Shivon Hess, a 30-year-old librarian, moved to Mississippi in 2011 but left after four years because she did not find the state hospitable. She now lives in Fresno, Calif.

As Millennials — those born between 1981 and 2000 — became the largest generation of Americans, the demographic’s total U.S. population increased by approximately 2.6 million from 2010 and 2016, according to Census estimates.

But counter to the national trend, Mississippi’s Millennial population has dropped to 801,799, a 3.9 percent decrease during those six years.

According to a analysis of the recently reported state-by-state Census data, no other state in the country lost more Millennials. (Overall, Mississippi’s population increased by nearly 20,000 during the same amount of time to total 2,974,294 in 2016.)

Nearby states also lost Millennials, but proportionally not as many: Alabama, 1.8 percent, and Arkansas, 0.2 percent.  Other than Mississippi, the only other states experiencing a decline of more than two percentage points between 2010 and 2016 were Illinois, Michigan and New Mexico.

Rep. Jeramey Anderson, D-Moss Point

“We have yet to give young people a reason to stay and invest in Mississippi,” says Jeramey Anderson, a 25-year-old state representative from Moss Point. He co-chairs the Mississippi Future Caucus formed during this year’s Legislative session for lawmakers under 40 years old.

“I remember being in (Moss Point) high school and 80 percent of my senior class was like, ‘I can’t wait to get out of Mississippi,'” said Anderson. “It’s hurtful as a citizen.”

One key is creating a professional, political and social environment that is attractive to college-educated Mississippians, he said.

“We have bright, intelligent people who go to school here and leave,” said Anderson. “If we want to make progress somebody has to be here to make life better. I think that’s something the Future Caucus is working on — talent retention.”

Mississippi native Tyler Hill and his wife decided to leave Mississippi in 2016 for better job opportunities.

New job opportunities in community relations led Tyler Hill, 26, and his wife to move to Greeley, Colo., in 2016 even though the cost of living there is higher than in Mississippi.

“After my wife and I married in summer 2016, we realized job opportunities, specifically in her field, were limited at best,” said Hill, who is from Hurley, Miss. “She is a teacher of the deaf. Nationally, school districts and legislatures tend to spend less on special needs programs; in Mississippi, spending in this field is abysmal. The lack of jobs and growth opportunity forces us out of the state.”

In response to stories such as Hill’s, Anderson asks, “Can you blame Millennials for wanting go where they can make the most of their opportunity? I can’t, but we as a state can do a better job of fostering a more welcoming environment that doesn’t contradict the narrative of ‘the hospitality’ state.”

Shivon Hess lived in Mississippi from 2011 to 2015.

Shivon Hess, a 30-year-old academic librarian at a community college, did not find the state hospitable. She moved to Mississippi in 2011 but left four years later for Fresno, Calif. She says a major motivation was the state’s social environment.

“Incredible racism and bigotry. There’s a bit of that everywhere, but it’s so entrenched in Mississippi,” said Hess. “It wasn’t the type of environment I wanted to live in long-term and was the main reason why I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to raise a family there.”

Many Millennials are leaving the state, where slightly more than half of the people live in rural areas, to experience an urban environment, says Noah Sanford, a 27-year-old state representative from Collins who is also a part of the Millennial Caucus.

“They go off to college, and they don’t come back to their hometowns. They’re going to major cities and suburbs,” said Sanford.

According an article published by the Nielsen consumer research company, Sanford is right. “Millennials Prefer Cities to Suburbs, Subways to Driveways” states that 40 percent of Millennials prefer to live in an urban area.

Rep. Noah Sanford, R-Collins

“If you look at Alabama and Louisiana, their (economic and social) policies have not differed much in the past 50 years. We have very similar trajectories, but they’re not suffering some of the same population issues as we are,” said Sanford.

Those states have more big cities and metropolitan areas. “All we have is Jackson,” said Sanford.

