CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — The population of West Virginia is steadily going down, likely because West Virginia had one of the highest decreases in births since 2016.

According to a study by QuoteWizard, births in West Virginia decreased by 10% from 2016 to 2021, with 2,000 fewer babies being born in 2021. That’s the eighth-highest decrease in the country, the study said.

Despite the United States’ continued growth, West Virginia’s population has been decreasing consistently since 2012. The once 1.85 million West Virginians have dropped to 1.78 million as of 2021, a population change of about -0.5% annually over the past 10 years.

One reason that people might be choosing to have babies at a lower rate is cost. Recent data said that West Virginia’s annual wage increase did not even match the inflation from that year. And according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, in Harrison County, the living wage for a family of two adults with one child and one adult working is $29.46 an hour. For Upshur County, it’s $28.81, and for Monongalia County, it’s $30.08.

For single parents, the living wage with two children is about $10 an hour more than with one child. Due to the cost, West Virginians may be simply choosing to not have as many children. See the exact living wage for your county or city based on the Living Wage Calculator here.

There are a handful of counties in West Virginia that have actually seen growth in the past 10 years, according to U.S. Census data, including Monongalia, Preston, Putnam, Berkeley and Jefferson counties.