Research Briefs and Reports

Data-Driven Research about Northern Virginia

The Community Foundation produces data-driven reports to better understand the needs of the region. These studies provide thoughtful insight into how these needs are addressed in Northern Virginia, and how philanthropic efforts can be targeted to better serve our friends and neighbors. Read our full reports or executive summaries which highlight our key findings.
February 12, 2024
Trust is critical for social cohesion and economic growth, yet only a quarter of Americans say that most people can be trusted. Americans’ belief that others can be trusted has reached a historic low, declining 47 percent from 1984 through 2022. Northern Virginia is not immune to these national trends. Our Insight Region® Report revealed that social trust in Northern Virginia reached a 5-year low in 2022. Only 33% of Northern Virginian’s believed that most people could be trusted. In the past 3 years, Northern Virginian’s belief that others will be helpful declined 18 percent.

September 11, 2023
In 2019, worker mental health represented a salient but relatively uncommon issue for Northern Virginia employers: approximately 11 percent of working adults were experiencing mild anxiety or depression, and 7 percent fell into a clinical range.

During the pandemic, these rates spiked, and have remained high. As of May 2023, over half of the workforce was experiencing some level of anxiety or depression, and a quarter were in the clinical range— requiring some level of treatment or intervention. This research estimates that since 2020, Northern Virginia has lost $8 billion each year in unrealized economic output due to the impaired mental health of its workforce: a quadrupling of losses seen prior to the pandemic.

August 22, 2023
In 2021, one in five families (20 percent) in Northern Virginia did not earn enough money to meet their basic needs for shelter, food, medical care, and other essentials. An additional nine percent could not cover these basic needs, and pay for childcare. All told, 29 percent of the region’s families were struggling with income inadequacy.

To cope with rising costs, families at all income levels are changing their habits. The majority of families are cutting back on discretionary spending. Nearly half of families at all income levels have compromised their financial health, including taking on more debt, and getting behind on bills. More than a quarter were sacrificing a basic need, such as delaying medical care, keeping their homes at an unsafe temperature, or going hungry.

March 23, 2023
Growing Old Together in Northern Virginia
As of 2020, there are 310,000 adults aged 65 or above in Northern Virginia, an increase of 61 percent since 2021. This report investigates systemic issues of housing, budgeting, and long-term care that people over 65 in the region face, offering three framing questions of what roles the nonprofit sector, from foundations to community programs and others can play in addressing these critical issues:
    1. How do we make it easier to be a caregiver?
    2. How do we increase the supply and affordability of senior housing?
    3. How do we help individuals afford to age in place?
This research was presented at the 2023 Shape of the Region Conference: Aging in Northern Virginia.
January 31, 2023
This report discusses the mental health needs of Northern Virginia’s youth, which have only increased since 2020. The 2022 Virginia School Survey of Climate and Working conditions shows that one in ten high school students have seriously contemplated suicide in the past year, while one in three have symptoms of recent clinical anxiety.

Two other major findings include: Girls, those who identify as LGBTQ+, older students, and Hispanic and Latino students are among those who are experiencing the largest increases in mental health need since the beginning of the pandemic. At the same time, many students do not get enough sleep, a symptom of poor mental health as well as a contributing factor.

September 15, 2022

2022 Champions for Accountability

An Initiative to Highlight the Importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Northern Virginia's Workplaces

champions website cover

In 2020, an estimated 17 percent of the region's workers identified as Asian-Pacific Islander, 16 percent as Hispanic, 12 percent as Black, and 51 percent as White. About 11 percent of NOVA workers who completed the Census' household pulse survey in 2021 identified as LGBTQ+. Despite this wealth of diversity, economic power has not been distributed evenly across the region. While about half of workers in the region identify as White, 67 percent of businesses are under White ownership, 2/3 of managers in the region are White, and 69 percent of workers who earn more than $150,000 a year are White.

This report highlights more than 50 employers in Northern Virginia that have taken a crucial first step towards corporate diversity: they are willing to collect, share, and act on data about the demographic composition of their owners, senior staff, and boards. The report summarizes preliminary findings from the first cohort of badge recipients- "Champions-" who submitted a complete application in the spring-summer of 2022. While just the first step, this puts the region on an important pathway to diversifying our leadership and acknowledging where we are, as a region, and as employers.
March 15, 2022

Finding Our Way Back to Mental Health

The Need for Accessible, Affordable Treatment in the Midst of Collective Trauma

SOTR cover for impact story In 2019, about 8 percent of the population was dealing with “active symptoms” of anxiety or depression. Now, that figure is 28%, a fourfold increase impacting over a half million adults in Northern Viginia. This doesn’t include some 200,000 adults whose anxiety and depression levels are transient, but have received, or sought to receive medication or talk therapy in the previous four weeks. In total, whilst 750,000 adults in Northern Virginia have mental health needs, 370,000 who want therapy or counselling are unable to get it.

