While West Virginia is urging former residents to “come home to West Virginia,” the most recent Census indicates more residents are saying “Goodbye.” The State experienced the largest population decline by percentage in the 2021 Census. It also showed a state with the 2nd least diverse population in the Nation.
The years have also not been kind to Hancock County and its municipalities as reflected in the 2020 Census data. Hancock experienced a 7.85% decrease in populations since the 2010 Census (28,810 -2010, 28,272 – 2020) and all of its three municipalities, New Cumberland, Chester and Weirton had population loss.
The State will lose yet another Congressional representative as well as a seat in the Electoral College. Federal funding will also realize a significant reduction. Devastating outmigration was experienced in Pendleton County (20.2%), Raleigh (19.%) and Calhoun (18.3). While not the largest loss of population in the State, McDowell County’s staggering decline in the past century reflects the coal industry’s exodus in that area. In 1900, McDowell was home to 100,000 while in 2021 its population is 20,000.
Counties in the Eastern Panhandle and near West Virginia University, however, experienced population growth with Berkely County seeing a 17.2% growth.
A glance at Hancock County’s population; it’s boom; and its decline seems to mirror that of Weirton Steel’s demise. In 1950 an 8.9% increase was seen and in 1960 a 15.2% increase showed a booming economy and population. In 1970 a 0.3% growth took the population to 39,749 and in 1980 population peaked at 40,418, a 1.8% increase. In 1990 a 12.9% decline took the population to 35,233; in 2000, 32,667; 2010 28,810. The most current numbers show 28,272.
The municipalities within Hancock County have declined as well. With the smallest population, New Cumberland dropped from 1,103 in 2010 to 984 in 2021 while Chester saw a decrease from 2,585 in 2010 to 2,313 in 2021. The City of Weirton experience a 9.32% decline with 2010 showing 19,746 people and 2021 census showing 17,906 people.