Charleston, West Virginia – In 2017, after the company instructed its employees to start working remotely, customer service representative Haley Miller decided to leave her lifelong home in West Virginia.
Oceanfront beaches in St. Petersburg, Florida offer a very different view than the mountains in her hometown. There are palm trees, vibrant art and restaurant scenes, and there are fewer potholes.
“There’s a lot to do,” said Miller, 29, who still works for a retail company. “It’s a very cozy and inclusive town.”
She is not alone. West Virginia has lost a higher percentage of residents than any other state in the United States, according to new data released by the US Census Bureau. From 2010 to 2020, the population decreased by 3.2%, or about 59,000. As a result, West Virginia was one of seven states that lost parliamentary seats after the 2020 census.
There are many reasons to quit, but a common theme emerges. Lack of opportunity and low wages. Not enough to do. Political situation where some people find oppressive and poor mobile phones and internet services. According to the Census Bureau, only 79% of West Virginia households have broadband Internet subscriptions, the fifth lowest in the country.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the population is suffering from vital changes, with deaths exceeding births over the last two decades.
West Virginia gives remote workers a year’s worth of torrents, golf, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities to reverse the population decline.
Miller doesn’t want some of it. She said that the energy devoted to extra-statistical temptations should be used “to help those who are most suffering.” About 16% of West Virginia’s population is in poverty, with only Arkansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Mississippi surpassing it.
West Virginia, the second largest coal producer in the United States, has lost 56% of its mining work since 2009 as power plants turn to renewable energy sources.
Teachers are leaving for higher-paying jobs, especially in border states. According to the National Education Association, West Virginia teachers remain ranked 48th in average salary nationwide, despite winning a 5% salary increase after a prolonged strike in 2018.
As a result, school districts in many West Virginia counties rely heavily on substitute teachers.
When Rebecca Recco left Bell, West Virginia in 2017, she earned $ 42,000 as an art teacher. She currently earns $ 68,000 in teaching junior high school art in Oakland, California.
Moving was more than just a better salary. She described anti-union and anti-teacher sentiment, including a new law passed by Congress to withhold teacher wages during a strike by creating a charter school.
“West Virginia reminds me of my drunken cousin,” Lecco said. “You can’t get together like the cousin you have. I love West Virginia. I love it. That’s where my roots come from. (But) I can’t do that anymore. did.”
With the exception of occasional gift shops, West Virginia is just a transit idea for interstate highway drivers, Lecco said.
“Everyone I met here said:” Yes, I drove through West Virginia. I don’t remember it. Did you do anything? “Lecco said. That’s sad. A great place to put something to attract people from DC, Columbus, Pittsburgh. Give them a reason to quit. “
Andrew Snyder is looking for a reason to come back forever.
The 25-year-old Snyder left Charleston to join the Army in 2016 when he was a freshman in college. He and his pregnant wife at the time wanted to support their family. After leaving the Army, he found a job as a contractor in the defense industry in Alabama. This is one of two other states that have lost their population in the last decade, along with Illinois.
Snyder, whose relatives still live in West Virginia, dreams of moving to Morgantown someday to earn a master’s degree.
Still, he is worried about the poor broadband and uneven cell services in his home country. Snyder said returning would be “a good opportunity.” “I’m making money by doing what I’m doing here.”
Affordability and retirement were two reasons Susan Mazur Stomen jumped at the opportunity to move from Washington, DC to West Virginia in 2019. A 54-year-old cultural anthropologist and her husband bought a 110-year-old home in Hinton. $ 47,000.
“People in West Virginia are very independent. They don’t get the fit you see elsewhere. I think it’s really important,” she said. Here you can create your own future and your own reality in several ways that are not possible in a restricted, more adaptable place. ”
For many, if not most, of those who left, what left them and their love for panoramic mountain views, manageable pace, and keeping their families close by. The conflict between them never really disappears.
Snyder’s grandparents are old. His wife also has a family in West Virginia. He loves hunting and fishing and says they are “typical West Virginia citizens.”
“Unless you’re at home, there’s nothing at home,” he says.
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