Hampton Roads - Definitions


The U.S. Census Bureau defines the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA as 16 county-level jurisdictions—seven counties and eight independent cities in Virginia, and one county in North Carolina. While the borders of what locals call "Hampton Roads" may not perfectly align with the definition of the MSA, Hampton Roads is most often the name used for the metropolitan area.

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA is a U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). According to the 2010 Census its population is 1,671,683.

Note: Since a state constitutional change in 1871, all cities in Virginia are independent cities and they are not legally located in any county. The OMB considers these independent cities to be county-equivalents for the purpose of defining MSAs in Virginia. Each MSA is listed by its counties, then cities, each in alphabetical order, and not by size.

The MSA consists of these locations in Virginia:

  • Gloucester County
  • Isle of Wight County
  • James City County
  • Mathews County
  • Surry County
  • York County
  • City of Chesapeake
  • City of Hampton
  • City of Newport News
  • City of Norfolk
  • City of Poquoson
  • City of Portsmouth
  • City of Suffolk
  • City of Virginia Beach
  • City of Williamsburg

The MSA also includes the following location in North Carolina:

  • Currituck County

The Hampton Roads metropolitan area was first defined in 1950 as the Norfolk-Portsmouth Metropolitan Standard Area. It comprised the independent cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth and South Norfolk and the counties of Norfolk and Princess Anne. In 1963, Virginia Beach, which had separated from Princess Anne County in 1952, was added to the MSA, while South Norfolk lost its metropolitan status. In 1973, Chesapeake (created as a result of the merger of South Norfolk with Norfolk County in 1963) and Currituck County were added to the MSA, while Virginia Beach (which had merged with Princess Anne County in 1963) became a primary city.

In 1983, the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Suffolk and Williamsburg, as well as Gloucester, James City and York counties, were added. Portsmouth was removed as a primary city and Newport News was added. In 1993, Isle of Wight, Mathews and Surry counties were added. Although Virginia Beach had passed Norfolk as the state's largest city by 1990, it was not made the first primary city of the MSA until 2010.

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