Only one city in the state, Jackson, has a population over 100,000. Only one other city has a population over 50,000: Gulfport at just over 70,000 residents according to the latest Census estimates.

Both state representatives believe that unless the Millennial “brain drain” isn’t addressed, there could be serious consequences.

“We can’t be upside down in that we have fewer and fewer young people. It’s a United States problem as a whole. We have more retirees and children than people entering the work force,” said Sanford.

“If we don’t act now, it’s going to be a problem,” said Anderson.

A place to start is the state’s entire public education system, Anderson said, not only the often maligned K-12 .

“Continuing to undermine the Institutions of Higher Learning by cutting funding to colleges and universities as led to the increase in college tuition,” he said.

For Sanford, the solution might lie in adding more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, courses to Mississippi’s education curriculum.

“I think it’s probably not feasible to pretend that we can bring some Silicon Valley stuff here, but it’s smart to offer those STEM classes in K-12,” said Sanford.

“The kids who get that education, you’ll have some that want to stay where they’re from like me. There will be people who want to be entrepreneurs and help Mississippi develop (technology jobs).”

Anderson hopes the Future Caucus can help those Millennials who have advanced degrees stay in the state.

“One of the things I’m going to propose to the Future Caucus is to have a summit every year with millennials to make a network to help place people into gainful employment and better form a collaboration to curb some of these problems,” he said.

More Millennials shared their reasons for leaving Mississippi. Follow Mississippi Today on Twitter @MSTODAYnews to read their responses.


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31 replies on “Mississippi leads the U.S. in losing Millennials”

  1. Mississippi’s Millennials should stop complaining and take the Vow of Poverty like the rest of us did.

    1. why in hell would we do that if we could get out and find better opportunity

  2. This is what I’ve been trying to tell people for years. I’m early 30s and planning to move very soon. I’m from the state and have stayed as long as I could but there is no progress here due to misplaced conservative values and loyalty. This affects us socially, economically, in education, in wellness, and many other areas. People who have always lived here see nothing wrong. I’m tired of hearing “there are racists/bigots/homophobes everywhere.” Everyone is aware of that. What millenials are doing is lessening the prevalence of these issues in their lives. Future generations don’t stand a chance here. MS will always be the last state to do anything progressive (even behind surrounding regressive states). I applaud my fellow millenials for trying to stimulate change, but they will be very old before the confederacy even starts to admit they lost the Civil War. The state flag will not change. They will continue to sign discriminatory bills.

    1. good riddance. Millennials are entitled, commie trash and I hope they all commit suicide because they don’t get what they want. In fact, maybe you should do that. eat a bullet and do the world a favor

      1. :please no one give ‘bourgeoisiescum’
        what he wants: a ‘,reaction’ that responds in av way that takes what he said serious. …roll your eyes and move-on.

      2. I am sixty one years old, a white conservative man. I left, my kids left because of absolutely no opportunity. Mr.B Scum, why do you think MS finishes on the bottom economically year after year?

      3. I’m sorry the sandwich artist game isn’t working out for you, Mr. Scum. The big, bad millennials aren’t tipping you well these days?

      4. By the way, most of the AICN guys are over at The Man Who Saved Movies now just in case you didn’t know.

    2. I’m black and live in Boston. Racist are not prevalent everywhere. I can tell you that white racists are heavily outnumber in these parts.

  3. No worries! The GOP knows what millennials and business owners really want: (1) $250 back on their state income tax bill, at the expense of adequate schools, roads, and mental health facilities; (2) Confederate imagery everywhere; and (3) the freedom to discriminate against gay people without consequences.

  4. I can make more money in Texas with a Bachelors than those with Physicians Assistant degrees can in MS. My #1 objective when I graduated from USM was getting out and don’t regret it one bit. Plus, if you aren’t a nurse or teacher (or do pipeline work), there’s just not much to do. And, with all the funding cuts, those jobs aren’t that guaranteed anymore.

