Date of Award
West Virginia’s population peaked in 1950. Parallel to this, employment in the coal mining industry peaked in 1948. Popular discourse links these two trends together. It is suggested that the decline of the coal mining industry, which was previously a stable source of employment, has led West Virginians to leave the state searching for better job opportunities elsewhere. This thesis uses first-difference regression models to analyze the relationship between lagged year-to-year changes in coal-mining employment and year-to-year changes in net-migration to and from West Virginia. A positive and statistically significant relationship is found between 1-year lagged changes in coal mining employment and changes in net-migration. Specifically, the average effect is that as coal employment increases (decreases) by 100 people in year t-1, then net-migration increases (decreases) by 59 people in year t. The relationship remains when using coal mining employment as a percentage of total employment in West Virginia. The average effect is that as coal mining employment as a percentage of total employment increases (decreases) by one percentage point in year t-1, there is an increase (decrease) in net-migration of approximately 4,438 people in year t. Evidence is also presented that net-migration is positive if per capita personal income in West Virginia grows faster than that of neighboring states. The implications of these results for understanding the decline of coal mining and population decline are discussed.
Slaughter, James J., "Country Roads, Take Me Away: Coal Mining and Migration in West Virginia, 1971-2010" (2019). Honors Theses. 1552.