What Determines the Boundaries of a Region in Virginia?

If you're a "lumper," you could classify the state of Virginia as one state and ignore the different regions within it.

If you care only about one characteristic, such as population density, you could divide the state into three categories based on population density (people per square mile):

Virginia Population Density

Hmmm... would you label them dense, average, and empty? Or urban, suburban, and rural? Take advantage of the software and create your own map.

Set the interactive mapping tool to map by four equal intervals, to distinguish areas with a density less that 1,850 people square mile or greater than 3,700 people per square mile. Compare the result to the map created by three quantiles (with the break points for different colors at 55 people/square mile and 375 people per square mile). Then you'll see the really urban areas in Virginia... as well as how you can use different types of maps to manipulate the presentation of a "fact" differently.

But if you want to look a little deeper, perhaps to determine where in Virginia you should open a business or build a highway or plan a vacation, it helps to understand how different parts of Virginia are different - or similar.

What makes a region? Well, lets start with something you already know: what makes a family? That's not a simple question, whether or not you know genealogy, but you can answer it.

Do you define your family to include just those of you related by blood, or do you count the in-laws too? And how about the cousins who live in Canada? Is your family not just the relatives, but also the close friends from school, work, your religious society - even the neighborhood? Can you choose your family, as well be born into it?

You can draw the lines for your family however you wish, but you know others might draw them differently. You also know that the family lines might change over time, too. In today's society, split and blended families are created routinely by divorce and remarriage.

So what criteria do you use to define regional (as opposed to family) boundaries? Consider defining the edges of a region to include that territory where the following characteristics are more similar than different, more homogenous than distinct:

Obviously there are many more... One way to test whether you have drawn a reliable regional boundary is to draw a transect across the area in question. Look at the statistical reports available for the political units you cross, and see if there is a distinct break somewhere on the transect. For example, a transect might show where Hampton Roads fades into Southside, or Northern Virginia into the Piedmont. In addition to the interstates, other highways make excellent transects, including:

boundaries of Planning Districts in Virginia
boundaries of Planning Districts in Virginia
Source: Virginia Economic Development Partnership

Virginia Places