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Washington – Arlington – Alexandria
Map of the Washington Metropolitan Area

Common name: Washington Metropolitan Area
Largest city Washington
Other cities  - Arlington
 - Alexandria
Population  Ranked 9th in the U.S.
 - Total 5,358,130 (2008 est.)
 - Density 962.9/sq. mi. 
Area 5564.6 sq. mi.
14412 km²
State(s)  Virginia
West Virginia
 - Highest point N/A feet (N/A m)
 - Lowest point 0 feet (0 m)

The Washington Metropolitan Area, formally known as the Washington–Arlington–Alexandria, DC–VA–MD–WV MSA, is a U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) defined by the United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as of November 2004. It is also part of the larger Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. As of the 2008 Census Bureau estimate, the population of the Washington Metropolitan Area was estimated to be 5,358,130.[1]

Some federal agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, refer to part of the area as the National Capital Region.[2] The Virginia portion of the area is known as Northern Virginia.



Aerial photo of Washington Metropolitan Area
Map highlighting the metropolitan area

The Washington Metropolitan Area includes the District of Columbia and parts of the states of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. It is divided into two metropolitan divisions:

  • the Washington–Arlington–Alexandria, DC–VA–MD–WV Metropolitan Division, comprising the majority of the metropolitan area, and
  • the Bethesda–Gaithersburg–Frederick, MD Metropolitan Division, consisting of Montgomery and Frederick counties.

Political subdivisions

The area includes the following counties, districts, and independent cities:

District of Columbia


The following counties are categorized as part of the Washington–Arlington–Alexandria, DC–VA–MD–WV Metropolitan Statistical Area:

Though associated with the Washington Metropolitan Area, the following counties are categorized as part of the Baltimore-Towson, MD Metropolitan Statistical Area:

Though associated with the Washington Metropolitan Area, the following county is categorized as part of the Lexington Park, MD Micropolitan Statistical Area:



Independent cities:

West Virginia

Regional organizations

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

Founded in 1957, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) is a regional organization of 21 Washington-area local governments, as well as area members of the Maryland and Virginia state legislatures, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives. MWCOG provides a forum for discussion and the development of regional responses to issues regarding the environment, transportation, public safety, homeland security, affordable housing, community planning, and economic development.[3]

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, a component of MWCOG, is the federally-designated metropolitan planning organization for the metropolitan Washington area.[4]

Principal cities

The metropolitan area includes the following principal cities (most of which are not incorporated as cities; one, Arlington, is actually a county):


Presidential election results
Year DEM GOP Others
2008 68.0% 1,603,902 31.0% 728,916 1.0% 25,288
2004 61.0% 1,258,743 38.0% 785,144 1.4% 19,735
2000 58.5% 1,023,089 37.9% 663,590 3.6% 62,437
1996 57.0% 861,881 37.0% 558,830 6.0% 89,259
1992 53.0% 859,889 34.1% 553.369 12.9% 209,651
1988 50.4% 684,453 48.6% 659,344 1.0% 14,219
1984 51.0% 653,568 48.5% 621,377 0.4% 5,656
1980 44.7% 484,590 44.6% 482,506 11.1% 115,797
1976 54.2% 590,481 44.9% 488,995 1.0% 10,654
1972 44.2% 431,257 54.8% 534,235 1.1% 10,825
1968 49.4% 414,345 39.1% 327,662 11.5% 96,701
1964 69.8% 495,490 30.2% 214,293 0.1% 462
1960 52.5% 204,614 47.3% 184,499 0.1% 593


The relative strength of the major political parties within the region is shown by the presidential election results since 1960, as presented in the table to the right.

Racial composition

The area has been a magnet for international in-migration since the late 1960s. It is also a magnet for internal migration (persons moving from one region of the U.S. to another).[5] Census estimates show that persons of post-1965 immigrant stock will likely represent 25% of the region's population by 2010, forming a bigger population bloc than native blacks for the first time.[6]

Racial composition of the Washington, D.C. area:[7]

  • White : 67.8%
  • Black : 26.0%
  • Asian : 2.5%
  • Hispanic : 2.8%
  • Mixed and Other : 0.9%

Educational attainment and affluence

The Washington, D.C. area is the most educated and affluent metropolitan area in the United States.[8] The median household income of the region is $72,800. The two highest median household income counties in the nation, Loudoun and Fairfax County, Virginia, are components of Washington–Arlington–Alexandria. 12.2% of Northern Virginia's 881,136 households, 8.5% of suburban Maryland's 799,300 households, and 8.2% of Washington's 249,805 households have an annual income in excess of $200,000, compared to 3.7% nationally.[9]

As of the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, the three most educated places with 200,000 people or more in Washington–Arlington–Alexandria by bachelor's degree attainment (population 25 and over) are Arlington, Virginia (68.0%), Fairfax County, Virginia (58.8%), and Montgomery County, Maryland (56.4%).[10] Forbes magazine stated in its 2008 "America's Best- And Worst-Educated Cities" report: "The D.C. area is less than half the size of L.A., but both cities have around 100,000 Ph.D.'s."[11]


Rosslyn is home to the tallest high-rises in the region.[12][13]
NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda.
Gannett Company headquarters in Tysons Corner.

The Washington, D.C. area has the largest science and engineering work force of any metropolitan area in the nation, at 324,530, ahead of the combined San Francisco and San Jose work force of 214,500, and Chicago at 203,090.[8]

Primary industries


Not limited to its proximity to the National Institutes of Health, Maryland's Washington suburbs are a major center for biotechnology. Prominent local biotech companies include MedImmune, The Institute for Genomic Research, Human Genome Sciences, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Defense contracting

Many defense contractors are based in the region to be close to the Pentagon in Arlington. Local defense contractors include Lockheed Martin, the largest, as well as Raytheon, General Dynamics, BAE Systems, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), CACI, and Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Notable company headquarters in the region

(Numbers denote Fortune 500 company ranking.)

Washington, D.C.

Suburban Maryland

Northern Virginia


Dulles International
Washington Metro

Major airports

Rail transit systems

Bus transit systems

See also


External links


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