Losing Young People,
May 6, 2011
are getting older. Kanawha Countians are getting older. Charlestonians
are getting older. The Mountain State continues to leak young people.
The number of people between the ages of 24 and
44 - the prime workforce years - declined by 8.6 percent over the past
That fact casts a shadow over the future of the
state. West Virginia needs to change its economic policies sharply to
get things moving in the right direction.
The current trends are disquieting.
The latest Census data shows that the median age
of state residents rose from 38 in 2000 to 41 in 2010.
The median age of Kanawha County residents went
from 40 in 2000 to 41 in 2010. The median age of Charleston residents
rose from 40 in 2000 to 41 in 2010.
"This means that people like me are staying here
and younger people aren't," Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, 60, told the
Daily Mail's Paul Fallon.
A troubling trend shows up in housing statistics,
The number of owner-occupied housing units in the
city declined from 14,230 in 2000 to 13,752 in 2010. That was also true
of the county, which had 60,618 owner-occupied homes in 2000 and only
57,784 in 2010.
"Fewer people owning homes is a concern," Jones
said. "The more home ownership you have in an area, the less crime you
Yes, the recession may have affected some of
these economic markers.
But Acting Commissioner Barbara Reynolds of the
West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services pointed out than an average of
73 people in this state turn 60 every day.
Fewer young workers and more older people is a
combination that spells trouble. In economically healthy realms, these
indicators go the other way.
For several generations now, West Virginians have
raised children, educated them, and then helped them pack their cars
for the trip to new jobs in other states.
They don't have enough opportunity here.
With a special gubernatorial election coming up
this fall, that's what the conversation should be about.