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 outnumber 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.
West Virginia Population Projections
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.