Why do millennials leave Mississippi? Here’s a look at the numbers

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Mississippi’s Millennial Brain Drain

A vital Coast economy depends on convincing young people to settle here. This Sun Herald series documents and examines “brain drain” and what is being done to combat it.

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Mississippi has been slow to recover from the 2008 recession, state economist Darrin Webb says.

Consider these indicators of economic well-being for Mississippi and the Coast, culled from state reports and the U.S. Census Bureau:

The median household income in the United States in 2017 was $57,652, compared to $43,529 for Mississippi and $50,274 in Jackson County, which had the highest median household income of the Coast counties.

The millennial population in Mississippi shrunk 5.5 percent from 2010 to 2017, second only to Vermont, which had a 7.3 percent loss.

Almost 20 percent of Mississippians live in poverty, the highest number in the nation, while 17 percent of Coast residents were poor.

Only 21 percent of Mississippians 25 or older earned a bachelor’s degree, compared to 30.3 percent nationally. The college graduation rate on the Coast was 23.4 percent, significantly below the rate of competing localities, with the exception of Mobile.

Gaming revenue surpassed $1.2 billion on the Coast in 2018 for the first time since 2008 and has been flat statewide, at about $2 billion, since 2014.

The value of Mississippi goods and services, or gross domestic product, was lower in 2017 than it was in 2008. (GDP is considered the most comprehensive indicator of economic performance.) GDP for the nation grew 2.2 percent, while Mississippi’s growth rate was only 0.1 percent.

Like the state, the Coast has seen no upward momentum in GDP since the recession, with real GDP declining each year from 2009-11, plus three of the past five years.

Mississippi’s labor force participation rate was the second-lowest in the nation in 2017: 55.9 percent, compared to 53.3 percent for West Virginia.

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Anita Lee is a Mississippi native who specializes in investigative, court and government reporting. She has covered South Mississippi’s biggest stories in her decades at the Sun Herald, including the Dixie Mafia, public corruption and Hurricane Katrina, a Pulitzer Prize-winning effort. Nothing upsets her more than government secrecy and seeing people suffer.
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