Virginia has a diversity of people, people who came from different places and cultures - dating back 15,000 or so years.
People who were "native" to the area when the Europeans arrived were not all the same. Virginia's "Indians" spoke different languages and lived different lifestyles. Be careful when you hear someone say "All the Indians..." or "Native Americans were..." The tribes were different and competitive with each other - that's why the Europeans discovered Native American villages with palisades.
In 1607, there may have been 13,000 Algonquian-speaking Native Americans within the Coastal Plain territory claimed by Powhatan, and 15,000 Siouan-speaking Monacans/Manahoacs in the Piedmont. The separation of the two groups dates back to 200 A.D., based on archeological studies that identify when the "shared ceramic tradition" east and west of the Fall Line diverged and different pottery types emerged.1
In addition, there was an unknown number of Algonquians north of the Rappahannock River watershed outside of Powhatan's control, more Siouan-speaking tribes such as the Tutelo, Occaneechi, and Saponi, plus an unknown number of Iroquoian-speaking tribes in the Blackwater/Nottoway and Cherokees in southwestern Virginia. At the time the Europeans arrived, total Native American population may have been 50,000 people within the boundaries of what is now Virginia.2
The earliest European settlers in Virginia were not homogenous either. The first colonists from England came from different cultures within that country, and then from other nations. Some were poor men looking for a steady wage from the Virginia Company, willing to accept a term of service as an indentured laborer in order to have the opportunity to own land in Virginia. Others were "gentlemen," already-wealthy venture capitalists who adventured their person and risked their health in the new colony (as well as their wealth).
Conflict in early Jamestown resulted in execution of "spies" presumed to be Catholics. Some immigrants to America returned to England, such as John Smith in 1609, but most early colonists died from starvation or disease:3
Native American pottery from Little Falls, on Potomac River
Source: National Park Service
Starting in 1619, slaves from Africa became part of the cultural mix. In the 18th Century, groups of Protestants from continental Europe were encouraged to settle in Virginia. At the end of the 19th Century, mine owners in Appalachia initiated another round of recruiting workers from various places. Virginia has never been homogenous, and has never lacked cultural conflicts.
Today, those Virginians who are related to the early English colonists are proud to identify their genealogical links to the Randolphs, the Carters, the Lees. Some have a connection even to the original residents, the very original First Families of Virginia. Numerous First Families of Virginia (FFV's) today can trace their ancestry back to the son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, and thus to Pocahontas and Powhatan.
That connection to Pocahontas affected the implementation of de jure (legal) racial discrimination in the 1920's. Racially-biased Virginia officials tried to classify all Virginians with one drop of non-white blood as colored. Native Americans objected to being reclassified and forced to attend segregated schools with black students, and even today the discrimination of the 20th Century complicates efforts of tribes to receive Federal recognition. In 1924, "An Act to Preserve Racial Integrity" established that white persons could have more than one drop of Native American blood, in order to accomodate the descendants of Pocahontas:4
However, the 20th Century FFV's with a family connection to the most famous Native American from Virginia complicated that approach. Those wealthy and influential FFV's may not have celebrated cultural diversity and may not have supported desegregation, but they were proud of their one-drop connection to Pocahontas.
Why Study the Population?
The US Constitution requires a census every 10 years, in order to rebalance how many members each state will elect to the US House of Representatives. But why does the Census ask more questions than "how many living people are located in this place?"
Various government programs are based on income levels, race, educational attainment (years of high school/college completed), etc. If a government program is designed to provide funding to replace outdoor privies with indoor plumbing, or to provide a hot lunch to school children from families earning below a certain amount of income... it helps to have data.
Pocahontas Saving the Life of Captain John Smith
(clearly not historically accurate - notice the teepees in the background)
Source: State Department, Telling America's Story
Today we can categorize the 8 million or so Virginians in different ways - by gender, by ancestry, by income, by residence, etc. Discrimination based on race is prohibited by Federal law, but selective marketing based on clear business criteria rather than racial prejudice is common.
Defining a "target audience" is essential for a business trying to match their product with their customers. Until recently, businesses used to blanket a community with advertising, even if that requires wasting money on some households, in order to be sure they reached all potential customers. Advertisers placed commercials on all channels at the same time. Telemarketers used to call every phone number. in the early days of the Internet, AOL used to send a disk to every household - even those without a computer - just to ensure every potential subscriber got the marketing materials.
Today, those telemarking phone calls, "junk mail" invitations for credit cards, and get-out-the-vote solicitations just before an election are based on sophisticated slicing and dicing of demographic data. After all, the Republicans don't want to encourage the Democrats to vote, or vice-versa. Companies trying to sell diapers want their advertising to be directed to neighborhoods with lots of young couple, not to retirement homes. As social media replaces direct mail, the refinements in identifying customer interests offer advertisers even more opportunities to discriminate - legally.
Knowing the audience of potential customers can make the difference between a successful business and a bankrupt business. Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads are the three areas of Virginia with high population density, high population totals, and a higher-than-average level of discretionary income in households. If you are trying to sell expensive jewelry, would you locate your store near Tysons Corner or near Cumberland Gap?
The Hummer dealerships were not located at random across the state; they were concentrated near wealth, because Hummers were luxury items. In October 2007, before the brand was closed down, there were only 4 Hummer dealerships in Virginia. Two were in Northern Virginia (Vienna and Chantilly), one in Richmond, and one in Virginia Beach.
Fast food restaurants are located at highway intersections and in urban areas for a reason - that's where the customers are concentrated. There are exceptions to every rule, of course. A few restaurants in out-of-the-way locations may become popular, such as the Inn at Little Washington (in Rappahannock County) and the restaurant at the Chateau Morrisette winery (in Floyd County). Those restaurants have become intentional destinations for the traveller, and the inconvenient location is outweighed by the quality of the food and dining experience.
Drive south of Blacksburg, and you could eat at McDonalds - but go west to the West Virginia border, and it was a "food desert" for McDonalds afficianodos in Newport, Pembroke, Pearisburg, Rich Creek, and Glen Lyn (by 2011, a McDonalds finally opened in Pearisburg)
Source: McDonalds Restaurant Locator
The 2010 Census located 8 million people in Virginia (the "mean center" is in southeastern Louisa County). At that time, the United States had nearly 310 million people and the world population was approaching 7 billion.