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Virginia
Commonwealth of Virginia
Navy blue flag with the circular Seal of Virginia centered on it. A circular seal with the words "Virginia" on the top and "Sic Semper Tyrannis" on the bottom. In the center, a woman wearing a blue toga and Athenian helmet stands on the chest of dead man wearing a purple breastplate and skirt. The woman holds a spear and sheathed sword. The man holds a broken chain while his crown lies away from the figures. Orange leaves encircle the seal.
Seal
Nickname(s): 
Old Dominion, Mother of Presidents
Motto(s): 
Sic semper tyrannis
(English: Thus Always to Tyrants)
Anthem: "Our Great Virginia"
Virginia is located on the Atlantic coast along the line that divides the northern and southern halves of the United States. It runs mostly east to west. It includes a small peninsula across a bay which is discontinuous with the rest of the state.
Map of the United States with Virginia highlighted
Country United States
Before statehood Colony of Virginia
Admitted to the Union June 25, 1788 (10th)
Capital Richmond
Largest city Virginia Beach
Largest metro Baltimore–Washington (combined)
Washington (metro and urban)
Legislature General Assembly
 • Upper house Senate
 • Lower house House of Delegates
Area
 • Total 42,774.2 sq mi (110,785.67 km2)
Area rank 35th
Dimensions
 • Length 430 mi (690 km)
 • Width 200 mi (320 km)
Elevation
950 ft (290 m)
Highest elevation 5,729 ft (1,746 m)
Lowest elevation 0 ft (0 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 8,654,542
 • Rank 12th
 • Density 206.7/sq mi (79.8/km2)
 • Density rank 14th
 • Median household income
$71,535
 • Income rank
10th
Demonym(s) Virginian
Language
 • Official language English
 • Spoken language
  • English 86%
  • Spanish 6%
  • Other 8%
Time zone UTC-05:00 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-04:00 (EDT)
USPS abbreviation
VA
ISO 3166 code US-VA
Trad. abbreviation Va.
Latitude 36° 32′ N to 39° 28′ N
Longitude 75° 15′ W to 83° 41′ W
Virginia state symbols
Flag of Virginia.svg
Seal of Virginia.svg
The Seal of Virginia
Virginia state coat of arms (illustrated, 1876).jpg
The Coat of arms of Virginia
Living insignia
Bird Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Butterfly Tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus)
Dog breed American Foxhound (Canis familiaris)
Fish Brook trout, striped bass
Flower Flowering dogwood
Insect Tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus)
Tree Flowering dogwood
Inanimate insignia
Beverage Milk
Dance Square dance
Fossil Chesapecten jeffersonius
Rock Nelsonite
Shell Eastern oyster
Slogan "Virginia is for Lovers"
Tartan Virginia Quadricentennial tartan
State route marker
Virginia state route marker
State quarter
Virginia quarter dollar coin
Released in 2000
Lists of United States state symbols

Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions of the United States, between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most-populous city, and Fairfax County is the most-populous political subdivision. The Commonwealth's population in 2020 was over 8.65 million, with 36% of them living in the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area.

The area's history begins with several indigenous groups, including the Powhatan. In 1607, the London Company established the Colony of Virginia as the first permanent English colony in the New World. Virginia's state nickname, the Old Dominion, is a reference to this status. Slave labor and land acquired from displaced native tribes fueled the growing plantation economy, but also fueled conflicts both inside and outside the colony. As one of the original Thirteen Colonies, during the American Revolution, it became part of the United States in 1776. During the American Civil War, Virginia was split when the state government in Richmond joined the Confederacy, but many of the state's northwestern counties wanted to remain with the Union, helping form the state of West Virginia in 1863. Although the Commonwealth was under one-party rule for nearly a century following the Reconstruction era, both major political parties are competitive in modern Virginia.

Virginia's state legislature is the Virginia General Assembly, which was established in July 1619, making it the oldest current law-making body in North America. It is made up of a 40-member Senate and a 100-member House of Delegates. The state government is unique in how it treats cities and counties equally, manages local roads, and prohibits governors from serving consecutive terms. Virginia's economy has many sectors: agriculture in the Shenandoah Valley; high tech and federal agencies, including the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency, in Northern Virginia; and military facilities in Hampton Roads, the site of the region's main seaport.

Geography

Virginia painted relief
Geographically and geologically, Virginia is divided into five regions from east to west: Tidewater, Piedmont, Blue Ridge Mountains, Ridge and Valley, and Cumberland Plateau.

Virginia has a total area of 42,774.2 square miles (110,784.7 km2), including 3,180.13 square miles (8,236.5 km2) of water, making it the 35th-largest state by area. Virginia is bordered by Maryland and Washington, D.C. to the north and east; by the Atlantic Ocean to the east; by North Carolina to the south; by Tennessee to the southwest; by Kentucky to the west; and by West Virginia to the north and west. Virginia's boundary with Maryland and Washington, D.C. extends to the low-water mark of the south shore of the Potomac River. The southern border is defined as the 36° 30′ parallel north, though surveyor error led to deviations of as much as three arcminutes. The border with Tennessee was not settled until 1893, when their dispute was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Geology and terrain

The Chesapeake Bay separates the contiguous portion of the Commonwealth from the two-county peninsula of Virginia's Eastern Shore. The bay was formed from the drowned river valleys of the Susquehanna River and the James River. Many of Virginia's rivers flow into the Chesapeake Bay, including the Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James, which create three peninsulas in the bay.

Golden Sunset --Timber Hollow Overlook (22014263936)
Deciduous and evergreen trees give the Blue Ridge Mountains their distinct color.

The Tidewater is a coastal plain between the Atlantic coast and the fall line. It includes the Eastern Shore and major estuaries of Chesapeake Bay. The Piedmont is a series of sedimentary and igneous rock-based foothills east of the mountains which were formed in the Mesozoic era. The region, known for its heavy clay soil, includes the Southwest Mountains around Charlottesville. The Blue Ridge Mountains are a physiographic province of the Appalachian Mountains with the highest points in the state, the tallest being Mount Rogers at 5,729 feet (1,746 m). The Ridge and Valley region is west of the mountains and includes the Great Appalachian Valley. The region is carbonate rock based and includes Massanutten Mountain. The Cumberland Plateau and the Cumberland Mountains are in the southwest corner of Virginia, south of the Allegheny Plateau. In this region, rivers flow northwest, with a dendritic drainage system, into the Ohio River basin.

