In the 2000 federal census, West Virginia ranked 37th in the nation in population. It had 1,808,344 inhabitants, 0.8 percent more than in 1990. The state had a population density of 29 persons per sq km (76 per sq mi). West Virginia is among the least urbanized states, with only 46 percent of its inhabitants living in cities or towns.
The four largest cities of West Virginia lost population during the 1980s and 1990s. The largest city is Charleston, the state capital, with a population (2006) of 50,846. Located at the confluence of the Kanawha and Elk rivers, it is a center of industry, finance, trade and commerce, and transportation. Huntington, a center of industry and trade with 49,007 inhabitants, is a transportation hub on the Ohio River near the mouth of the Big Sandy River.
Parkersburg (31,755), on the Ohio River at the mouth of the Little Kanawha River, developed during the oil boom of the late 19th century and has grown as a manufacturing center. Wheeling (29,330) is, together with Weirton, a center of iron and steel manufacturing located in the Northern Panhandle. Morgantown, Fairmont, and Clarksburg are shipping centers for coal, but also have some manufacturing. Morgantown is also the seat of West Virginia University. Beckley and Bluefield are centers of the southern coalfields.
The pioneer stock of West Virginia was largely Scots-Irish, German, and English. There were also a few blacks. Many settlers before the American Civil War lived in isolated mountainous sections.
Cut off from surrounding regions, they retained customs and speech patterns that sometimes dated from England during the time of Queen Elizabeth I. After the Civil War, many blacks left the South for jobs in the coal mines of West Virginia. The coal, lumber, and manufacturing industries also drew immigrants from Italy, Poland, Hungary, and Germany.At the time of the 2000 federal census whites constituted 95 percent of the population, blacks 3.2 percent, Asians 0.5 percent, Native Americans 0.2 percent, and those of a mixed heritage or not reporting race 1 percent. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 400. Hispanics, who can be of any race, are 0.7 percent of the people. "West Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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