West Virginia’s Demographic Downer

Demographic issues continue to present significant headwinds for West Virginia. Employers are desperate for workers, colleges need more students and merchants always want more customers.

There have been some hints in recent years of more people moving to West Virginia, and the Ascend WV program is paying professionals to relocate here. However,  new Census Bureau numbers still show a declining and aging population between 2020 and 2022.

For example:

–The state’s population declined by nearly 19,000 during the period, to 1,775,156. The population peaked at two million in 1950, and it has been gradually dropping over the last seven decades.

—The median age of West Virginians is just under 43 years. That has not changed in the last couple of years, and it remains one of the highest in the country.

–And West Virginia continues to get older. The number of residents 70-74 rose by 6,661, to 71,411. That was the most growth of any of the demographic categories. One in five West Virginians is 65 or older.

–Age 25 to 64 are the prime working years, but the number of West Virginians in that category decreased over the two year period by over 21,000, to 887,500.

–There is one bright spot among the working age demographics. The number of West Virginians aged 30-34 increased by 4,183, to 108,130.

–There are not enough young people in the pipeline. The number of West Virginians under 18 decreased by 7,576, to 351,922.

–The number of children under five recorded by the Census Bureau cannot be directly attributed to birth rate, but it is worth noting that the number of children in that category dropped by 2,480, to 87,997.

I know some West Virginians like things the way they are. They don’t want more people coming here, tying up traffic and crowding their beloved outdoor spaces. I get that. Growth brings its share of headaches.

But it is better to have the challenges associated with growth than the paralysis of stagnation, which is exactly what our state has been struggling with for over half a century.







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