POPULATION DRAIN “Population losses were especially hard in counties where coal mines closed, including in the southern coalfields. McDowell County lost 13.6% of its residents in the past decade, dropping to a population of below 20,000 for the first time since 1900. After U.S. Steel sold the last of its mining operations in McDowell County in 2003, 23% of the population left because there was no other industry to rely on for jobs.”
The 2020 Census showed McDowell County at a little over 19,000 residents.
Whereas poverty and the opioid crisis make headlines, the number one contributing factor to the decline in local quality of life, where schools that coalesced communities close, health services close, essential stores close, available housing tumbles, tax dollars plummet, etc. is population decline.