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June-July Map of the Month: Urban Areas in Hampton Roads

June-July Map of the Month: Urban Areas in Hampton Roads

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Urban areas are one of many geographies defined by the U.S. Census Bureau for use in reporting and analyzing characteristics of the American population. Urban areas encompass densely developed territory composed of residential, commercial, and other types of land uses, as defined by the urban area criteria. The criteria are reevaluated following each decennial census to incorporate new data, technology, and improvements in methodology. The updated urban area list, based on 2020 Census data, was released in December 2022, and the maps and associated spatial data were released in May 2023.

Many factors are included in the urban area criteria, however there were three main changes from the previous 2010 version:

  1. The minimum population required to qualify as an urban area increased from 2,500 to 5,000 and a new alternative threshold of 2,000 or more housing units to qualify was added. One or the other of these thresholds must be met.
  2. Housing unit density is now used instead of population density in evaluating urban area cores.
  3. There is no longer a distinction between types of urban areas. In 2010, there were Urbanized Areas (population over 50,000) and Urban Clusters (population between 2,500 and 50,000). Now, they are all classified as Urban Areas.

Following the 2010 Census, Hampton Roads urbans areas were comprised of the Virginia Beach Urbanized Area, Williamsburg Urbanized Area, and three Urban Clusters: Franklin, Smithfield, and Gloucester Courthouse.

In the 2020 update, the Virginia Beach Urbanized Area was renamed to Virginia Beach-Norfolk Urban Area and a new Suffolk Urban Area was split off from it. Williamsburg remains an Urban Area and Smithfield and Franklin converted from Urban Clusters to Urban Areas. The Gloucester Courthouse Urban Cluster was removed, likely falling under the new threshold for population and/or housing units.

This month’s map shows both the 2010 and 2020 Urban Areas overlaid for comparison. Click on the layer tool in the map to toggle each year on and off (2010 is turned off by default). Urban areas are based on population and housing unit counts at the block level, the smallest census unit. Zoom in on the map to see the boundaries of the 2020 census blocks.

The table below summarizes the population and housing units in each of the 2020 Urban Areas. Overall, approximately 92% of the population and housing units in Hampton Roads are included in an Urban Area.

Table of 2020 Urban Areas