The Virginia Seismic Zone has not had a history of regular earthquake activity. Earthquakes are rarely above 4.5 in magnitude, because Virginia is located away from the edges of the North American Plate. The largest earthquake, at an estimated 5.9 magnitude, was in 1897 near Blacksburg. A 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck central Virginia on August 23, 2011, near Mineral. The earthquake was reportedly felt as far away as Toronto, Atlanta and Florida.

Coal mining takes place in the three mountainous regions at 45 distinct coal beds near Mesozoic basins. Over 62 million tons of other non-fuel resources, such as slate, kyanite, sand, or gravel, were also mined in Virginia in 2012. The state's carbonate rock is filled with more than 4,000 caves, ten of which are open for tourism. 35 million years ago, a bolide impacted what is now eastern Virginia. The resulting crater may explain sinking and earthquakes in the region.

Climate

The climate of Virginia is temperate and becomes increasingly warmer and more humid farther south and east. Seasonal extremes vary from average lows of 26 °F (−3 °C) in January to average highs of 86 °F (30 °C) in July. The Atlantic Ocean has a strong effect on eastern and southeastern coastal areas of the state. Influenced by the Gulf Stream, coastal weather is subject to hurricanes, most pronouncedly near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. In spite of its position adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, even the coastal areas have a significant continental influence with quite large temperature differences between summer and winter, particularly given the state climate's subtropical classification, which is typical of states in the Upper South.

Virginia has an annual average of 35–45 days of thunderstorm activity, particularly in the western part of the state, and an average annual precipitation of 42.7 inches (108 cm). Cold air masses arriving over the mountains in winter can lead to significant snowfalls, such as the Blizzard of 1996 and winter storms of 2009–2010. The interaction of these elements with the state's topography creates distinct microclimates in the Shenandoah Valley, the mountainous southwest, and the coastal plains. Virginia averages seven tornadoes annually, most F2 or lower on the Fujita scale.

In recent years, the expansion of the southern suburbs of Washington, D.C. into Northern Virginia has introduced an urban heat island primarily caused by increased absorption of solar radiation in more densely populated areas.

Ecosystem

Forests cover 65% of the state, primarily with deciduous, broad leaf trees in the western part of the state and evergreens and conifers dominant the central and eastern part of Virginia. Lower altitudes are more likely to have small but dense stands of moisture-loving hemlocks and mosses in abundance, with hickory and oak in the Blue Ridge. However, since the early 1990s, Gypsy moth infestations have eroded the dominance of oak forests. In the lowland tidewater and piedmont, yellow pines tend to dominate, with bald cypress wetland forests in the Great Dismal and Nottoway swamps. Other common trees and plants include red bay, wax myrtle, dwarf palmetto, tulip poplar, mountain laurel, milkweed, daisies, and many species of ferns. The largest areas of wilderness are along the Atlantic coast and in the western mountains, where the largest populations of trillium wildflowers in North America are found. The Atlantic coast regions are host to flora commonly associated with the South Atlantic pine forests and lower Southeast Coastal Plain maritime flora, the latter found primarily in eastern and central Virginia.

Deer Big Meadow (13082497565)
White-tailed deer, also known as Virginia deer, graze at Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park

Mammals include white-tailed deer, black bear, beaver, bobcat, coyote, raccoon, skunk, groundhog, Virginia opossum, gray fox, red fox, and eastern cottontail rabbit. Other mammals include: nutria, fox squirrel, gray squirrel, flying squirrel, chipmunk, brown bat, and weasel. Birds include cardinals (the state bird), barred owls, Carolina chickadees, red-tailed hawks, ospreys, brown pelicans, quail, seagulls, bald eagles, and wild turkeys. Virginia is also home to the pileated woodpecker as well as the red-bellied woodpecker. The peregrine falcon was reintroduced into Shenandoah National Park in the mid-1990s. Walleye, brook trout, Roanoke bass, and blue catfish are among the 210 known species of freshwater fish. Running brooks with rocky bottoms are often inhabited by plentiful amounts of crayfish and salamanders. The Chesapeake Bay is host to many species, including blue crabs, clams, oysters, and rockfish (also known as striped bass).

Virginia has 30 National Park Service units, such as Great Falls Park and the Appalachian Trail, and one national park, the Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah was established in 1935 and encompasses the scenic Skyline Drive. Almost 40% of the park's area (79,579 acres/322 km2) has been designated as wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System. Additionally, there are 34 Virginia state parks and 17 state forests, run by the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Department of Forestry. The Chesapeake Bay, while not a national park, is protected by both state and federal legislation, and the jointly run Chesapeake Bay Program which conducts restoration on the bay and its watershed. The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge extends into North Carolina, as does the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which marks the beginning of the Outer Banks.

History

"Jamestown 2007" marked Virginia's quadricentennial year, celebrating 400 years since the establishment of the Jamestown Colony. The celebrations highlighted contributions from Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans, each of which had a significant part in shaping Virginia's history. Warfare, including among these groups, has also had an important role. Virginia was a focal point in conflicts from the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the Civil War, to the Cold War and the War on Terrorism. Stories about historic figures, such as those surrounding Pocahontas and John Smith, George Washington's childhood, or the plantation elite in the slave society of the antebellum period, have also created potent myths of state history, and have served as rationales for Virginia's ideology.

Colony

The first people are estimated to have arrived in Virginia over 12,000 years ago. By 5,000 years ago more permanent settlements emerged, and farming began by 900 AD. By 1500, the Algonquian peoples had founded towns such as Werowocomoco in the Tidewater region, which they referred to as Tsenacommacah. The other major language groups in the area were the Siouan to the west, and the Iroquoians, who included the Nottoway and Meherrin, to the north and south. After 1570, the Algonquians consolidated under Chief Powhatan in response to threats from these other groups on their trade network. Powhatan controlled more than 30 smaller tribes and over 150 settlements, who shared a common Virginia Algonquian language. In 1607, the native Tidewater population was between 13,000 and 14,000.

