Strong Under Currents - West Virginia / by sam taylor

strong under currents - west virginia

Good Friday Morning!

Today’s note is a bit of a departure - I’m going to talk a little bit about the research I’m working on, and what I think it means. By the time I’m done, I suspect folks will see how it might tie into my artistic work as well.

West Virginia has a talent retention problem - in our day-to-day lives, folks that grew up here or have lived here for a long time seem to know this even if they haven’t thought about it. We talk about needing jobs for our youth, there are “struggle to stay” series on the web (if you haven’t read those from WV Public Broadcasting, you should), we see the news about the state losing population.

From a researchers/scientists perspective, this is all part of a bigger set of trends in the US - trends of which I’m not sure regular folks are aware.

Across the country, migration is down - at its lowest levels in decades, and is becoming more resistant to the old drivers of jobs and income - in short, people aren’t moving, and the old things that would cause them to move aren’t working the way they used to.

The exceptions inside those trends? Young people and college educated people are the most mobile for work - and nationwide, the trend is for folks to move from rural places to urban places.

These represent strong under currents if you are trying to think about how to grow or help the folks in West Virginia. People don’t move generally, and the people that do move are 1. The people you want to keep, and 2. Moving to places that we generally don’t have in West Virginia. If you are a college grad, or someone with specialized skills, there are so many cities within 200 miles of here, it’s just that none of them are within the state. Baltimore, DC, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Charlotte, Lexington, Cincinnatti, are all larger than the largest cities in WV and within 200 miles - and while bigger isn’t necessarily better, it does mean that there are going to be more opportunities, closer together, and still within a weekend drive “back home” in one of those towns.

So what to do? Well, I’ll try to get into some of my thinking there in upcoming posts.

Hope y’all have a great weekend,

Strong Under Currents - West Virginia