New Census figures will change West Virginia
Legislature, WVU demographer says

   


Look for a shift in the makeup of the West Virginia Legislature as a result of new U.S. Census figures released Wednesday (March 23), says Dr. Christiadi, demographer at West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

The state grew 2.5 percent to 1,852,994 residents, with the most significant growth in the first decade of the new millennium occurring in the northern and eastern regions.

“Based upon these population trends, we can expect to see a shift in the distribution of the state legislative seats, with more seats going to the regions in the north and eastern parts of the state,” said Christiadi, who uses only one name.

The U.S. Census Bureau report contains statistics on counts of the total population, for the population 18 years and over, and the population broken down by race and Hispanic or Latino origin. No detailed age and sex breakdown is available from the data.

State officials will use this data to realign congressional and state legislative districts, taking into account population shifts since the last census and assuring equal representation, the Census Bureau said.

Here are some important findings on what occurred in West Virginia between 2000 and 2010:

  • West Virginia’s population growth was about three times faster than in the previous decade, but was still well below the nation’s growth rate of 9.7 percent.
  • Kanawha County lost 3.5 percent of its population, but at more than 193,000 remained the largest county in the state.
  • Berkeley County posted the strongest population growth of more than 37 percent, and at more than 104,000 became the second largest county in the state, surpassing four counties that in 2000 were larger, including Cabell, Wood, Monongalia and Raleigh.
  • Counties with the strongest growth following Berkeley County are Jefferson, 26.8 percent; Gilmer, 21.4 percent; Hampshire, 18.6 percent; Monongalia, 17.5 percent; and Morgan, 17.4 percent.
  • McDowell County suffered the largest population loss of nearly 19 percent, followed by Clay, 9.1 percent; Wyoming, 7.4 percent; Monroe, 7.4 percent; and Marshall, 6.8 percent.
  • Charleston lost 3.8 percent of its population, but at 51,400 remained the largest city in the state.
  • Following Charleston, the most populous incorporated cities are: Huntington, 49,138; Parkersburg, 31,492, Morgantown, 29,660; and Wheeling, 28,486.
  • The 10 largest cities in 2010 remained the same as in 2000, but only three of them grew. Martinsburg recorded the strongest growth of 15.1 percent and its rank jumped from ninth to eighth, surpassing Clarksburg. Morgantown also recorded a strong 10.6 percent growth and was ranked fourth in 2010, surpassing Wheeling.
  • Non-Hispanic white makes up 93.2 percent of the state population, a slight decline from 94.6 percent in 2000 but remained among the highest in the nation.
  • Hispanic population grew 81.4 percent, outpacing growth rate for Non-Hispanic non-white of 21.3 percent. However, Hispanic population makes up only about 1.21 percent of the state population that such a strong growth did not significantly change the state’s Hispanic origin or racial composition.
  • Strong growth of Hispanic population mostly took place in the fastest growing counties including most counties within or nearby the Eastern Panhandle region, and counties with large cities such as Kanawha, Monongalia and Wood counties.
  • Growth was not evenly distributed across the state. Overall, only 24 out of 55 or more than 43 percent of the counties in the state grew. Most growth took place in the northeastern part of the state, primarily in counties within or surrounding the Morgantown MSA and the Eastern Panhandle region.

“Strong population growth in those regions is driven primarily by net-migration as people continued to move in for jobs, better and cheaper housing or, in some cases, better schools,” Christiadi said. “With most counties having a large and increasing share of old people, population growth is less likely to originate from births.

“In fact, over 70 percent of West Virginia counties in the last decade experienced negative natural growth, where deaths exceed births. This trend of negative natural growth is expected to intensify in the next decade as many more people will reach the age of 65 years and older,” he said.

Dr. Christiadi serves as a liaison with the U.S. Census Bureau with regard to population estimates and projections. He oversees the production of West Virginia population projections and specializes in urban-regional and labor-demographic economics, with a primary focus on migration. He has also conducted a variety of economic impact and labor market studies.