Several European expeditions, including a group of Spanish Jesuits, explored the Chesapeake Bay during the 16th century. In 1583, Queen Elizabeth I of England granted Walter Raleigh a charter to plant a colony north of Spanish Florida. In 1584, Raleigh sent an expedition to the Atlantic coast of North America. The name "Virginia" may have been suggested then by Raleigh or Elizabeth, perhaps noting her status as the "Virgin Queen," and may also be related to a native phrase, "Wingandacoa," or name, "Wingina." Initially the name applied to the entire coastal region from South Carolina to Maine, plus the island of Bermuda. Later, subsequent royal charters modified the Colony's boundaries. The London Company was incorporated as a joint stock company by the proprietary Charter of 1606, which granted land rights to this area. The company financed the first permanent English settlement in the "New World", Jamestown. Named for King James I, it was founded in May 1607 by Christopher Newport. In 1619, colonists took greater control with an elected legislature called the House of Burgesses. With the bankruptcy of the London Company in 1624, the settlement was taken into royal authority as an English crown colony.

The Governor's Palace -- Williamsburg (VA) September 2012
Williamsburg was Virginia's capital from 1699 to 1780.

Life in the colony was perilous, and many died during the Starving Time in 1609 and the Anglo-Powhatan Wars, including the Indian massacre of 1622, which fostered the colonists' negative view of all tribes. By 1624, only 3,400 of the 6,000 early settlers had survived. However, European demand for tobacco fueled the arrival of more settlers and servants. The headright system tried to solve the labor shortage by providing colonists with land for each indentured servant they transported to Virginia. African workers were first imported to Jamestown in 1619 initially under the rules of indentured servitude. The shift to a system of African slavery in Virginia was propelled by the legal cases of John Punch, who was sentenced to lifetime slavery in 1640 for attempting to run away, and of John Casor, who was claimed by Anthony Johnson as his servant for life in 1655. Slavery first appears in Virginia statutes in 1661 and 1662, when a law made it hereditary based on the mother's status.

Tensions and the geographic differences between the working and ruling classes led to Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, by which time current and former indentured servants made up as much as 80% of the population. Rebels, largely from the colony's frontier, were also opposed to the conciliatory policy towards native tribes, and one result of the rebellion was the signing at Middle Plantation of the Treaty of 1677, which made the signatory tribes tributary states and was part of a pattern of appropriating tribal land by force and treaty. Middle Plantation saw the founding of The College of William & Mary in 1693 and was renamed Williamsburg as it became the colonial capital in 1699. In 1747, a group of Virginian speculators formed the Ohio Company, with the backing of the British crown, to start English settlement and trade in the Ohio Country west of the Appalachian Mountains. France, which claimed this area as part of their colony of New France, viewed this as a threat, and the ensuing French and Indian War became part of the Seven Years' War (1756–1763). A militia from several British colonies, called the Virginia Regiment, was led by then-Lieutenant Colonel George Washington.

Statehood

Patrick Henry Rothermel
1851 painting of Patrick Henry's speech before the House of Burgesses on the Virginia Resolves against the Stamp Act of 1765

The British Parliament's efforts to levy new taxes following the French and Indian War were deeply unpopular in the colonies. In the House of Burgesses, opposition to taxation without representation was led by Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, among others. Virginians began to coordinate their actions with other colonies in 1773, and sent delegates to the Continental Congress the following year. After the House of Burgesses was dissolved by the royal governor in 1774, Virginia's revolutionary leaders continued to govern via the Virginia Conventions. On May 15, 1776, the Convention declared Virginia's independence from the British Empire and adopted George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was then included in a new constitution. Another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, drew upon Mason's work in drafting the national Declaration of Independence.

When the American Revolutionary War began, George Washington was selected to head the colonial army. During the war, the capital was moved to Richmond at the urging of Governor Thomas Jefferson, who feared that Williamsburg's coastal location would make it vulnerable to British attack. In 1781, the combined action of Continental and French land and naval forces trapped the British army on the Virginia Peninsula, where troops under George Washington and Comte de Rochambeau defeated British General Cornwallis in the Siege of Yorktown. His surrender on October 19, 1781 led to peace negotiations in Paris and secured the independence of the colonies.

Virginians were instrumental in writing the United States Constitution. James Madison drafted the Virginia Plan in 1787 and the Bill of Rights in 1789. Virginia ratified the Constitution on June 25, 1788. The three-fifths compromise ensured that Virginia, with its large number of slaves, initially had the largest bloc in the House of Representatives. Together with the Virginia dynasty of presidents, this gave the Commonwealth national importance. In 1790, both Virginia and Maryland ceded territory to form the new District of Columbia, though the Virginian area was retroceded in 1846. Virginia is called "Mother of States" because of its role in being carved into states like Kentucky, which became the 15th state in 1792, and for the numbers of American pioneers born in Virginia.

Civil War and aftermath

Union soldiers entrenched along the west bank of the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, Virginia (111-B-157)
Union soldiers before Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg in May 1863

In addition to agriculture, slave labor was increasingly used in mining, shipbuilding and other industries. By 1860, almost half a million people, roughly 31% of the total population of Virginia, were enslaved. This division contributed to the start of the American Civil War.

Virginia voted to secede from the United States on April 17, 1861, after the Battle of Fort Sumter and Abraham Lincoln's call for volunteers. On April 24, Virginia joined the Confederate States of America, which chose Richmond as its capital. After the 1861 Wheeling Convention, 48 counties in the northwest separated to form a new state of West Virginia, which chose to remain loyal to the Union. Virginian general Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, and led invasions into Union territory, ultimately becoming commander of all Confederate forces. During the war, more battles were fought in Virginia than anywhere else, including Bull Run, the Seven Days Battles, Chancellorsville, and the concluding Battle of Appomattox Court House. After the capture of Richmond in April 1865, the state capital was briefly moved to Lynchburg, while the Confederate leadership fled to Danville. Virginia was formally restored to the United States in 1870, due to the work of the Committee of Nine.

During the post-war Reconstruction era, Virginia adopted a constitution which provided for free public schools, and guaranteed political, civil, and voting rights. The populist Readjuster Party ran an inclusive coalition until the conservative white Democratic Party gained power after 1883. It passed segregationist Jim Crow laws and in 1902 rewrote the Constitution of Virginia to include a poll tax and other voter registration measures that effectively disfranchised most African Americans and many poor European Americans. Though their schools and public services were segregated and underfunded due to a lack of political representation, African Americans were able to unite in communities and take a greater role in Virginia society.

