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Fairfax County now Virginia’s second most diverse county, new census data shows

Racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. by state (courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)

Fairfax County is now the second most racially diverse county in Virginia, according to 2020 Census data released yesterday afternoon (Aug. 12).

The data confirms recent demographic reports conducted by Fairfax County that showed the share of white residents shrinking and communities of color, particularly Asians and Hispanics, growing since 2010, when the county was the fifth-most diverse county.

Now, only Prince William County is more diverse.

Compared to the rest of the United States, Fairfax County ranked 42nd out of 3,143 counties in the country on the Census’ racial and ethnic diversity index.

While white residents remain the largest racial or ethnic group in the county, they are no longer the majority, making up 47.1% of the overall population with 542,001 residents — a drop of nearly 50,000 people from 2010, when the county’s 590,622 white residents constituted 54.6% of its population.

In other words, Fairfax is now a majority-minority county, due in part to the growth of the county’s Asian and Hispanic/Latino populations, which are the second and third largest racial and ethnic groups, respectively.

According to the 2020 Census data, 20.3% of the county’s population is Asian, an increase of about 55,000 residents from 17.4% in 2010. Hispanic or Latino individuals now constitute 17.3% of the populace, up from 15.6% a decade ago.

The diffusion score — the percentage of the population that isn’t in the top three racial and ethnic groups — is also higher than it was in 2010. At 15.2%, that number is also higher than Virginia and the country as a whole.

The county’s increasing diversity reflects national trends revealed in the new data, which shows the first-ever decline in the country’s white, non-Hispanic population with Latino residents fueling 51% of the population growth.

In total, about 1.15 million people now live in Fairfax County. The population grew by about 68,500 people or 6.3% since 2010, a lower rate of growth than both Virginia as a whole (7.9%) and the U.S. (7.4%).

Fairfax County’s population increase is also significantly lower in terms of percentage than its neighboring localities in Northern Virginia: Arlington County’s population rose by nearly 15%, Alexandria City by nearly 14%, Prince William County by about 20%, and Loudoun County by a staggering 35%.

However, Fairfax remains the largest county in Virginia, as it was in 2010, with more than double the population of Prince William County, which is the second most populous county. Fairfax County residents make up about 13% of the Commonwealth’s total population.

In general, Northern Virginia continues to grow at a much higher rate than the rest of the state.

The new Census data will be used to redraw voting districts locally and nationwide, a process that carries major political implications. Electoral districts are redrawn every 10 years to ensure each one has about the same number of people. The data could also change how many electoral votes are allocated to each state.

This is the 24th official Census count in U.S. history.

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