MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There will probably be fewer West Virginians in the years ahead.
A new report from West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research predicts the state’s population will begin a sustained decline in 2016 that will continue through 2030, at least.
During that time, researchers said the state could lose nearly 19,500 people — or about one percent of the population — largely because births will fall short of deaths in the Mountain State as the state’s citizens get older.
West Virginia’s population is expected to age at a rate that exceeds that of the nation.
“This is a bit of a bummer,” admitted Dr. John Deskins, director of WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “But there are some silver linings in here. We don’t have to give up hope yet.”
Deskins said new economic developments, including a planned petrochemical complex in Wood County, could reverse the downward trend.
“Our report does not take into account any boost that may come from the cracker and other potential positive shocks that could cause people to migrate into the state,” he said. “That’s where the optimism comes from.”
A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau showed population declines in 41 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. If the downward trend continues, West Virginia could lose one of its three U.S. House seats during the Congressional reapportionment in 2020.
The full population report is available here.