Post-Reconstruction

USS Virginia in port
Many Pre-Dreadnought and World War I-era warships were built in Newport News, including the USS Virginia.

New economic forces also changed the Commonwealth. Virginian James Albert Bonsack invented the tobacco cigarette rolling machine in 1880 leading to new industrial scale production centered on Richmond. In 1886, railroad magnate Collis Potter Huntington founded Newport News Shipbuilding, which was responsible for building six major World War I-era battleships for the U.S. Navy from 1907 to 1923. During the war, German submarines like U-151 attacked ships outside the port. In 1926, Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, rector of Williamsburg's Bruton Parish Church, began restoration of colonial-era buildings in the historic district with financial backing of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Though their project, like others in the state, had to contend with the Great Depression and World War II, work continued as Colonial Williamsburg became a major tourist attraction.

Virginia Civil Rights Memorial wide
The Virginia Civil Rights Memorial was erected in 2008 to commemorate the protests which led to school desegregation.

Protests started by Barbara Rose Johns in 1951 in Farmville against segregated schools led to the lawsuit Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County. This case, filed by Richmond natives Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill, was decided in 1954 with Brown v. Board of Education, which rejected the segregationist doctrine of "separate but equal". But, in 1958, under the policy of "massive resistance" led by the influential segregationist Senator Harry F. Byrd and his Byrd Organization, the Commonwealth prohibited desegregated local schools from receiving state funding.

The Civil Rights Movement gained many participants in the 1960s. It achieved the moral force and support to gain passage of national legislation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1964 the United States Supreme Court ordered Prince Edward County and others to integrate schools. In 1967, the Court also struck down the state's ban on interracial marriage with Loving v. Virginia. From 1969 to 1971, state legislators under Governor Mills Godwin rewrote the constitution, after goals such as the repeal of Jim Crow laws had been achieved. In 1989, Douglas Wilder became the first African American elected as governor in the United States.

The Cold War led to the expansion of national defense government programs housed in offices in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., and correlative population growth. The Central Intelligence Agency in Langley was involved in various Cold War events, including as the target of Soviet espionage activities. Also among the federal developments was the Pentagon, built during World War II as the headquarters for the Department of Defense. It was one of the targets of the September 11 attacks; 189 people died at the site when a jet passenger plane was crashed into the building.

Cities and towns

Virginia-Population
Virginia counties and cities by population in 2010

Virginia is divided into 95 counties and 38 independent cities, the latter acting in many ways as county-equivalents.

Fairfax County is the most populous locality in Virginia, with over one million residents, although that does not include its county seat. Neighboring Prince William County is Virginia's second most populous county, with a population exceeding 450,000, and is home to Marine Corps Base Quantico, the FBI Academy and Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Virginia's largest cities

Virginia Beach from Fishing Pier
Virginia Beach
Norfolk, VA
Norfolk

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 691,737
1800 807,557 16.7%
1810 877,683 8.7%
1820 938,261 6.9%
1830 1,044,054 11.3%
1840 1,025,227 −1.8%
1850 1,119,348 9.2%
1860 1,219,630 9.0%
1870 1,225,163 0.5%
1880 1,512,565 23.5%
1890 1,655,980 9.5%
1900 1,854,184 12.0%
1910 2,061,612 11.2%
1920 2,309,187 12.0%
1930 2,421,851 4.9%
1940 2,677,773 10.6%
1950 3,318,680 23.9%
1960 3,966,949 19.5%
1970 4,648,494 17.2%
1980 5,346,818 15.0%
1990 6,187,358 15.7%
2000 7,078,515 14.4%
2010 8,001,024 13.0%
2020 8,631,393 7.9%
1790–1900, 1910–2020

The United States Census Bureau found the state resident population was 8,631,393 on April 1, 2020, a 7.9% increase since the 2010 United States Census. Another 23,149 Virginians live overseas, giving the state a total population of 8,654,542. Virginia has the fourth largest overseas population of U.S. states due to its federal employees and military personnel. The birth rate in Virginia was 11.4 per 1,000 over five years, and the median age was 38.4 years old, both identical to the national averages as of 2019. As of 2010, the center of population was located in Louisa County, near Richmond.

Immigration between 2010 and 2018 from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 159,627 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 155,205 people. Aside from Virginia, the top birth state for Virginians is New York, having overtaken North Carolina in the 1990s, with the Northeast accounting for the largest number of domestic migrants into the state by region. About twelve percent of residents were born outside the United States as of 2020. El Salvador was the most common foreign country of birth, with India, South Korea, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and the Philippines as other common birthplaces.

Ethnicity

The state's most populous ethnic group, Non-Hispanic whites, has declined as a proportion of population from 76% in 1990 to 60% in 2020, as other ethnicities have increased. Immigrants from the islands of Britain and Ireland settled throughout the Commonwealth during the colonial period, a time when roughly three-fourths of immigrants came as indentured servants. Those who identify on the census as having "American ethnicity" are predominantly of English descent, but have ancestors who have been in North America for so long they choose to identify simply as American. The western mountains have many settlements that were founded by Scotch-Irish immigrants before the American Revolution. There are also sizable numbers of people of German descent in the northwestern mountains and Shenandoah Valley, and 10.6% of Virginians are estimated to have German ancestry, as of 2019.

L-15-12-22-A-040 (23285802904)
New citizens attend a naturalization ceremony in Northern Virginia, where 25% of residents are foreign-born, almost twice the overall state average

The largest minority group in Virginia are Blacks and African Americans, who include about one-fifth of the population. Virginia was a major destination of the Atlantic slave trade, and the first generations of enslaved men, women, and children were brought primarily from Angola and the Bight of Biafra. The Igbo ethnic group of what is now southern Nigeria were the single largest African group among slaves in Virginia. Blacks in Virginia also have more European ancestry than those in other southern states, and DNA analysis shows many have asymmetrical male and female ancestry contributions from before the Civil War, evidence of European fathers and African or Native American mothers during the time of slavery. Though the Black population was reduced by the Great Migration to northern industrial cities in the first half of the 20th century, since 1965 there has been a reverse migration of Blacks returning south. The Commonwealth has the highest number of Black-white interracial marriages in the United States, and 8.2% of Virginians describe themselves as multiracial.

