West Virginia Population 2017


Located in the central eastern sector of the United States of America, West Virginia was admitted into the Union in 1863. It is the 41st largest and the 38th most populous state in the country, but what are the population statistics in the present day? In 2016, West Virginia's population is estimated at 1,844,128, showing a decline from the 1.853 million recorded at the 2010 Census.

The last nationwide census in the US was undertaken in 2010, so to gauge any recent numbers, it is necessary to take the findings from that survey and project them forward to the present day. The 2010 survey revealed that there were 1,852,994 people living in West Virginia, which represented a modest rise of just 2.5% on the numbers declared at the 2000 census. That total makes West Virginia the 38th most populous state in the country.

West Virginia's population has grown very slowly since the 1950s, at many times losing people. Estimates taken in July 2015 indicate that this may once again be the case, as the estimated population in 2016 is just 1,844,128.

The total surface area of West Virginia measures 24,230 square miles (62,755 square kilometers), which means that an average of 77.1 peoples live on every square mile of West Virginia land. That figure converts to 29.8 people for every square kilometer, and it makes West Virginia the 29th most densely populated in the country -- in that respect, it’s a pretty average state.

Largest Cities in West Virginia

West Virginia is one of the few US states not to have a city with more than 100,000 residents. In fact, the largest city in the state, Charleston (the state capital) is home to just 49,736 people. The next largest cities are Huntington (48,638) and Parkersburg (30.991).

The majority of West Virginia's counties are designated as rural, with a small majority of the state's population living in a rural area. In 2010, the state had a 51% rural population, compared to 49% urban.

West Virginia Population Chart

West Virginia Population History

In 1790, the population of West Virginia stood at 55,873, a healthy figure for the time. From that point on, West Virginia followed a pattern seen in many other states -- sizable population increases on a decade by decade basis.

Ten years later at the beginning of the 19th century, numbers had increased by over 40% to 78,592. This pattern was to continue throughout the 1800s to the point where the West Virginia population had climbed to 958,800 by 1900. A decade later, the census of 1910 confirmed that numbers had breached one million for the very first time in the state’s history.

Growth continued through the 20th century -- although at a much slower pace. However, there have been a couple of dips in population -- the national censuses of both 1960 and 1990 revealed declines in population from those recorded ten years earlier. There is no clear indication as to why this was the case, but over the years, there has been said to have been a ‘brain drain’ of sorts away from this largely rural state as its more educated and qualified citizens seek opportunities elsewhere. As noted above, there are few cities in the state, and as a result, there are relatively few opportunities for ambitious young West Virginians to build careers.

West Virginia Population Growth

West Virginia has had a few years straight of very tepid population growth. This is because the number of deaths are outnumbering births in the state, and there have been just modest gains in the number of people migrating to the area. West Virginia's population is also aging faster than the US, which doesn't bode well.

While West Virginia currently has one of the oldest populations of any state in the country, it's expected its birth rate will grow higher than the country as a whole in 2030. It's likely that the state will continue to age faster than the rest of the country, but at this point, it's hard to say.

Current projections predict West Virginia's college-age and young working-age populations will continue to decline through the next few decades, while the older working-age population will see the largest drop. Over the next twenty years, the following counties are predicted to grow between 21% and 63% each: Berkeley, Jefferson, Monongalia and Morgan. Kanawha County, home to the state capital, is expected to lose population through 2030 but will stay resilient and remain around 185,700 through 2030.

By 2030, it's predicted West Virginia's population will have grown very slightly to around 1.9 million.

Population Data via US Census

West Virginia Growth Rate

West Virginia State Rank

Year Pop % Change
2020 1,821,013 -0.25%
2019 1,825,636 -0.25%
2018 1,830,259 -0.25%
2017 1,834,882 -0.25%
2016 1,839,505 -0.25%
2015 1,844,128 -0.25%
2014 1,848,751 -0.23%
2013 1,852,985 -0.18%
2012 1,856,283 0.07%
2011 1,854,948 0.11%
2010 1,852,994 0.24%
2000 1,808,344 0.08%
1990 1,793,477 -0.83%
1980 1,949,644 1.12%
1970 1,744,237 -0.64%
1960 1,860,421 -0.75%
1950 2,005,552 0.53%
1940 1,901,974 0.96%
1930 1,729,205 1.68%
1920 1,463,701 1.83%
1910 1,221,119 2.45%
1900 958,800 2.31%
1890 762,794 2.12%
1880 618,457 3.42%
1870 442,014 1.61%
1860 376,688 2.22%
1850 302,313 3.02%
1840 224,537 2.41%
1830 176,924 2.60%
1820 136,808 2.64%
1810 105,469 2.99%
1800 78,592 3.47%
1790 55,873 0.00%

