West Virginia had a Shrinking Population in 2015

Jun 13, 2016

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.


 Chart 1 West Virginia Percent Change in Population 2014 to 2015.jpg


Their shrinking population growth is due to both a negative net natural population rate (births minus deaths) and net migration rate (domestic and international).




#WestVirginia had declining population in 2015 with negative a net natural rate and net migration rate. (click to tweet)


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).


 Chart 2 West Virginia Net Natural Population Change as a Percent of Population 2015.jpg



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.


 Chart 3 West Virginia Net Migration as a Percent of Population 2015.jpg


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:


  • Berkeley County, WV (1.4 percent)
  • Jefferson County, WV (1.3 percent)
  • Monongalia County, WV (1.3 percent)
  • Wurt County, WV (0.7 percent)
  • Grant County, WV (0.4 percent)
  • Upshur County, WV (0.4 percent)
  • Tucker County, WV (0.3 percent)
  • Doddridge County, WV (0.2 percent)
  • Jackson County, WV (0.2 percent)
  • Greenbrier County, WV (0.2 percent)


The West Virginia counties with the slowest population growth include:


  • McDowell County, WV (-2.2 percent)
  • Wyoming County, WV (-1.7 percent)
  • Logan County, WV (-1.7 percent)
  • Boone County, WV (-1.5 percent)
  • Mingo County, WV (-1.5 percent)
  • Roane County, WV (-1.2 percent)
  • Tyler County, WV (-1.1 percent)
  • Marshall County, WV (-1 percent)
  • Wetzel County, WV (-1 percent)
  • Kanawha County, WV (-1 percent)


Click here to view our full demographic data app with details by state, by county, type of growth (natural [births minus deaths] and migrant [domestic and international]), and over time.


 West Virginia Percent Population Change by County 2014 to 2015.jpg

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Category: Demographics

J. Scott Moody

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.

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