More recent immigration in the late 20th century and early 21st century has resulted in new communities of Hispanics and Asians. As of 2020, 10.5% of Virginia's total population describe themselves as Hispanic or Latino, and 8.8% as Asian. The state's Hispanic population rose by 92% from 2000 to 2010, with two-thirds of Hispanics in the state living in Northern Virginia. Northern Virginia also has a significant population of Vietnamese Americans, whose major wave of immigration followed the Vietnam War. Korean Americans have migrated more recently, attracted by the quality school system. The Filipino American community has about 45,000 in the Hampton Roads area, many of whom have ties to the U.S. Navy and armed forces.

Tribal membership in Virginia is complicated by the legacy of the state's "pencil genocide" of intentionally categorizing Native Americans and Blacks together, and many tribal members do have African and European ancestry. In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau found that only 0.5% of Virginians were exclusively American Indian or Alaska Native, though 2.1% were in some combination with other ethnicities. Virginia has extended state recognition to eleven indigenous tribes resident in the state. Seven tribes also have federal recognition, including six that were recognized in 2018 after passage of bill named for activist Thomasina Jordan. The Pamunkey and Mattaponi have reservations on tributaries of the York River in the Tidewater region.

Ethnicity (2020) Alone Total Largest ancestries by county Ancestry (2019 est.)
Non-Hispanic white 60.3% 67.8%

Virginia counties colored either red, blue, yellow, green, or purple based on the populations most common ancestry. The south-east is predominately purple for African American, while the west is mostly red for American. The north has yellow for German, with two small areas green for Irish. Yellow is also found in spots in the west. A strip in the middle is blue for English.
American Community Survey five-year estimate

German 10.6%
Black or African American 18.6% 20.9%
Irish or Scotch-Irish 10.5%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 10.5%
American 9.7%
Asian 7.1% 8.8%
English 9.2%
Other 5.2% 9.1%
N/A
Italian 3.9%
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.5% 2.1%
Subsaharan African 2.3%

Languages

As of 2010, 85.9% (6,299,127) of Virginia residents age five and older spoke English at home as a first language, while 14.1% (1,036,442) did not—6.4% (470,058) spoke Spanish, 0.8% (56,518) Korean, 0.6% (45,881) Vietnamese, 0.6% (42,418) Chinese (including Mandarin), and 0.6% (40,724) Tagalog. English was passed as the Commonwealth's official language by statutes in 1981 and again in 1996, though the status is not mandated by the Constitution of Virginia.

The Piedmont region is known for its dialect's strong influence on Southern American English. While a more homogenized American English is found in urban areas, various accents are also used, including the Tidewater accent, the Old Virginia accent, and the anachronistic Elizabethan of Tangier Island.

Religion

Religious groups (2014 est.)
Protestant
  
58%
Unaffiliated
  
20%
Catholic
  
12%
Mormon
  
2%
Eastern Orthodox
  
1%
Other faith
  
6%

Virginia is predominantly Christian and Protestant; Baptist denominations combined to form largest group with over a quarter of the population as of 2014. Baptist denominational groups in Virginia include the Baptist General Association of Virginia, with about 1,400 member churches, which supports both the Southern Baptist Convention and the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; and the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia with more than 500 affiliated churches, which supports the Southern Baptist Convention. Roman Catholics are the next largest religious group with around twelve percent. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington includes most of Northern Virginia's Catholic churches, while the Diocese of Richmond covers the rest.

Easter Sunrise Service at Arlington National Cemetery 2019
Since 1927, Arlington National Cemetery has hosted an annual nondenominational sunrise service every Easter.

The United Methodist Church, representing about six percent of Virginians, has the Virginia Conference as their regional body in most of the Commonwealth, while the Holston Conference represents much of extreme Southwest Virginia. Around five percent of Virginians attend Pentecostal churches, while around three percent attend Presbyterian churches, which are split between the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Presbyterian Church in America. The Lutheran Church, under the Virginia Synod, Congregational churches, and Episcopalian adherents each comprised less than two percent of the population as of 2014. The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Southern Virginia, and Southwestern Virginia support the various Episcopal churches.

In November 2006, fifteen conservative Episcopal churches voted to split from the Diocese of Virginia over the ordination of openly gay bishops and clergy in other dioceses of the Episcopal Church; these churches continue to claim affiliation with the larger Anglican Communion through other bodies outside the United States. Though Virginia law allows parishioners to determine their church's affiliation, the diocese claimed the secessionist churches' buildings and properties. The resulting property law case, ultimately decided in favor of the mainline diocese, was a test for Episcopal churches nationwide.

Among other religions, adherents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints constitute one percent of the population, with 204 congregations in Virginia as of 2021. Fairfax Station is the site of the Ekoji Buddhist Temple, of the Jodo Shinshu school, and the Hindu Durga Temple. Sterling is the home of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, which, with its eleven satellite branches, considers itself the second largest Muslim mosque community in the country. While the state's Jewish population is small, organized Jewish sites date to 1789 with Congregation Beth Ahabah. Megachurches in the Commonwealth include Thomas Road Baptist Church, Immanuel Bible Church, and McLean Bible Church, and the twenty percent who describe themselves as unaffiliated also include seven percent who say religion is important to them, but may not attend regular services with formal membership. Several Christian universities are also based in the state, including Regent University, Liberty University, and the University of Lynchburg.

Economy

Virginia-Median household income
Virginia counties and cities by median household income (2010)

Virginia's economy has diverse sources of income, including local and federal government, military, farming and high-tech. The state's average earnings per job was $63,281, the 11th-highest nationwide, and the gross domestic product (GDP) was $476.4 billion in 2018, the 13th-largest among U.S. states. Prior to the COVID-19 recession, in March 2020, Virginia had 4.36 million people employed with an unemployment rate of 2.9%, but jobless claims due to the virus soared over 10% in early April 2020, before leaving off around 5% in November 2020. In February 2022, it was 3.2%, which was the 16th-lowest nationwide. Virginia however ranked worst in the nation for timely review of unemployment benefits due to the pandemic.

