson County, WV is not listed which is officially part of the Washington metropolitan area. It grew 0.9% between 2012 and 2013 from 54,558 to 55,073 according to the Census Bureau, just slightly more than Frederick County, MD.

by Dave S on Apr 23, 2014 8:16 am • linkreport

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