According to newly released U.S. Census Bureau estimates, West Virginia’s net migration was positive in 2022. Approximately 43,000 people moved to West Virginia from another state last year, though that’s 1,000 fewer than moved to the state in 2021. The number of people who moved away from West Virginia to another state rose from 36,000 people in 2021 to approximately 41,000 people in 2022. Nationwide, the data shows that most people move nearby–either within the state they already live in or to a neighboring state, and this was the case in West Virginia.
Most of West Virginia’s migration happened within the state, with 136,000 West Virginians moving from one part of the state to another. Ninety percent of the state did not move.
As a share of the total population, the number of people moving to West Virginia was 2.5 percent, ranking the state 35th overall. D.C. had the highest rate of in-migration at 9.8 percent.
As a share of the total population, the number of people moving away from West Virginia was 2.3 percent, ranking the state 38th overall. D.C. also had the highest out-migration rate of 10.3 percent.
Most people moving to West Virginia came from neighboring Virginia, with 8,300 movers. Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida rounded out the top five states people moved to West Virginia from.
Most people who left West Virginia for another state went to neighboring Ohio, with 11,000 movers. Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania were the other states that saw the largest numbers of movers from West Virginia.
In recent years, West Virginia’s negative population growth has been explained by a trend of more West Virginians dying than being born, numbers that far outpace our positive net migration. In addition to growing our population by attracting residents from out of state, we must prioritize policies that improve health outcomes for those who already live here.
While increasing in-state migration was an argument for West Virginia’s recent income tax cuts, the new Census Bureau results show that most people who move do so nearby–either within the state or to a neighboring state. And recent research shows that state tax levels have little effect on whether and where people move. A large majority of people who do move cite job- and family-related reasons as the primary motive for their move. Tax cuts that lead to a deterioration in education, public safety, parks, roads, and other critical services and infrastructure can backfire when they make a state a less desirable place to live, locate businesses, work, and raise a family.