W.Va. population loss shows need to diversify

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — West Virginia leaders have to be asking, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

While each of our neighboring states showed some growth in the 2013 census population estimates, West Virginia was one of the few states in the nation that saw a slight population decline.

Kentucky’s population was up about 16,000 people and Virginia’s about 74,000. Ohio and Pennsylvania also had small gains, but the Mountain State had a net loss of 2,400 people.

That loss erases about half of the meager gain the state had made since the 2010 census.

West Virginia’s population in 2010 was 1,852,999, and the 2013 estimate is 1,854,304 — a difference of 1,305 people or about one-tenth of a percent.

Year-to-year changes might be less of a concern if the long-term trend were not so discouraging. The state reached its highest population in 1950 with a little over 2 million people, and with the exception of a resurgence in the 1980 census, the state population has remained in the 1.8 million range for 50 years.

Consider that during the same time, Kentucky’s population grew 47 percent and Virginia’s population more than doubled…

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