West Virginia Facts

West Virginia Population in 2017 Source: Tim Kiser (w:User:Malepheasant)

  • With a median age of 40, West Virginia has the oldest population in the United States.
  • Early inhabitants included a smaller population of Cherokee, Delaware and Shawnee Indians. These numbers significantly dropped during the 1500s because of tribal wars and diseases.
  • The first permanent white settlement was established at Mill Creek in 1731.
  • Thousands of European and African immigrants flooded into West Virginia during the industrial expansion of the 1870s.
  • The leading industry in West Virginia is tourism.
  • Almost three-quarters of the state is comprised of forests.
  • West Virginia was the first state to implement a sales tax.
  • The state was named after England's Queen Elizabeth I.

West Virginia Population Density by County

  • Population
  • Density
  • Growth Since 2010
  • State Rank
  • % of State

West Virginia Population Growth Rate by County

When comparing data from the 2010 Census to estimates taken by the US Census Bureau in 2015, the information shows that the majority of counties located within the state of West Virginia reflected decreasing populations. However, during this 5-year period, there were a handful of counties that exhibited population growth. The highest growth rate was observed in Monongolia County, at 7.7%. This was followed by 6.93% growth in Berkeley County and 5.33% growth in Jefferson County. Other counties that reflected population growth include Lewis, Marion, Taylor, and Putnam.

As mentioned, the majority of counties saw decreases in population between 2010 and 2015. The highest loss was tracked in McDowell County at 10.15%. Other high losses in the state include Wyoming County's 6.61% loss, Pendleton County's 5.92% decrease, and Logan County's 5.5% population drop.

Population Pyramid

To compare West Virginia to other states, click here.

Population by Race

Race Population Percentage

As one of just ten states with a non-Hispanic white population exceeding 90%, West Virginia is one of the least diverse states in the nation. West Virginia is ranked 50th out of 50 states when it comes to its percentage of Hispanic or Latino residents. The state also has a low percentage of African American inhabitants, ranking 37th out of 50 in the nation.

Only 1.1% of West Virginians were foreign-born, which is one of the lowest percentages in the country. The state also has the lowest percentage of residents that speak a language other than English in the home.

In terms of its Asian American population, the percentage of Asians in relation to West Virginia's total population is the lowest in the country. As far as numbers, the Asian population in the state is ranked 44th out of 50.

Languages Spoken in West Virginia

Language Population Percentage
Population 5 years and over 1,750,012 100
English 1,718,692 98.21
Spanish 18,310 1.05
French 3,105 0.18
German 2,890 0.17
Chinese 2,110 0.12
Telugu 455 0.03
Bengali 410 0.02
Portuguese 380 0.02
Kru, Ibo, Yoruba 345 0.02

This chart shows the top 10 non-English languages that are spoken at home in West Virginia. The data comes from the most recent release of the American Community Survey (ACS).

West Virginia Economy

HighSchoolGraduate 84
BachelorsDegree 19
Disabled 14
NoHealthInsurance 10
LaborForceTotal 54
LaborForceFemale 49
FoodServiceSales 4,036,333
HealthCareRevenue 12,259,395
ManufacturerShipments 24,553,072
MerchantWholesalesSales 14,295,437
RetailSales 22,637,923
RetailSalesPerCapita 12,201
MeanWorkTravelTime 26
MedianHouseholdIncome 41,576
PerCapitaIncome 23,237
PovertyPercentage 18

This chart shows the employment and labor force participation rates in West Virginia for residents over 16 years of age. The 2015 unemployment rate is 4.2% and the labor force participation rate is 53.9%.

West Virginia Business

NonemployerEstablishments 89,044
AllFirms 114,435
MenOwnedFirms 63,112
WomenOwnedFirms 39,065
MinorityOwnedFirms 5,777
NonminorityOwnedFirms 104,785
VeteranOwnedFirms 12,912
NonveteranOwn 94,960

West Virginia Housing

HousingUnits 885,475
HousingUnits 881,917
OwnerOccupiedRate 73
OwnerOccupiedMedianValue 100,200
MonthlyOwnerCostsMortage 971
MonthlyOwnerCostsNoMortage 292
MedianGrossRent 630
BuildingPermits 2,814
Households 742,359
PersonsPerHousehold 2
SameHouseOneYearAgo 88
NonEnglishAtHome 2
Data Sources
  1. Census State Population Estimates - Most recent state estimates from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program - released 6/23/2016
  2. Census County Population Estimates - Most recent county estimates from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program - released 6/23/2016
  3. American Community Survey (2009 - 2013)
  4. Census QuickFacts