W.Va. No. 1 in population loss

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W.Va. No. 1 in population loss
By Staff reports, Charleston Gazette-mail

West Virginia is one of two states whose population declined in the last decade, and the rate of population loss is faster than any other state in the nation, according to a recent study by Pew Charitable Trusts.

Since 2007, West Virginia has lost about 18,000 residents - approximately 0.1 percent of the total population each year. Michigan was the only other state that recorded population loss over this same time frame, losing 39,000 residents, which equals about 0.04 percent of its population each year.

While the rest of the states saw population increases from 2007 to 2017, the growth is slow, the study says. This fits into a long-term national trend that overlaps the stunted population gains with the Great Recession.

Since 1992, according to the study, national growth has slowed nearly every year, and it is predicted to remain slow due to a higher mortality rate than fertility rate in many areas of the country.

West Virginia was also one of eight states to see a decline in population from 2016 to 2017, with 0.7 percent of the population leaving, according to the study.

A shrinking population in West Virginia may affect the finances of the state and its residents, with consistently fewer people in the Mountain State to pay for things when they arise, the study reads. West Virginia American Water, for example, has cited recent population decline in the state as a reason for proposed rate hikes.

In 2017 alone, 45 of West Virginia's 55 counties saw a decline in population, according to data from the U.S. Census released in March.

McDowell County held the fourth-highest percentage of population decrease of any county in the nation in 2017, with 3.5 percent - 683 individuals - leaving the county, according to the Census data.

Kanawha County in 2017 held the 10th-highest population decrease by individuals of all counties in the country, with 2,804 people leaving, according to Census numbers. In 2016, it ranked 19th.

The last time Kanawha saw an increase in population was 2012, when an estimated 51 individuals moved to the county.

That also was the last time West Virginia as a whole saw an increase in population.

West Virginia has seen a decline in population for the last five consecutive years. There are a lot of people are leaving the state, but there also is consistently a higher mortality rate than birth rate in the state, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

If West Virginia's population continues to shrink, one of the state's three congressional seats could be lost by 2022, according to a report from Election Data Services, based on Census numbers from 2016.

In order for West Virginia to keep its seat, the state would need to add more than 20,000 residents by the 2020 Census.