West Virginia is an interesting state that sits along the eastern seaboard of the United States. The entire area sits in the Appalachian Mountains, which means about 75% of the area is covered in forests. That is why it was given the nickname of the “Mountain State.”
The formation of West Virginia came about during the middle of the Civil War. Virginia had seceded from the Union, but there were several counties that did not support that action. They held a vote in 1863 where the communities voted to secede back to the United States instead of the Confederacy, helping the region to become the 35th state. Despite its name, there are actually portions of Virginia that lie further west than West Virginia.
Despite the desire not to separate from the Union, West Virginia contributed about an equal number of troops to both sides of the conflict. After the reconstruction period, the mineral resources of the state would drive its economic wellbeing for more than a century. Besides coal mining, there are high-calcium seams of limestone and salt.
List of the Pros of Living in West Virginia
1. The cost of living in West Virginia is very competitive.
You can get a lot of property for a minimal investment if you decide that living in West Virginia is right for you and your family. The median home value in the state is currently less than $100,000. Most homes are listed for sale below $150,000. That makes it a lot easier to establish residency, especially if you know that a good-paying job is waiting for you. It is 14% cheaper to live here than average in the United States.
Renting is relatively affordable as well. It might cost over $1,200 per month to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Charleston, but that’s the most expensive region you will find. If you decide to live in Morgantown, Beckley, or Martinsburg, you’ll pay about 50% less than that.
2. There are plenty of outdoor adventures to find in West Virginia.
West Virginia is one of the best places to be on the planet when the autumn season arrives. The large swaths of forest in the state turn a multitude of colors that make the mountains become part of your existence. Head out to Blackwater Falls State Park to see colorful hills that stretch to the horizon as you explore the many wonders that Appalachia offers.
The rolling hills of the state also create places where significant bridges are necessary to facilitate transportation. You’ll want to stop to enjoy the view from the New River Gorge Bridge after moving here.
3. You’ll get to live where the bluegrass genre began.
When other states were tuning their guitars or playing their pianos, residents in West Virginia were breaking out the fiddles, dulcimers, and banjos. Bluegrass thrives in this state, culminating with the Music in the Mountains festival that Summersville holds each year in June. You can also catch live music in many of the bars where the sweet sound of a plucked string echoes along the walls. If you’re picky about your music, then this advantage may take some getting used to before you love it. You’ll quickly discover that life without bluegrass feels quiet and empty when living here.
4. Even the biggest cities in West Virginia are relatively small.
If you’re not the biggest fan of anonymity when living in a city, then moving to West Virginia can be an advantageous situation. It doesn’t take long for you to be in the middle of nowhere, even if you live in downtown Charleston. You will always have the presence of the mountains in the background as well. If you love to go hiking, hunting, or fishing, then the open lands and extra elbow room are going to feel like a paradise.
Because the population centers are relatively small, the tax base for services is lower in West Virginia than in other parts of the country. The lower real estate costs can save you some money here too, but that also means there are fewer funds available for public services. The roads don’t receive a lot of attention throughout the state to make sure other departments have the funding they need.
5. West Virginia gets to experience all of the seasons.
Although the state sits right up next to the East Coast, you’ll experience more of a mid-continental climate when you start living here. The mountains can keep temperatures down in the summer as well. You’ll have some humidity with which to contend, but it is an issue that is nothing like what you would experience further south. It can become a little cold in the winter and the snow can sometimes be problematic higher up in the mountains, but you will get to experience all of the seasons here without fail each year.
6. If you love rain, then you are going to enjoy West Virginia.
It is a fair comparison to put Seattle and West Virginia into the same conversation for the weather. Once you get out of the early days of spring, it tends to rain a lot in the state. You’ll see lush growth in your gardens and forests because of the weather, but a series of gray days can begin to wear on the soul. Look for communities where there is more sunshine, lower in the mountains, to avoid that issue if it is bothersome to you.
And if you love the rain, then you’re going to enjoy what life in West Virginia has waiting for you.
List of the Cons of Living in West Virginia
1. The job market in West Virginia can be somewhat challenging.
As the United States and the rest of the world begin to move away from coal energy, the job market in West Virginia has seen numerous adverse changes. The mining industries in the state were its most significant source of revenue for several decades. With the lack of demand for this natural resource, the jobs that come with it have been disappearing rapidly. The current unemployment rate in the state hovers about three full percentage points above the national average.
In March 2019, West Virginia had a 5.1% unemployment rate for the state. If you moved to Virginia, then the rate would be 2.9%. There are rather few professional opportunities and middle-class industries in the state, so you’ll want to secure a job before moving here.
