Virginia ranked 12th in population in the US with an estimated total of 7,293,542 in 2002, an increase of 3% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, Virginia's population grew from 6,187,358 to 7,078,515, an increase of 14.4%. The population is projected to reach 7,324,000 by 2005 and 8.5 million by 2025. The population density in 2000 was 178.8 persons per sq mi.
In 2000 the median age was 35.7. Persons under 18 years old accounted for 24.6% of the population while 11.2% were age 65 or older.
From the outset, Virginia was the most populous of the English colonies, with a population that doubled every 25 years and totaled more than 100,000 by 1727. By 1790, the time of the first US census, Virginia's population of 821,287 was about 21% of the US total and almost twice that of 2nd-ranked Pennsylvania. Although surpassed by New York State at the 1820 census, Virginia continued to enjoy slow but steady growth until the Civil War. During the 1860s, the loss of its western counties (which became the new state of West Virginia) and wartime devastation caused a decline of 23%. The population passed the 2 million mark in 1910, and the number of Virginians doubled between 1920 and 1970. The population growth rates for the five decades following 1940 were 23.9%, 19.5%, 17.2%, 15%, and 15.7%, in each case above the US average.
In the 1990s, approximately three-fourths of all Virginians lived in metropolitan areas, the largest of which in 1999 was the Norfolk–Virginia Beach–Newport News area, with an estimated 1,562,635 people; the Richmond–Petersburg metropolitan area had 961,416 people. Virginia's most populous cities proper with their estimated 2002 populations are Virginia Beach, 433,934; Norfolk, 239,036; Chesapeake, 206,665; Richmond, 197,456; Arlington, 189,927; Newport News, 180,272; Hampton, 145,921; and Alexandria, 130,804.