In 7 Virginia towns, people are moving away as quickly as they can

Virginia, known for its rich history and beautiful landscapes, is experiencing a notable population shift. Certain towns are seeing a significant outflow of residents, driven by factors like economic challenges, high crime rates, and environmental concerns. Here’s an analysis of seven such towns, with a focus on the latest population trends.

Overview of the Seven Towns

  1. Emporia: Known as the poorest city in Virginia, Emporia struggles with a high poverty rate (40.5%), a staggering unemployment rate (10.9%), and a violent crime rate four times the national average.
  2. Martinsville: Once a bustling city, it has lost over half its population since 1980 due to the decline of the textile and furniture industries.
  3. Hopewell: Facing industrial pollution and environmental problems, it has a high crime rate and has been nicknamed the “Chemical Capital of the South”.
  4. Petersburg: Rich in history, Petersburg grapples with challenges like racial segregation, urban decay, and a high crime rate.
  5. Marion: Known for its historic downtown, it suffers from job losses and the opioid epidemic.
  6. Danville: This former tobacco and textile hub faces economic decline and a high crime rate.
  7. Roanoke: Despite scenic beauty, it’s marred by a high cost of living and a lack of economic diversity​​.

Population Trends (2023)

  • Emporia: The population has decreased to 5,570, showing a decline of -2.55% since 2020​​.
  • Martinsville: As of 2022, the population stands at 13,725, showing a slight increase from previous years​​.
  • Hopewell: The population is currently at 23,490, growing at a rate of 0.75% annually since 2020​​.
  • Marion: With a population of 5,661, Marion is experiencing a decline of -2.61% since 2020​​.
  • Danville: The population has reduced to 41,719, a -1.76% decrease since 2020​​.
  • Petersburg: The population is relatively stable at 33,431, with a negligible growth rate of 0.01% since 2020​​.


While some towns like Emporia, Marion, and Danville are experiencing population declines, others like Martinsville, Hopewell, and Petersburg show varying trends of stability or slight growth. These trends suggest a complex picture, where economic and social challenges coexist with resilience and adaptation in different Virginia towns.

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