West Virginia’s Population Decline Hits Cities Hard

The 2020 U.S. Census data released earlier this month showed that West Virginia’s population declined by 3.3 percent in the last decade, dropping to 1,792,147.  All but eight counties lost population.  (See the Census Data here.)

The data also show that the majority of our cities suffered population declines.

—Charleston remains the state’s largest city, but the number of residents continues to drop.  The Capital City’s population fell five percent from 2010, down to 48,864. By comparison, Charleston’s population in 1960 was just under 86,000.

—Huntington has also seen a steady decline, from nearly 84,000 residents in 1960 to 49,000 in 2010, to 46,842 today.

—The population of Parkersburg is 29,738. That is a decline of six percent over the last decade.  Sixty years ago, more than 44,000 people lived in Parkersburg.

—Wheeling had a population of around 60,000 in the 30s, 40s and 50s.  However, its numbers began to decline by 1960.  Its population today is just over 27,000.

—Fairmont’s population remained relatively steady over the last decade, at just under 19,000 residents, but that is down from 27,000 in 1960.

—More than 28,000 people lived in Weirton sixty years ago.  Its population is down to just over 19,000 people.  Weirton’s population has dropped three percent from 2010.

—Beckley’s population peaked in 1950 at over 19,000 residents.  However, that city’s population has also been dropping. It had declined to 17,286 by the 2020 Census.

—Clarksburg’s population stands at 16,061. That is down by about 500 residents from 2010.  The city’s population in 1960 was more than 28,000.

—South Charleston’s population has held steady over the last ten years and now stands 13,647. But that is down from over 19,000 in 1960.

Census data have Bluefield’s population at just under 10,000, a decline of eight percent over the last ten years.  Sixty years ago, Bluefield’s population was twice that.

—St. Albans has now passed Bluefield, with a population of 10,861.  However, St. Alban’s population is still down by about two percent from the previous Census and 28 percent from 1960.

There is growth in a few cities.

—Bridgeport is not one of the larger cities in the state, but it is growing. The 2020 population is 9,336, and that’s 15 percent higher than 2010.  Bridgeport was not even listed in the 1960 Census of cities.

—Morgantown’s population has grown slightly over the years.  The University City’s population today is 30,347, a two percent increase from a decade ago and a 35 percent increase from 1960.

—Berkeley County’s population grew by 17 percent over the last decade, and the population of the county seat of Martinsburg grew by nine percent, to 18,777.  Martinsburg’s population in 1960 was just over 15,000.

—Charles Town is still a small town with 6,534 residents, but its population has grown by 24 percent over the last ten years.

The population declines in most of our urban areas are not surprising given our overall drop. But the numbers are yet another indication of a disturbing trend that must be reversed for West Virginia to prosper.


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