MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — An economist at West Virginia University said one of the biggest problems the Mountain State is facing in the long run is the declining population.

“We have a vicious cycle here,” said Dr. John Deskins, director of West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research in the College of Business and Economics.

“When the economy suffers, when young people don’t see job opportunities in the state, they leave and then, when the population starts to decline, markets are smaller for businesses, that makes them less inclined to move into the state and businesses have fewer workers.”

New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, released earlier this week, showed West Virginia was one of just two states, alongside Maine, to lose population during the last year.  There was a population decline of 2,376, or .13 percent, from July 2012 to July 2013 meaning, in total, there are now 1,854,304 West Virginians.

“Even though this decline may be relatively small in the big picture, if we put this together for a decade, we may see a change that we really notice,” cautioned Deskins on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

He said WVU had originally forecasted flat population for both 2013 and 2014 with declines expected to start in 2015 and continue annually, at a rate of .1 percent, for many years.

“We have natural population decline, that is we have more deaths than we have births, and that’s in large part because we have a relatively old population and then we also have out-migration,” Deskins said of the causes of the decline.

“Both of those factors are contributing to this population decline that we see and that will continue to be the case.”

Data showed declines in the younger age groups, including those under the age of 18 and between the ages of 19 and 44, have been occurring for some time.  Overall, the Bureau is forecasting about a 2.5 percent annual increase in the “over age 65” part of the population during the next five years.

Any population growth in West Virginia, Deskins said, is heavily concentrated in a few areas including Morgantown and the Eastern Panhandle.  Overall, though, during the past decade, about half of West Virginia’s counties have lost population and, he said, they’ll continue to do so.

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  • EC

    My family bought some land in WV for retirement a few years ago and have had nothing but disapointments since, either trying to work with the locals or trying to get any straight information from them. We pay several times more property taxes than 90% of the surrounding district. Well anyway, forced to look at any other state.

  • Ron Jeremy

    I'm not posting to bash coal or other extraction industry --- but, sometimes I do look at the coalfields of WV - southern or northern and then look to western NC which is just as, if not more mountainous terrain. I seemuch less poverty in western NC, better roads, very solid public education, thriving pockets of entrepreneurship. No blight on the landscape, clean rivers, thriving tourism.
    Coal has been great for the state, but also an ugly scar.

  • David Kennedy

    I'm OK with the out-migration.
    Some of my family moved to California in the 1930's.
    Others moved to Ohio and Chicago in the early 1950's.
    My own children moved to Denver, Fort. Lauderdale and Maryland in the 1990's.
    It is a normal cycle in West Virginia to have the out-migration.
    It could be prevented but that would take creative thinking and work.
    If that have been important, our legislature would have remedied the situation.
    Me? I'll work here a few more years and when the taxes get too restrictive...I'm out too. Maybe Fort Lauderdale...maybe Savannah...
    I haven't made up my mind where I will spend my money...One thing is certain, I'll be gone.
    West Virginia, you are what you are.

  • TCeer

    Once Obama is done with us we will have a lot less people in the state.

    • Magic Mike

      I am thinking about moving to another country once I retire. By the time I do it will not be the same country sad really.

      • MTNR

        Don't let the door hit you in the backside on the way out. Nice to see your love for America. Do us all a favor, and don't come back once you are gone.

  • Magic Mike

    In the county I live if it was not for Virginia unemployment would be at 40 percent. Most kids leave the county for Virginia because of the better job opportunities.

    • Aaron

      The highest employment rate of any county bordering VA is McDowell, with an unemployment rate of 9.6% on the latest government report. I seriously doubt the rate would soar to 40% without VA employment opportunities, particularly given that the Appalachian Regional Commission list all counties in VA that border WV as at-risk or distressed counties in terms of economic outlook.

      While Forbes does list Virginia as the most business friendly state, the reasons are the number of large corporations and the amount of federal government spending in the state, all located in eastern VA.

      Va is more business friendly in terms of manufacturing and taxation than WV. That combined with the long Ridge and Valley contour of VA, which is not present in WV, are why there is a large concentration of construction material manufacturing located along the 81 corridor.

