We intimately understand that constant internal question: “Should I stay in Mississippi, or should I leave?” We watch in sorrow but understanding as our peers make the decision to leave and build their lives elsewhere. We hear the complaints of young people who stay about a lack of policy focus on what we need, and we continue to cover the same tired platitudes from politicians.

Many young people are thriving in Mississippi. More often, many are struggling or making great sacrifices to stay. Others want to leave but don’t have the means or ability.

This is NextGen Mississippi: a project devoted to digging deep on the realities of why Mississippians stay or leave.

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Recent survey responses:

“I left for college and never meant to come back until the pandemic. Partly I just didn’t feel that there were enough opportunities for employment or education in the arts, partly I felt stifled by small-town culture. At least from my perspective, both of those things are improving.”

“It’s complicated, but the biggest reasons I left relate to professional opportunities. For my wife especially, it was hard to see a clear professional path forward. I love MS and think about MS daily, but I do believe the move was the right thing for my family.”

“I was born and raised in Mississippi, and I stayed in Mississippi after graduating college because I want to be a part of leading the change in any capacity.”

“I grew up here, and I don’t yet have the financial means to leave.”

“Family and friends. It certainly isn’t because of opportunity… unless the opportunity is trying to improve the place”

“I left Mississippi when I was 18. I was queer and felt I could not find a home in Mississippi where I would be safe. I also knew that college elsewhere would open up more doors for work.”

“It’s my home, but I have worries about it being able to sustain my family. In other words, I think there is more opportunities elsewhere.”