Nation’s Fastest Growing Counties

The Census Department has released its list of fastest growing counties in the country.

Metro Area Population Continues Upward Trend (WaPo)

The Washington area added 75,000 new residents last year, according to new census population estimates released today. One in four lives in Loudoun County, which grabbed a growing share of new arrivals and is one of the nation’s fastest growing jurisdictions. The region that extends from the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay to Northern Virginia horse country now numbers 5.9 million people, according to the new figures. It is the fastest growing metro area outside the Sunbelt.

The new census figures showed Fairfax County, the biggest local jurisdiction, with slightly more than a million people, a level that county demographers believe was reached in 2002. “D.C. ranks in the upper third of major metro growth, well ahead of its East Coast and Midwest counterparts and just behind the high-flying metros located in Florida, Texas and the fast-growing Southeast and Mountain West,” said Brookings Institution demographer William H. Frey, who analyzed census figures for the nation’s 43 largest metro areas. All have populations over 1.5 million.

Frey said the Washington region is growing because of a unique combination of factors: It is an attractive destination for new foreign-born arrivals, but native-born residents are not leaving, as thousands are in other immigrant-rich areas such as New York and Los Angeles. Behind the region’s numbers is a story of two different patterns of growth. Older, closer-in counties are expanding because of new immigrants and births. Newer exurban areas are growing mainly because of new residents coming from other U.S. communities, including some closer-in suburbs in this area.

I live in Loudoun County, which was #1 last year and #2 in 2003. We’re down to #3 now, although the proliferation of housing subcommunities, strip malls, and road construction continues at a blistering pace.

Fastest growing U.S. counties (CNN/Money)

Chart: Fastest growing counties
The top 10 by percentage growth, from July 2003 to July 2004. Florida has 14 of the 100 fastest-growing counties in the United States, more than any other state, according to a study released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Flagler County, in Northeast Florida between Daytona and Jacksonville, is No. 1, with population growth of more than 10 percent in the year ending June 30, 2004. Neighboring county to the north, St John’s, was No. 9, with 6.7 percent growth. The oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, is in St John’s County. Four midwestern counties made the list: Kendall in Illinois, Hanson and Lincoln in South Dakota, and Dallas in Iowa.

Los Angeles continues to be the nation’s most populous county with nearly 10 million residents, but Maricopa County in Arizona had the largest gain, with an increase of 112,233, or 3.3 percent. No. 2 in total population was Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, which is attracting Angelinos fleeing high real estate prices there. Riverside gained 5 percent, a total of 89,128 people.

Sixty of the fastest-growing counties were in the South, 23 in the West, and 17 in the Midwest. Georgia and Texas had 12 each and Virginia had 10. Twenty one states did not have any counties among the 100 fastest growing.

This growth is almost exclusively in the so-called Red States. That’s likely good news for Republicans, since this means the next reapportionment will give them even more House seats and weight the Electoral College further in their direction. That is, unless those migrating to find better jobs in these growing areas bring their Blue State values with them.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Fersboo says:

    Stupid chart. I figured the Census Bureau would have hired real staticians. Hanson County, SD is listed as fourth overall, with 7.9% growth; therefore said county added 277 individuals during the year. Whereas, Loudoun County, VA (3rd percentage-wise) added 17,920. Most people (yeah I’m generalizing) are going to look at the chart and think that there is comparable growth in those two counties.

  2. John Burgess says:

    I live in Sarasota Co., in FL. It seems to be investor-driven, but the price of housing has jumped over 40% in the past year. Anti-, slow-, and no-growth initiatives are starting to take a bite locally.

  3. James Joyner says:

    John: Same’s happening in Loudoun.

    Fersboo: Yep, that’s always the problem with “growth” comparisons.

  4. Jim says:


    Don’t be so sure about the fact this growth is in Red States and will help the Republicans. As a resident of Fairfax, it used to be as red as Loudoun and in 2004 went for Kerry.