      I'm curious though, if the jobs are in VA and it's more business friendly, then why doesn't the residents of WV move to VA, especially given that they have lower personal and property taxes.

      Care to share your thoughts on that?

      • mr smith

        You work for doh?

      • mr smith

        Is this my son-in law?

      • NotSoFastMyFriend

        I moved to VA right after graduating from WVU. There were no jobs in WV for me, hence the move. If WV had more for me in terms of job prospects, I would move back home in a heartbeat.

      • Magic Mike

        They do. A lot either join the military or move to Virgina. Some do commute because in certain areas it only a 30 minute drive.

        It was estimated a few years ago that over 5000 people commuted. I know of many that just move.

        • Aaron

          With the tax structure, I think I would just move.

      • epcommuter

        Let's see. Property tax in Martinsburg $800. In Loudoun County over $4000 for the same size property. Cost of a new townhouse in Martinsburg about $130,000 in Loudoun County about $330,000.

        I am opting to do the commute (a native of WV) for a 50% payraise. There is no way to live there on those costs.

  • 2XLPatriot

    I consider the population decline a positive attribute! That just means less idiots fighting for provisions when the next storm comes around.

  • Felik Valera

    My question is if there is a decline population in the United States why is there such attacks on those Immmigrant from Mexico? I live in New York City and those Immigrants are the ones that are loading and unloading trucks those women are the ones that are cleaning houses the job nobody want to do and those Immigrants are the one planting the tomatoes we are eating.


    • realitycheck

      um.... article doesn't say that there is a decline in the population of the United States...... focusing on WV.

  • Brian

    Mullenburg County? What are you talking about. That's in Kentucky (and it's spelled Muhlenberg).

    The era of big coal spoiling WV is behind us. We're on the rise with the gas industry, including plans for a methane cracker, and the jobs are coming back. When jobs come, so will the families.

    WV is great place to live and raise kids. All of my friends who left for jobs elsewhere would love to come back if they could find work here. It's a beautiful, rural state and it's clean and friendly. Come visit and see.

    • james

      Yes will WV will get this cracker just like it got the last one promised before the last election, just like the coal to gas plant Manchin promised before his election, along with the water park along I-70. Who wants to give odds how long after the election a set back is announced and WV will not be getting the plant.

      Until WV enacts right to work as the surrounding states have, takes the inventory property tax off, sets a realistic prevailing wage for he unions, rather than let the unions tell the state what it should be, and reverses the lowest working wages in the country other than the unions, and the highest welfare benefits it will continue its downhill slide. The democratic socialism in WV has lead it down the same path as the former USSR.

      • Aaron

        I'm confused. You complain about high union wages but then turn around and complain about low non-union wages.

        It would seem to me that instead of complaining about the union wages, which aren't as extragavaent as those opposed to unions would have us believe, we would better off getting rid of the corrupton and grift that comes out of Charleston in the pricing of state projects.

      • stophating

        So basically u til they screw the working class.... Move to VA or PA and don't let the door hit you on the way out

  • cutty77

    Quit blaming everything on Coal. The Clowns that have been running or let me change that ruining this State over the last 50 years are to blame. Lawyers have alot to do with this also. Big Companies don't want any part of WV because of law suits. If it weren't for Coal are lights would of been turned out many,many years ago. Columbus,Ohio which is about 200 miles from us has more people in it,than the entire State of WV. But we may have more Lawyers than them. lol

    • richard

      That is a total lie that Columbus has more people in it that does WV. Check your numbers. And if you want to go live in Columbus, go right ahead. You go deal with the traffic and horrible roads. I am in Columbus quite a bit, and I'll tell you quite honestly, it's not so wonderful as you think. You go there and work in some store warehouse and make 10.00 - 15.00 an hour and try to pay their tax levels out there.

      • cutty77

        Google Columbus Metro area. 1,944,362 as of 2012. GOOFBALL

        • Hop'sHip

          According to this, WV actually ranks in the bottom half of states in number of lawyers per capita, way below Ohio.

      • realitycheck

        according to the most recent census estimates, the Columbus metro area has more people than the entire state of WV. Don't get so worked up/offended.

