February 14, 2007


Whenever the Census Bureau publishes comparative state data, residents of El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia usually wind up looking odd.

Charleston Gazette staff writer Paul Nyden pointed to several such nuggets from the 2006 Statistical Abstract of the United States in Tuesday's and today's paper. Here are a few:

*Residents, to paraphrase Dylan, are busier dying than being born.

"Between 2000 and 2004, West Virginia was the only state in the nation not to have a natural increase in its population." Deaths outnumbered births for a net loss of 2.044. New arrivals, however, lifted the total population.

*In 2004, only Florida had a higher population of people 65 and older (15.3 vs. 16.8).

*In 2000, 21 percent of Americans lived in rural areas, compared with 53.9 percent of West Virginians. Only Vermont and Maine had higher percentages.

*"West Virginians were also less likely to move to a different house than residents of any other state." I can explain that one: if you're already home, why move? Duh.

*West Virginia had the lowest percentage of foreign-born residents of all states and the District of Columbia.

*Just 2.1 percent of state residents speak a language other than English in the home, compared with 18.5 percent of all people older than 5.

(Note: El Cabrero has figured out two possible ways to increase our linguistic diversity. The first is admittedly a drastic remedy but I have tried it: marry a foreign language teacher. That way, if at 3:00 a.m. you want to find out how to say "There are dogs in my nose" in Spanish, all you have to do is ask. Just watch out for elbows. And by the way, it's "hay perros en mi nariz.")

((The other remedy would be to get hillbilly declared its own language. Then we'd just have to work on English.))

*We had the highest white infant mortality rate and the highest death rates from heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. We also come in only second to Kentucky in smoking rates (30.8 to 27.4), which is probably not unrelated to the previous statistic.

*We still have the lowest rate of college graduates. On the other hand, state residents are much less likely to be victims of violent crime and identity theft than most Americans. The low crime rate is kind of odd considering that, to overgeneralize, we are a bunch of heavily armed poor people.

*I didn't see this one coming: we have the smallest water surface rate among states, and just about all that consists of flowing water. I guess all the water is trying to get downhill...

*We have the lowest workforce participation rate in the country, but state workers have a higher than average rate of union membership, although that has declined due to job loss in major industries.

SPEAKING OF UNIONS. Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, best known for his recent unsuccessful effort to buy the state legislature, testified in Montgomery in a National Labor Relations Board hearing about discrimination against union miners at Cannelton. His hostility to unions is a matter of public record. Check out this Gazette story by Susan Williams if you haven't already.

AND LEST WE FORGET, here's a link to the report on the Massey-owned Aracoma fire that killed two miners last year in Logan County. The report was prepared for Gov. Manchin by J. Davitt McAteer and associates.



Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I have an old college buddy who retired to West Virginia after living in Arizona for many years. Don't people generally do the opposite? After reading this post, I still am wondering why he prefers a home on a mountain to the flat land of the desert. Or, maybe I don't. I have been through West Virginia several times and it is a beautiful state.

El Cabrero said...

I haven't made it to the desert yet (except metaphorically) so it would be hard for me to compare, but flat land depresses me. I feel my soul evaporating when there are no hills...