2. A low cost of living is not always a great thing to have at home.
When you look at a city like San Francisco, there is a high level of demand to be in that region. It has a higher cost of living because of those circumstances, which means the price of everything is higher. If everything were equal, then your salary in West Virginia would go much further than it would in California.
The problem is that all things are not equal. Areas that have a weak economy have more people leaving than staying. That means everything is cheaper, but it also creates a job market where wages are lower too. You could get by locally at those rates – just not outside of the state.
3. Some cities seem to dissuade anyone from wanting to live there.
When websites rank the worst places to live in West Virginia, Martinsburg tends to rank at or near the top in every list. The community places in the bottom third for crime, overall income, and unemployment in the state consistently. It also has one of the worst commuting experiences in the state. Although there is plenty of sunshine that will come down on your home, it’s tough to get beyond the 15% unemployment.
Grafton is another challenging community, especially if education is your priority. It might be a small town, but it has the worst student-to-teacher ratio in the state.
4. Crime can be a significant problem in West Virginia.
The median per capita property crime rate in the United States is 27.11 incidents per 1,000 people. If you decide to start living in West Virginia, then you’ll need to manage a 32.11 rate instead. There are several safe cities in the state where you can establish a home with confidence, but it will require your due diligence to find the right neighborhood.
Violent crime is also higher in West Virginia than the average rate in the United States. There are 5.78 incidents per 1,000 people here compared to the U.S. rate of 4.49. Grafton might not offer the best educational opportunities, but it ranks as the safest place to live according to information from Safewise.
5. You will be a long way away from a larger, modern city.
Charleston is the most modern city that you will find in West Virginia. It is the most populous place in the state, serving about 50,000 full-time residents. That makes it one of the two smallest state capitals in the country (the other is Carson City, NV). Huntington is of comparable size, but there are only 14 communities that have more than 10,000 residents in total.
That means trying to find a medical specialist, a great concert, or some other need that only a big city can provide is a challenging prospect. It can be 5-6 hours of driving to reach Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, Cincinnati, or Charlotte to have your needs met.
6. Heroin addiction is a significant problem in the state.
As with most regions who struggle with employment and wages, West Virginia is trying to manage a problematic heroin addiction in the low-income families of the state. You will find that because the economy is behind the rest of the country in its development, there are some social issues that can be problematic for you after moving here. This issue can become very significant in the rural areas of the state.
Poverty is a significant problem in the state. Many of the people who live here are at or just above the qualifying levels in the United States. Entire communities were built up around the coal industry, so now dollar stores are starting to outnumber the churches.
7. There are a lot of ugly stereotypes that people apply to West Virginians.
If you ask the average person what they think about people from West Virginia, the word “hillbilly” often comes out. It is a stereotype that suggests that residents are socially backward, uneducated, agrarian workers who pick banjos and eat straw. The reality of this state is that there is a rich immigration history. People here love the outdoors, have a unique perspective on the arts, and have a culture that you will love to explore.
Cousins don’t get married in West Virginia either. It’s illegal to marry your first cousin in this state, but it is legal to do so in New York and California.
8. Some communities may not fully accept you after you move.
You will find that there can be significant cultural differences in West Virginia when you compare the northern part of the state from the southern half. There can even be changes that bring out this disadvantage if you cross a county line. If you are not from that one specific area, then you might not ever be fully apart of that community. It doesn’t matter if your family is from there, that you moved there 40 years ago, or if you are starting a business to improve the economy – this disadvantage applies.
That doesn’t mean you will find hostile neighbors spying on you from over the fence or throwing bricks through your window. Don’t expect a lot of invitations to birthday parties or social engagements.
Conclusion of the Pros and Cons of Living in West Virginia
If you can secure employment in West Virginia before you move, work as a freelancer, or want to have an affordable retirement, then this state has a lot it can offer. Many of the communities allow you to rent for less than $700 per month with a two- or three-bedroom place. There are plenty of homes priced under $100,000 as well.
You can enjoy some of these benefits if you are willing to do a little commuting to find a job from outside of the area. It is possible to get to work in DC if you live in the eastern panhandle of the state. You might also look at working in Pittsburgh if you can find a place in the northern panhandle of the state.
There is money coming into the state to transform its economy right now. You will find numerous opportunities to create a business, start a profession, or offer your services in the public sector. The unemployment rate is still quite high, but proactive planning can help you to solve this issue relatively easily. Then remember to try the pepperoni rolls.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.