West Virginia State: Population, Rankings, and Facts

#49 in Overall Ranking out of 50 in 2021

Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia (the abbreviation is WV) is a small state that separated from the Union in 1861. This little area seceded from Virginia, forming a sovereign state. Rich in minerals and hilly landscapes, it’s easy to overlook WV. That said, it has a strong coal mining history and lots of lovely places to visit.

Updated: April 26, 2021
  • Area
    24,230 sq. mi.
  • Capital
  • Population
  • Income
  • Home Value
  • Crime
  • Unemployment
  • Education
  • Medicine
  • Poverty
  • Environment
  • Infrastructure

West Virginia officially became a state on June 20, 1863, after belonging to Virginia since 1776. Before that, it was part of the British Virginia Colony. Today, it shares borders with Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. Due to its location in the Appalachian region, it is called the Mountain State

Here, visitors can find vast geography made mostly of rivers and plateaus. The territory has the Ohio and Shenandoah Rivers running through it, as well as other smaller tributaries. Some more beautiful places here include the Monongahela National Forest, the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, among other West Virginia state parks.

The region is rich in minerals and sandstone, shale, limestone, and coal. Mining made up much of the economy in decades past, although today other sectors like green energy and tourism are prominent, too. It had a faster-growing economy and per capita than Virginia for several years.

However, more people are moving out of WV than moving in. This could be due to urban sprawl as well as better opportunities arising elsewhere. For this reason, this area is often overlooked, and it’s not a popular location.

How We Figured Out Which Were the Best States to Live In

When figuring out the best states to live in, it was important to analyze all the top factors and most common requests in relocating. Individuals and families are looking for a higher quality of life, including lower unemployment and poverty rates, less crime, and cleaner air and drinking water. They also want more opportunities for higher education and better-paying jobs.

West Virginia Rankings

  • Population
    Data: 1,792,147

    The West Virginia population is a little over 1.7 million. While this is low, it represents the overall square mileage, so it makes sense. There isn't too much going on here, and most people are opting for more urban areas and states where they'll have better living opportunities. Charleston, the capital of West Virginia, is a popular destination for such individuals.

  • Median Income
    Income in $
    Data: $43,469

    Unfortunately, the earning potential here is bleak. While this place was once a booming coal mining industry, now it is losing traction. As of 2019, most people work in construction and manufacturing, although education is also common. WV is one of the places in the United States with the lowest property tax (0.54%), at about $1,300-$1,400 per year.

  • Home Value
    Home Value
    Data: $113,626

    The median home values have risen over 5% in the past year and are expected to grow more in 2021. Yet, the average property price is the lowest in the entire country. The average monthly rent here is $1,062, and the typical apartment size is 1,232 sq. feet. About 64% of houses are owner-occupied, according to the census of 2019.

  • Unemployment Rate
    Data: 6.7%

    Per the census, West Virginia unemployment is in the middle of the road, but it's not great. At over 6%, about 114,000 working-age Americans here are struggling to find work here. Compared to the national average, WV has a lower ratio of employment to the overall population. Moreover, the Civilian Labor Force has diminished by over 15,000.

  • Poverty
    Data: 17.5%

    The poverty rate is among the worst countrywide. Nearly 30% of Black residents live under the poverty line. Asians have the lowest rate of poor residents, at 16%. More adult-age women (19.2%) than men (15.9%) live in poor conditions. Unfortunately, WV is poorer than the median population in the United States by about 5%.

  • Education
    Data: 19.9%

    Only 19% of the adult-age population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, which reflects the low earning potential. These numbers also correlate to the poverty levels here, which can negatively impact a person's ability to pursue higher education. Only 87% of Americans in WV have a high school diploma.

  • Medicine
    Health Outcomes: 45

    According to census info, as of 2019, over 6% of local people don't have health insurance, while 44% get coverage through their employer. Over 26% of residents are on Medicaid, and 19% depend on Medicare. The quality of healthcare here is quite low, which makes sense considering that less than 20% of people have a degree in higher education.

  • Crime Rate
    Violent Crime: 5,674

    There are 4.4 murders per 100,000 people. The crime rate is almost in the top ten for being among the lowest in the country. This may be due to the state's low population density. The most dangerous cities here are Moorefield, Huntington, and Nitro, which are also some of the cheapest places to live.

  • Natural Environment
    Air: 11

    Perhaps due to fewer people living there, WV has some of the best environmental health conditions among American states. There were just 11 air quality incidents in the past year. That said, there were 565 problems with drinking water and 141 hazardous waste incidents.

  • Infrastructure
    Poor Roads: 4.8%

    About a fifth of the bridges are unsafe, and the average commute time to work is 26 minutes. The percentage of roads in poor condition is about average, which may reflect the fact that many people here have jobs in construction.

West Virginia Facts

  • The state flower is the rhododendron.
  • Mountaineers are always free” is the state motto.
  • Not surprisingly, bituminous coal is the official rock.
  • The average West Virginian is 41 years old. This is the oldest in the American country.
  • Over 93% of Americans in WV are White. Black residents make up 3.7% of the population; Hispanics/Latinos 1.6%; and Asians 0.8%.
  • The majority of people here are Protestant, while 18% aren’t affiliated with any religion.
  • There are nine state forests and 37 recreational areas.
  • It is considered the southern-most northern state as well as the northern-most southern one.
  • It is home to the world’s largest sycamore tree.
  • WV sales tax was the first to be implemented back in 1921. It was 3%. Now it is at the rate of 6%.
  • The state income tax for individuals and corporations is 6.5%, which is one of the highest in the United States.
  • There are 55 counties in the area.
  • It is also home to one of the largest and oldest Indian burial grounds in Moundsville.
  • The flag was adopted in 1962, and it features a white background bordered by blue with a coat of arms in the center.

West Virginia in Photos

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FAQ Section

  • Where is West Virginia?

    It’s in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States and sits within the Appalachian Mountains. Its upper-right panhandle extends to the borders of Maryland and Pennsylvania.

  • What to Do in West Virginia?

    Some popular attractions include the New River Gorge, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia State Museum, and Berkeley Springs State Park. There are also several lovely waterfalls here, such as Blackwater Falls, Brush Creek Falls, and Sandstone Falls. Military and art museums, shopping malls, and sports arenas can be found throughout the state.

  • What is the State Bird of WV?

    The state bird is the cardinal, which residents voted as the winner in 1949. This striking songbird can be found in the region year-round.

  • What is West Virginia Known For?

    Besides its rolling green hills and national forests, it is known for a few other things. People know it for being the Mountain State and a once prominent coal mining area. It’s also known for being home to the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, as well as Spruce Knob and Snowshoe Mountain.

    The New River Gorge Bridge was the longest in the country when it was built in 1977.