According to the most recent state and county population data from the U.S. Census Bureau, as shown in Chart 1, West Virginia had a shrinking population in 2015 and, correspondingly, the worst population change in the country. West Virginia’s population shrank by -0.3 percent (-4,623 people) between 2014 and 2015.
Their shrinking population growth is due to both a negative net natural population rate (births minus deaths) and net migration rate (domestic and international).
As shown in Chart 2, West Virginia’s net natural population rate, as a percent of total population, was -0.05 percent in 2015—the worst growth rate in the country. This negative natural population rate is due to both a low birth rate (1.13 percent, 9th lowest) and a high death rate (1.18 percent, 1st highest).
Additionally, as shown in Chart 3, West Virginia’s net migration rate, as a percent of total population, was -0.18 percent—the 9th lowest rate in the country. The vast majority of this out-migration is due to the U.S. domestic migration rate which was -0.25 percent—the 20th lowest rate in the country. In contrast, the international migration rate was 0.07 percent which is the 2nd lowest in the country and certainly not high enough to overcome the negative domestic migration rate.
West Virginia is already facing Demographic Winter (more deaths than births) and must take immediate steps to rectify the situation. In particular, keeping and attracting young families would provide the dual fix of reducing net out-migration and boosting the number of births—which, unfortunately, is easier said than done.
Of course, the population change within West Virginia is not distributed equally. The West Virginia counties with the fasted growing population growth include:
The West Virginia counties with the slowest population growth include:
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Scott has nearly 20 years of experience as a public policy economist. He is the author, co-author and editor of over 180 studies and books. His professional experience also includes positions at the American Conservative Union Foundation, Granite Institute, Federalism In Action, Maine Heritage Policy Center, Tax Foundation, and Heritage Foundation.