This report investigates four systemic barriers to people getting the care they need, offering recommendations on how Northern Virginia can work to support this large group of people by addressing systemic barriers to treatment, and what the roles the nonprofit sector, from foundations to community programs and others, can play.
October 26, 2021

Ready for Kindergarten, Ready for Life: The causes and consequences of Northern Virginia's preschool enrollment disparity

InsightRegion IPS3 cover MedRes copyNorthern Virginia's children at or near poverty have the second lowest rate of preschool enrollment in the country; just 29 percent of three-and four-year-olds in this income bracket are in school. It also has the largest gap in enrollment rates between these children and their counterparts in higher-income families.

High-quality preschool has the potential to narrow long-standing racial and economic opportunity gaps, provide crucial relief to Northern Virginia's working parents, and produce stunning long-term returns on investment. While all children benefit from the experience, children from families with limited economic means stand to benefit the most.

This brief explores how location, cost, and demand explain the region's low rate of preschool enrollment among its most financially vulnerable children and concludes with a series of recommendations. 
June 23, 2021

Minority business report cover pageSupporting Northern Virginia’s minority-owned businesses

The Northern Virginia Minority-Owned Businesses Working Group – formed by members of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Arlington Economic Development, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, Loudoun Virginia Economic Development, Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance, Northern Virginia Regional Commission, and Prince William County Department of Economic Development – presents a collaborative report on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on minority business owners in the region.

Northern Virginia is home to 128,000 minority-owned businesses, representing the community’s diverse fabric and entrepreneurship. "Supporting Northern Virginia’s minority-owned businesses" highlights these establishments and observes how they were impacted by the pandemic. The findings reveal the greater extent to which minority-owned businesses suffered. Minority-owned businesses’ size, access to capital, and concentration in certain industries have placed them at increased risk during the past year.

In response to these results, the group makes recommendations to aid minority-owned businesses through recovery from the challenges of the pandemic. However, they also promote steady support in the future for minority business owners beyond the pandemic and in preparation for another potential economic downturn. To do so, the report discusses the need for regular data collection, attention to small minority-owned businesses with risk factors, access to capital for minority business owners, and other solutions.

The report recognizes the vulnerabilities that minority business owners face and poses considerations to address them. 

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission has published an online dashboard with the data included in the report that will be updated on a quarterly basis.
May 11, 2021

One RegionSustaining Economic Mobility across Northern Virginia’s neighborhoods

The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia's Insight Region® presents the second brief report in a series focused on inclusive prosperity in Northern Virginia.

"Spreading the Wealth" examines historic economic mobility for children raised in lower-income households across our region thirty years ago and the opportunity factors that seem to have a causal effect on children's ability to achieve economic success as adults. It finds that Northern Virginia enjoyed the "highest rate of economic mobility in the country; 19 percent of the region's children who grew up in lower-income homes in the 1980's and 1990's were earning in the top quintile for household income as adults, the highest rate of economic mobility across the 50 most populous metro areas."

However, not all communities and neighborhoods in Northern Virginia have equal access to the conditions within the neighborhood— “opportunity factors”—that help produce economic mobility. Among the 113,000 children who were living at or near poverty in Northern Virginia in 2015-19, nearly half lived in a neighborhood with “low” levels of college education, and over a third lived in neighborhoods with low levels of nuclear families, early achievement, social capital, and residential inclusion.

The brief identifies where opportunity lives in Northern Virginia and suggests solutions for targeted investments to ensure that ALL residents enjoy the "Northern Virginia Prosperity Bump."

Explore economic mobility and the “opportunity factors” in your community!

These interactive maps allow users to view rates of historic economic mobility (source: and current opportunity for pre-identified locations (including all Northern Virginia jurisdictions, communities, and zip codes) using the buttons at the bottom left of the map or create their own maps by selecting specific census tracts. Users can also zoom in and out using the scroll wheel on their mouse, or by selecting the + and – signs on the map key. Users interested in a specific opportunity factor can select these data from the buttons at bottom right.