In April, we launched the first stage of NextGen Mississippi, our new reporting project focused on young Mississippians. We published a survey asking people of all experiences to tell us about the internal question many Mississippians ask themselves: “Should I stay in Mississippi, or should I leave?” This survey has already garnered more than 600 responses from a wide range of ages, occupations, locations and perspectives.

Scroll to view some select responses, or click a question below to skip ahead.

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Why do you live in Mississippi? If you left, why?

“I grew up and went to school in MS. I am leaving this fall for law school. The law schools here are not the best, and the environment for young professionals is also not the best. The work force here seems unwelcoming to young people who want to do good for MS.”

“I have no reason to leave yet. I love my job and community. My most valued friends and family still live here and I think I really am and can continue to make a name for myself here in Mississippi.”

“I have deep roots in Mississippi and I decided to stay. I get the advantage of being connected to my roots (but it comes at the cost of not living in a cool place like Austin, Nashville, etc.)”

“I’m leaving this summer for better pay and better quality of life.”

“No other feasible option. I will leave at the first opportunity.”

“I left Mississippi for 11 years – right out of college – for more opportunities. I didn’t think I could grow my career here like I wanted. I also wanted to experience living in cities with more diversity in terms of race, religion, and political thought. I recently moved back with my family six months ago to be closer to family, because a job opportunity worked out, and for the lower cost of living.”

Briefly tell us what factors you consider most important as you think about staying in Mississippi or leaving Mississippi.

“We want to stay for our family, we love our jobs, and our closest friends are here. However we ultimately want to leave for a better education for our daughter and more in line with our political and social beliefs.”

“My husband and I are advocates for creating a stronger ms. Mississippi needs brilliant creative people.”

“Job opportunities. Unfortunately, in my profession it is difficult to find work in Mississippi that pays well. The national average is between $80-$100 grand a year. Here I make just over $42 a year.”

“I say again: The diversity and heritage are things to enjoy and grow in, not change to be like every where else. Second I think politically if any state where going to grow and show democrats and republicans getting along and making bipartisan efforts- it’s Mississippi.”

“Wages. The wages are extremely low. So low that the low cost of living still isn’t affordable. I also don’t feel like I have a political voice because of the way our districts are overwhelmingly controlled by one party. The State’s swiftness in cutting public services like the health department and education is alarming. Their unwillingness is participate in Medicaid expansion is also frustrating. It feels like we are decades behind.”

If you’re here, how often do you think about leaving? If you left, how often do you think about coming back?

“Often. My family is based there, but Mississippi makes it hard for my return to be a reality.”

“I entertain the idea of living in a more exciting city, but never seriously consider it.”

“I think about leaving all the time. It’s a beautiful state with amazing people. But there are no opportunities here.”

“I thought about every single day of my life as far back as I can remember. I always felt out of place in Laurel and the entire state.”

“Years ago, I left for more enlightened surroundings, but came back often to visit family.”

“I didn’t seriously consider moving back for the first 10 years I was gone.”

Do you believe the state of Mississippi’s leadership has done enough to attract or retain young people in Mississippi?

“Absolutely not. Why would young people, especially those starting a family, move here, knowing that the state doesn’t prioritize education, lacks good, affordable healthcare for all of its citizens, lacks access to artistic programming and training, has a pathetic track record with civil rights issues, still is littered with Confederate monuments, clings to outdated ideas of the past instead of looking to the future, openly ignores the separation of church and state, has a large percentage of its population who are disenfranchised because of their race, religion, gender, sexuality and economic status, with little opportunity or hope for change. I left at 17 for these reasons nearly 35 years ago and things seem much the same as they were then.”

“No. The state’s leadership keeps doing things that cause young people to leave and then complains that they left. It is the definition of insanity.”

“Not really. But it’s hard to compete with Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, etc.”

“They haven’t done enough, but I believe they’ve put in effort. The numbers just need to start showing that it’s worth it to stay.”

“No. Mississippi directs its attraction and retention efforts towards young people who are already affluent. Mississippi needs to put forth a greater effort in funding things like infrastructure, education, and healthcare that would benefit everyone.”

“Absolutely not. Mississippi isn’t attractive to young folks from outside of the state because of the lack of infrastructure and the political posturing that feeds into “culture wars”. Young people want jobs, clean water, reliable infrastructure and interesting things to do. They want the ability to send their kids to good public schools in the fun neighborhoods where interesting things are happening, if they choose to have a family.”

What problems do state of Mississippi leaders need to address for a better future?

“Listen to the people. The majority and minority. Everyone has a voice, and oftentimes it seems as though decisions are being made based on assumptions without true understanding. Consult staff members and experts in fields. Be willing to support science and and scientists and listen to them. Put forth legislation and support for legislation on bills that support the people and the planet.”

“Focus on education and infrastructure will retain people. Young folx who are about to have families want the best for their children and that is not provided here”

“Not all of Mississippi is white, wealthy, and conservative. They need to stop with the performative Godliness and pay attention to what people in this state actually NEED. Safe water, reliable roads and bridges, access to health care, and better paying jobs. Oh and FULLY FUNDED PUBLIC EDUCATION.”

“Again, main reason young people leave the state is either better career prospects or not feeling welcome (due to race, religion, etc.). Address those two issues as best as they can.”

“Stop focusing on the older generations and older ideas and give newer generations a voice. We cannot improve if we aren’t even trying. The best thing we can do for this state is improve our education system and funding for schools. A better educated generation is an investment into the future of the entire state.”

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