Work to keep more people in West Virginia
New U.S. Census Bureau figures released recently indicate West Virginia has lost another 10,476 residents in the past year alone. While the nation as a whole grew approximately 0.35% between July 2019 and July 2020 (the slowest growth in 12 years), the Mountain State was going backwards, as it has been doing generally since its population peak in 1950. The state had 2,005,053 residents then. It has 1,784,787 now.
These figures are not the 2020 census numbers that will determine whether West Virginia loses one of its congressional seats, but they are a pretty good indicator that will happen. At one time, there were six congressional districts here. It is likely there will be two in the future.
State lawmakers have a tall task ahead of them, then. Not in the redrawing of districts, which will be difficult enough, but in turning the tide and solving West Virginia’s population problem. Our state is aging, and rather than stay and raise their own families here, too many young people are leaving for what they believe will be better opportunities.
Elected officials have failed to make the state itself a special interest, as they cater to too many others. It is time they do better in meeting the needs and standards of the people who will carry West Virginia into the future. It is time they put their heads together in an effort to attract and retain the young families and individuals who are right now leaving (or staying away) by the thousands.
There are good reasons they may not get much done in the upcoming legislative session. But at the very least, lawmakers should lay the groundwork for a concerted effort to figure out why West Virginia is Almost Heaven, but for fewer and fewer people, home.