Virginia has a median household income of $72,600, 11th-highest nationwide, and a poverty rate of 10.7%, 12th-lowest nationwide, as of 2018. Montgomery County outside Blacksburg has the highest poverty rate in the state, with 28.5% falling below the U.S. Census poverty thresholds. Loudoun County meanwhile has the highest median household income in the nation, and the wider Northern Virginia region is among the highest-income regions nationwide. As of 2013, six of the twenty highest-income counties in the United States, including the two highest, as well as three of the fifty highest-income towns, are all located in Northern Virginia. Though the Gini index shows Virginia has less income inequality than the national average, the state's middle class is also smaller than the majority of states.

Virginia's business environment has been ranked highly by various publications. In 2021, CNBC named Virginia their Top State for Business, with its deductions being mainly for the high cost of living, while Forbes magazine ranked it fourth, though number one in quality of life. Additionally, in 2014 a survey of 12,000 small business owners found Virginia to be one of the most friendly states for small businesses. Virginia has been an employment-at-will state since 1906 and a "right to work" state since 1947. The minimum wage was raised to $9.50 an hour in April 2021, with plans to increase it to $12 in 2023.

Business

Virginia Beach waterfront
Ocean tourism is an important sector of Virginia Beach's economy.

Virginia was home to 653,193 separate firms in the 2012 U.S. Census Survey of Business Owners, with 54% of those majority male-owned and 36.2% majority female-owned. Approximately 28.3% of firms were also majority minority-owned, and 11.7% were veteran-owned. Twenty-one Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Virginia as of 2019, with the largest companies by revenue being Freddie Mac, General Dynamics, and Capital One. The largest by their number of employees are Dollar Tree in Chesapeake and Hilton Worldwide Holdings in McLean.

Virginia has the third highest concentration of technology workers and the fifth highest overall number among U.S. states as of 2020, with the 451,268 tech jobs accounting for 11.1% of all jobs in the state and earning a median salary of $98,292. Many of these jobs are in Northern Virginia, which hosts a large number of software, communications, and cybersecurity companies, particularly in the Dulles Technology Corridor and Tysons Corner areas. Amazon additionally selected Crystal City for its HQ2 in 2018, while Google expanded their Reston offices in 2019. Virginia became the world's largest data center market in 2016, with Loudoun County specifically branding itself "Data Center Alley" due to the roughly 13.5 million square feet (1.25 km2) in use for data. In 2020, the state had the second highest average internet download speeds in the United States, with 193.1 Mbit/s. Computer chips first became the state's highest-grossing export in 2006, and had a total export value of $827 million in 2020. Though in the top quartile for diversity based on the Simpson index, only 26% of tech employees in Virginia are women, and only 13% are Black or African American.

Tourism in Virginia supported an estimated 234,000 jobs in 2018, making tourism the state's fifth largest industry. It generated $26 billion, an increase 4.4% from 2017. The state was eighth nationwide in domestic travel spending in 2018, with Arlington County the top tourist destination in the state by domestic spending, followed by Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and Virginia Beach. Virginia also saw 1.1 million international tourists in 2018, a five percent increase from 2017.

Agriculture

Farmers in Rockingham County, Virginia
Rockingham County accounts for twenty percent of Virginia's agricultural sales as of 2017.

As of 2017, agriculture occupied 28% of the land in Virginia with 7.8 million acres (12,188 sq mi; 31,565 km2) of farmland. Nearly 54,000 Virginians work on the state's 43,225 farms, which average 181 acres (0.28 sq mi; 0.73 km2). Though agriculture has declined significantly since 1960 when there were twice as many farms, it remains the largest single industry in Virginia, providing for over 334,000 jobs. Soybeans were the most profitable crop in Virginia in 2017, ahead of corn and cut flowers as other leading agricultural products. However, the ongoing China-U.S. trade war led many Virginia farmers to plant cotton instead of soybeans in 2019. Though it is no longer the primary crop, Virginia is still the third-largest producer of tobacco in the United States.

Virginia is also the country's third-largest producer of seafood as of 2018, with sea scallops, oysters, Chesapeake blue crabs, menhaden, and hardshell clams as the largest seafood harvests by value, and France, Canada, and Hong Kong as the top export destinations. Commercial fishing supports 18,220 jobs as of 2020, while recreation fishing supports another 5,893. Eastern oyster harvests had increased from 23,000 bushels in 2001 to over 500,000 in 2013, but fell to 248,347 in 2019 because of low salinity in coastal waters due to heavy spring rains. Those same rains however made 2019 a record wine harvest for vineyards in the Northern Neck and along the Blue Ridge Mountains, which also attract 2.3 million tourists annually. Virginia has the seventh-highest number of wineries in the nation, with 307 as of 2020. Cabernet franc and Chardonnay are the most grown varieties.

Taxes

Virginia collects personal income tax from those with incomes above a filing threshold; there are five income brackets, with rates ranging from 2.0% to 5.75% of taxable income. The state sales and use tax rate is 4.3%. There is an additional 1% local tax, for a total of a 5.3% combined sales tax on most Virginia purchases. The sales tax rate is higher in three regions: Northern Virginia (6%), Hampton Roads (6%) and the Historic Triangle (7%). Unlike the majority of states, Virginia collects sales tax on groceries, but at a lower rate than the general sales tax; the sales tax for food and certain essential personal hygiene goods is 2.5%.

Virginia's property tax is set and collected at the local government level and varies throughout the Commonwealth. Real estate is also taxed at the local level based on one hundred percent of fair market value. As of fiscal year 2018, the median real estate tax rate per $100 of assessed taxable value was $1.07 for cities, $0.67 for counties, and $0.17 for towns; town rates are lower because towns (unlike cities) have a narrow range of responsibilities and are subordinate to counties. Of local government tax revenue, about 61% is generated from real property taxes; about 24% from tangible personal property, sales and use, and business license tax; and 15% from other taxes (such as restaurant meal taxes, public service corporation property tax, consumer utility tax, and hotel tax).

Culture

Colonial Williamsburg ladies
Colonial Virginian culture, language, and style are reenacted in Williamsburg.

Virginia's culture was popularized and spread across America and the South by figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Robert E. Lee. Their homes in Virginia represent the birthplace of America and the South. Modern Virginia culture has many sources, and is part of the culture of the Southern United States. The Smithsonian Institution divides Virginia into nine cultural regions.

