Berkeley County leads growth in West Virginia

November 29, 1996


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Boosted by growing counties such as those in the Eastern Panhandle, West Virginia's population increased for the fifth year in a row in 1995, according to a study of the state's vital statistics.

Also, birth rates the Panhandle and the state continued to drop, which officials attribute in part to the decision among couples to have fewer children.

There also were declines in the number of births to teenage mothers in the state, according to the West Virginia Provisional 1995 Vital Statistics.


The state's population last year was 1,828,000, an increase of 5,000 people over the previous year, the report said. Of the 5,000 additional people, 1,900 of them were from Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties, the report said.

Berkeley County had the largest population increase among the 55 counties, jumping from 65,400 to 66,600 people between 1994 and 1995, the study said.

Putnam County, located in the southwestern part of the state, also contributed to the increase with an additional 900 people between 1994 and 1995. Putnam County is in the midst of a housing boom as large numbers of people are moving to the area from the Charleston and Huntington areas, said Eugenia Thoenen, a manager of statistical services in the state Department of Health and Human Resources, which produced the report.

Elsewhere in the state, county populations grew only by several hundred people, or even dropped, sometimes by up to 700 people, according to the study.

Ken Green, executive director of the Region 9 Planning and Development Council in Martinsburg, said the Panhandle has played a significant role in boosting the state's population over the years. Even when the state's population was declining in the 1970's and 1980's, the Panhandle's numbers were growing, Green said.

"There's no question the trend has been there since the 1960s," said Green.

There were 20,950 births in the state last year, down from the 21,360 recorded in 1994, the study said. The decrease can be attributed not only to the trend of families having fewer children, but also to couples waiting until later in life to have kids, Thoenen said.

Families may wait a few years to have children in order to build savings, officials said.

"Economics certainly play a role in that," said Thoenen.

The number of births in the Eastern Panhandle counties have been dropping steadily since 1991, the report said. Berkeley County has gone from 909 births to 847 births over the four-year period, Jefferson County has gone from 545 births to 462 births during the period and Morgan County's births have gone from 144 to 123, according to the study.

The number of births to teen mothers in the state dropped from 3,721 in 1994 to 3,594 in 1995. However, births to teens accounted for 17.2 percent of all the births in the state last year, the report said.

In Berkeley County last year, there were 122 children born to mothers between 10 and 19 years old, down from the 136 children that were born to mothers in that age group in 1985, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

In Jefferson County last year, there were 76 children born to mothers in the 10-19 age group, down from the 93 children born to the group in 1985, the department said.

In Morgan County last year, 27 children were born to mothers in the 10-19 age group, slightly up from the 25 children who were born to that group in 1985, the department said.

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