    And here’s the biggest problem: Younger generations start companies that grow into corporations that hire talented, smart people with degrees. With my generation moving, the opportunity lessens for the state.

  5. MS is also the only state in the southeast–the fastest-growing region in the country–to lose population in the last three years. But Tate Reeves and Philip Gunn assured us that people would flock here because of 2015 and 2018’s “taxpayer pay raise” acts, so whatevs. I’m sure retirees will pick up the slack.

    BTW, excellent comments from everyone. I hope some our elected leaders are reading.

  6. I graduated in 2012 from JSU with a BS in Civil Engineering . I stayed in Ms for 2 years and the only work I could find was a management job at Kroger. I moved to Atlanta for an engineering position and got promoted 3 times in one year. In my field construction is key. If you are not building infrastructure, civil engineers dont get work as our work are billable hours unless you work for the state. But the state engineering jobs [in MS] paid less than I was making at Kroger. Mississippi needs people so they can expand and build which in turn would create jobs and help the economy. Which in turn would encourage more family attractions and better schooling. I recently looked on the job boards and found 3 jobs that a millennial could take in Civil Engineering. While in Ga I get jobs weekly from those same job boards that a millennial could apply for.

  7. It’s not about JOBS, it’s about this state being a toxic hellhole for anyone that’s not a 50 year old straight white Christian. You’re not going to fix that with STEM classes. Also, that’s not what a Millennial is. YOu can’t just keep moving the goalposts until Gen X disappears.

  8. I lived in Jackson for a while. It was a sad place. Makes for great music but not for much else. I left for Louisiana ’cause I wanted to be somewhere more progressive. That should tell you something right there.

  9. I love Mississippi! I love her people and I love what she stands for! However, it is 2017 and other southern cities such as Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, and Nashville are very attractive to smart and ambitious college graduates who have majors in accounting, finance, engineering, etc. Mississippi just cannot compete with companies that pay graduates $55k out the gate and put them on a path to earning a six figure income within 7 years. Making that kind of money and still be able to enjoy a low cost of living is hard to compete with.

    1. People aren’t making 6 figures regularly in southern cities with low costs of living. By definition, high wages raise the cost of living as people bid up housing prices.

      1. You’re mistaken. Let’s take Charlotte for example. Charlotte is the global headquarters for Bank of America and the east coast headquarters for Wells Fargo. B of A has 15k people in Charlotte and Wells Fargo has 23k. When you pullback those numbers, you’ll find thousands of investment bankers, traders, financial analysts, accountants, auditors, risk, etc etc pulling in six figure paychecks.

        1. False. When North Dakota had that oil boom, housing prices went through the roof. North Dakota doesn’t have heavy regulation. Very few people in the Charlette area are making 6 figures. The median income of the area is $53k which is absolutely average. That’s tells us that there are very few high earning individuals around. I can name you any number of cities with FAR higher median salaries than $53k.

        2. Charlotte is also a city with horrible upward mobility. There are certainly bankers living in the city but they and the rest of the professional class clearly aren’t that big since the median income of the city is so low. For comparison, I live in Boston where median income is $78,800. I’ve also included the North Dakota town that was the most expensive place in America to rent when the boom was happening prices have since collapsed but it shows that housing prices are mostly tied to how hot a market is. Zoning can have a serious effect too, don’t think I’m saying it doesn’t matter but demand really drives it.

          1. We’re talking apples and oranges here. Who cares about upward mobility in this conversation? We’re talking about why millenials are leaving Mississippi. The city wouldn’t be so horrible in upward mobility if people would only raise their kids right.

  10. They’re about to lose another one as I transfer to Atlanta. This place here is downright DEPRESSING for a black millennial. I unfortunately was born and raised here and the racism is very blatant still. I go to Atlanta and have practically experienced no racism at all. I’ve actually had a young white lady give me her parking pass that was good for the rest of the day. But here in Mississippi, the hate is very obvious. I spoke to a white woman who was doing service for a rotary club and she looked the other way! I will not miss this place at all!

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