Besides the general cuisine of the Southern United States, Virginia maintains its own particular traditions. Virginia wine is made in many parts of the state. Smithfield ham, sometimes called "Virginia ham", is a type of country ham which is protected by state law, and can only be produced in the town of Smithfield. Virginia furniture and architecture are typical of American colonial architecture. Thomas Jefferson and many of the state's early leaders favored the Neoclassical architecture style, leading to its use for important state buildings. The Pennsylvania Dutch and their style can also be found in parts of the state.

Literature in Virginia often deals with the state's extensive and sometimes troubled past. The works of Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Glasgow often dealt with social inequalities and the role of women in her culture. Glasgow's peer and close friend James Branch Cabell wrote extensively about the changing position of gentry in the Reconstruction era, and challenged its moral code with Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice. William Styron approached history in works such as The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie's Choice. Tom Wolfe has occasionally dealt with his southern heritage in bestsellers like I Am Charlotte Simmons. Mount Vernon native Matt Bondurant received critical acclaim for his historic novel The Wettest County in the World about moonshiners in Franklin County during prohibition. Virginia also names a state Poet Laureate, currently Ron Smith of Richmond, who will serve until mid-2016.

Festivals

Chincoteague pony swim 2007
The annual Chincoteague Pony Swim features over 200 wild ponies swimming across the Assateague Channel into Chincoteague.

Many counties and localities host county fairs and festivals. The Virginia State Fair is held at the Meadow Event Park every September. Also in September is the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach, which celebrates the city, the waterfront, and regional artists. Norfolk's Harborfest, in June, features boat racing and air shows. Fairfax County also sponsors Celebrate Fairfax! with popular and traditional music performances. The Virginia Lake Festival is held during the third weekend in July in Clarksville. Wolf Trap hosts the Wolf Trap Opera Company, which produces an opera festival every summer. Each September, Bay Days celebrates the Chesapeake Bay as well as Hampton's 400-year history since 1610, and Isle of Wight County holds a County Fair on the second week of September as well. Both feature live music performances, and other unique events.

On the Eastern Shore island of Chincoteague the annual Pony Swim & Auction of feral Chincoteague ponies at the end of July is a unique local tradition expanded into a week-long carnival. The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival is a six-day festival held annually in Winchester that includes parades and bluegrass concerts. The Old Time Fiddlers' Convention in Galax, begun in 1935, is one of the oldest and largest such events worldwide. Two important film festivals, the Virginia Film Festival and the VCU French Film Festival, are held annually in Charlottesville and Richmond, respectively.

Transportation

Tysons Corner Sunset
The Silver Line extension of the Washington Metro system opened in Tysons Corner in 2014.

Because of the 1932 Byrd Road Act, the state government controls most of Virginia's roads, instead of a local county authority as is usual in other states. As of 2018, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) owns and operates 57,867 miles (93,128 km) of the total 70,105 miles (112,823 km) of roads in the state, making it the third largest state highway system in the United States. Traffic on Virginia's roads is among the worst in the nation according to the 2019 American Community Survey. The average commute time of 28.7 minutes is the eighth longest among U.S. states, and the Washington Metropolitan Area, which includes Northern Virginia, has the second worst rate of traffic congestion among U.S. cities. About 9.2% of workers in Virginia reported carpooling to work in 2019, and Virginia hit peak car usage before the year 2000, making it one of the first such states.

About 4.4% of Virginians commute on public transit, and there were over 171.9 million public transit trips in Virginia in 2019, over 62% of which were done on the Washington Metro transit system, which serves Arlington and Alexandria, and extends into Loudoun and Fairfax Counties. Virginia has Amtrak passenger rail service along several corridors, and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) maintains two commuter lines into Washington, D.C. from Fredericksburg and Manassas. VRE averaged over 90,000 weekly riders in 2019, but saw a dramatic 90% decline in ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Major freight railroads in Virginia include Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation, and in 2021 the state finalized a deal to purchase 223 miles (359 km) of track and over 350 miles (560 km) of right of way from CSX for future passenger rail service. Commuter buses include the Fairfax Connector, FRED buses in Fredericksburg, and OmniRide in Prince William County. VDOT operates several free ferries throughout Virginia, the most notable being the Jamestown Ferry which connects Jamestown to Scotland Wharf across the James River.

Virginia has five major airports: Washington Dulles International and Reagan Washington National in Northern Virginia, both of which handle more than twenty million passengers a year, Richmond International southeast of the state capital, and Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport and Norfolk International in Hampton Roads. Several other airports offer limited commercial passenger service, and sixty-six public airports serve the state's aviation needs. The Virginia Port Authority's main seaports are those in Hampton Roads, which carried 60,014,070 short tons (54,443,850 t) of total cargo in 2019, the seventh most of United States ports. The Eastern Shore of Virginia is the site of Wallops Flight Facility, a rocket launch center owned by NASA, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, a commercial spaceport. Space tourism is also offered through Vienna-based Space Adventures.

State symbols

Sports

2011 Monument Avenue 10k (5583061136)
The annual Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond has become one of the ten largest timed races in the U.S.

Virginia is the most populous U.S. state without a major professional sports league franchise. The reasons for this include the lack of any dominant city or market within the state, a reluctance to publicly finance stadiums, and the proximity of teams in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Charlotte, and Raleigh. A proposed arena in Virginia Beach designed for an NBA franchise became the latest unsuccessful sports initiative when the city council there ended support in 2017. Virginia Beach had previously been considered for an NBA franchise in 1987, which ultimately became the Charlotte Hornets. The Virginia Squires of the ABA started in Norfolk in 1970, but lost momentum after trading "Dr. J" Julius Erving and folded just one month before the ABA–NBA merger in 1976.

Five minor league baseball and two mid-level hockey teams play in Virginia. Norfolk is host to two: The Triple-A Norfolk Tides and the ECHL's Norfolk Admirals. The Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels began playing at The Diamond in 2010, while the Fredericksburg Nationals, Lynchburg Hillcats, and Salem Red Sox play in the Low-A East league. Loudoun United FC, the reserve team of D.C. United, debuted in the USL Championship in 2019, while the Richmond Kickers of the USL League One have operated since 1993 and are the only team in their league to win both the league championship and the U.S. Open Cup in the same year. The Washington Commanders also have their headquarters in Ashburn and their training facility in Richmond, and the Washington Capitals practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Ballston.