  • Grant


    I cannot believe you wrote this article and failed to acknowledge the drastic declining birth rates in this country. Since 2007, this country's birthrate has fallen below the replacement benchmark of 2.1. If this culture actually valued children like it portrays it does, and didn't see them as a burden, then the birthrate would be high enough that this country and economy wouldn't have to be concerned about "more deaths than births."

    • Polly the Pundit

      The WVU Economist didn't cite it either which is interesting and also shows how their sheltered life in academia often clouds their view of those silly little things called "facts".

      • Hop'sHip

        What "facts" did this sheltered academician get wrong? Are you disputing his claim that WV is one of only two states to experience a decline in population over the last year? The overall decline in the birthrate during a time of economic struggle is normal, but West Virginia's population problem goes deeper than that.

  • Jeff

    Maybe time to stop aborting your children?

  • Mick McCrory

    After the coal companies get finished destroying all the land, & polluting all the streams & rivers, the only thing W. Virginia will be good for is as a toxic waste dump. People won't want to live there anyway.
    "Oh daddy won't you take me down to Mullenburg County... Sorry my son....
    Mr. Peabody's coal co. done hauled it away.
    John Prine

    • Aaron

      Throughout time, mountainous regions have historically experienced population declines and economic hardships. The reason is simple; logistics. Of course southern WV is seeing a decline in population. The one positive economic factor, coal, is on the back side of reserves and production has become largely mechanized. If there are no jobs, there will be no people.

      It’s not just West Virginia; it’s a trend that faces much of the United States as the country has morphed from a rural, agrarian society to metropolitan industrial society. It’s been going on since about 2 minutes after the revolution and will continue.

      Anyone who’s traveled the I-95 corridor over the past 25 years can tell you just how much the east coast has metamorphosed from small family farms to what is essentially one rolling city that stems from Richmond to Boston.

      The difference in West Virginia and most states is that West Virginia does not have the large metropolitan area for rural residents to relocate to. For us, there is no Richmond, Philadelphia, Boston, Indianapolis, Chicago other urban areas. For most West Virginia’s, it’s Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus or Pittsburgh, thus the population decline.

      • Magic Mike

        Isn't that the truth. I refuse to travel 95 going back home to Maine from WV just because of that one rolling city.

        I take 81 to 84. Longer but a lot less headaches.

      • Chris1529

        "It’s not just West Virginia; it’s a trend that faces much of the United States as the country has morphed from a rural, agrarian society to metropolitan industrial society."

        I think Aaron said it best. This is happening in the whole country. It is just more noticeable in states that don't have a large metropolitan area to average out the population numbers. People are also very used to everything being convenient and don't want to drive back to town for an hour to get milk and bread if they forgot it on their way home from work, or to take their kid back to a school function with all of the consolidations that have happened.

    • Aaron

      The funny thing is, if you travel southern WV and eastern KY as I do frequently, you don't see all this "destroyed land." I wonder where it is.

  • Cheryl Mohrbacher

    Yeah! Your article makes me want to pick up and move! Everyone is coming to north Texas, where we live. It's not a pretty sight. Bulldozers and dust everywhere you look. My Dad was from Roanoke, and I sincerely miss that part of the country. I always thought that the valleys and mountains there were the closest thing to Heaven I had ever seen. (And I've lived all over this country...from Florida to California) Please save me a "spot!"

    • Aaron

      Roanoke, WV is located along US 19 10 miles south of Weston.

      • cutty77

        Its where Stonewall Jackson lake is at. About 81 miles from Charleston,WV that is. lol

        • Dave, just Dave.

          I wonder how much longer we'll be allowed to call it Stonewall Jackson ...

      • 2XLPatriot

        +1. And they were trying to give geography lessons!

    • Here Now

      Roanoke? Really? You must mean the other Western Virginia! Get a map.

    • Phillip M.

      Roanoke is in Virginia, not West Virginia.

      • realitycheck

        there's one in each state. think before you type.

        • BH

          Miss Mohrbacher's comment made a reference to "that part of the country". Which of course Roanoke,WV (Lewis County) and Roanoke ,VA are.