Gazette Editorial: West Virginia's Dwindling Population

Charleston Gazette -West Virginia lost about 6,000 people in the 2014-15 fiscal year — shrinking for the third straight year — the U.S. Census Bureau says. By losing one-fourth of a percent, the Mountain State had the nation's worst decline, while most of America keeps growing. Read

Consider this contrast: In the 1940 census, both West Virginia and Florida had 1.8 million people. Today, the Mountain State still has 1.8 million, and Florida has passed 20 million.

"West Virginia is just in complete stagnation," Ted Boettner of the state Center on Budget and Policy said. "We've been unable to transition to a knowledge-based economy, and that has meant people leaving here in flocks."

A WVU demographer blamed the latest outmigration on the coal industry's retreat. A decade ago, the state had 544 operating mines, but the number dropped to 88 in October, state officials report. Painful layoffs hit southern coal counties with dismal frequency. Young people leave the state in search of careers.

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