Virginia has many professional caliber golf courses including Kingsmill Resort outside Williamsburg, which hosts an LPGA Tour tournament in May, and the Country Club of Virginia outside Richmond, which hosts a charity classic on the men's senior tour in October. NASCAR currently schedules Cup Series races on two tracks in Virginia: Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway. Virginia natives currently competing in the series include Denny Hamlin and Elliott Sadler. Hampton Roads has produced several Olympic gold medalists, including Gabby Douglas, the first African American to win gymnastics individual all-around gold, and LaShawn Merritt, Francena McCorory, and Michael Cherry, who have all won gold in the 4 × 400 metres relay. Major long-distance races in the state include the Richmond Marathon, the Blue Ridge Marathon on the Parkway, and the Monument Avenue 10K.

College sports

VT - UVA 2012 - Waiting for the rebound
Mike Scott and Joe Harris of the Virginia Cavaliers battle Cadarian Raines of the Virginia Tech Hokies for a rebound at Cassell Coliseum

In the absence of professional sports, several of Virginia's collegiate sports programs have attracted strong followings, with a 2015 poll showing that 34% of Virginians were fans of the Virginia Cavaliers and 28% were fans of the rival Virginia Tech Hokies, making both more popular than the surveyed regional professional teams. The men's and women's college basketball programs of the Cavaliers, VCU Rams, and Old Dominion Monarchs have combined for 63 regular season conference championships and 48 conference tournament championships between them as of 2021. The Hokies football team sustained a 27-year bowl streak between 1993 and 2019; James Madison Dukes football won FCS NCAA Championships in both 2004 and 2016. The overall UVA men's athletics programs won the national Capital One Cup in both 2015 and 2019, and lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in NCAA championships.

Fourteen universities in total compete in NCAA Division I, with multiple programs each in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Atlantic 10 Conference, Big South Conference, and Colonial Athletic Association. Three historically Black schools compete in the Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, and two others (Hampton and Norfolk State) compete in Division I. Several smaller schools compete in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and the USA South Athletic Conference of NCAA Division III. The NCAA currently holds its Division III championships in football, men's basketball, volleyball, and softball in Salem. Virginia does not allow state appropriated funds to be used for either operational or capital expenses for intercollegiate athletics.

High school sports

Virginia is also home to several of the nation's top high school basketball programs, including Paul VI Catholic High School and Oak Hill Academy, the latter of which has won nine national championships. In the 2018–2019 school year, 174,224 high school students participated in fourteen girls sports and thirteen boys sports managed by the Virginia High School League, with the most popular sports being football, outdoor track and cross country, soccer, basketball, baseball and softball, and volleyball. Youth soccer leagues outside of the high school system are also popular in the state, and 18 teams from Virginia have won national championships, seventh-most among U.S. states. Access to youth soccer in Virginia however has been found to be highly correlated to race and median household income, with opportunities almost completely disappearing in areas where the non-white population exceeded 90%, particularly in the Southwest and Southside regions of the Commonwealth.

Education

BUF IMG 5559 (33491723285)
Virginia's public schools serve over a million students at over 2,200 schools.

Virginia's educational system consistently ranks in the top five states on the U.S. Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress, with Virginia students outperforming the average in all subject areas and grade levels tested. The 2020 Quality Counts report ranked Virginia's K–12 education eighth in the country, with a letter grade of B. All school divisions must adhere to educational standards set forth by the Virginia Department of Education, which maintains an assessment and accreditation regime known as the Standards of Learning to ensure accountability.

Public K–12 schools in Virginia are generally operated by the counties and cities, and not by the state. As of the 2018–19 academic year a total of 1,290,576 students were enrolled in 2,293 local and regional schools in the Commonwealth, including eight charter schools, and an additional 98 alternative and special education centers across 133 school divisions. 2018 marked the first decline in overall enrollment in public schools, by just over 2,000 students, since 1984. Besides the general public schools in Virginia, there are Governor's Schools and selective magnet schools. The Governor's Schools are a collection of more than forty regional high schools and summer programs intended for gifted students. The Virginia Council for Private Education oversees the regulation of 483 state accredited private schools. An additional 17,283 students receive homeschooling.

In 2019, 91.5% of high school students graduated on-time after four years, an increase of two percent from 2013, and 89.3% of adults over the age 25 had their high school diploma. Virginia has one of the smaller racial gaps in graduation rates among U.S. states, with 89.7% of Black students graduating on time, compared to 94.7% of white students and 97.5% of Asian students. Despite ending school segregation in the 1960s, seven percent of Virginia's public schools were rated as "intensely segregated" by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA in 2019, and the number has risen since 1989, when only three percent were. Virginia has comparatively large public school districts, typically comprising entire counties or cities, and this helps mitigate funding gaps seen in other states such that non-white districts average slightly more funding, $255 per student as of 2019, than majority white districts. Elementary schools, with Virginia's smallest districts, were found to be more segregated than state middle or high schools by a 2019 VCU study.

Colleges and universities

Falling Upwards; The Rotunda at the University of Virginia
The University of Virginia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, guarantees full tuition scholarships to all in-state students from families earning up to $80,000.

As of 2019, Virginia has the sixth highest percent of residents with bachelor's degrees or higher, with 38.2%. As of that year, there are 169 colleges and universities in Virginia. In the 2021 U.S. News & World Report ranking of national public universities, the University of Virginia is ranked 4th, the College of William and Mary is 11th, Virginia Tech is 29th, George Mason University is 65th, and Virginia Commonwealth University is 77th. James Madison University is also ranked the third best regional university in the South. There are 124 private institutions in the state, including Washington and Lee University and the University of Richmond, which are ranked as the country's 9th and 22nd best liberal arts colleges respectively.

Virginia Tech and Virginia State University are the state's land-grant universities, and Virginia State is one of five historically black colleges and universities in Virginia. The Virginia Military Institute is the oldest state military college. Virginia also operates 23 community colleges on 40 campuses which enrolled 218,985 degree-seeking students during the 2020–2021 school year. In 2021, the state made community college free for most low- and middle-income students. George Mason University had the largest on-campus enrollment at 38,542 students as of 2021, though the private Liberty University had the largest total enrollment in the state, with 88,283 online and 15,105 on-campus students in Lynchburg as of 2019.

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See also

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