Mississippi politicians running for re-election or higher office are out, about, and on social media touting how good things are and how they helped make things that way.
Well, some things are good, but some are far from good. One is population growth, rather, lack thereof.
As Jack Schultz noted in his best seller Boomtown USA, population growth is one the best indicators of an area’s prosperity. People, especially young people, gravitate to booming economies with good quality of life.
So, when you talk to your favorite politicians, ask them to explain why all those good things happening in Mississippi are not resulting in population growth.
Here’s some background.
The Census Bureau recently released data on county population changes. Based on this, Business Insider published the top ten fastest-growing counties in America and the top ten fastest-shrinking counties in America. Guess which list included Mississippi counties?
Texas, Florida, North Carolina and North Dakota had all the fastest-growing counties.
Mississippi had two of the fastest-shrinking counties, Washington and Coahoma. Louisiana also had two. Other states on the list were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri.
In fact, most Mississippi counties are shrinking in population.
From 2010 to 2018, the Census Bureau data showed 63 of Mississippi’s 82 counties lost population. Fourteen showed measurable growth while five showed no change.
Nine counties showed double-digit percentage population losses – Washington, Leflore, Coahoma, Sunflower, Jefferson Davis, Quitman, Humphreys, Wilkinson, and Sharkey, all Delta counties except Jefferson Davis and Wilkinson.
Five counties showed double-digit growth – Lafayette, DeSoto, Madison, Lamar, and Harrison, all urban except Lafayette (home to the University of Mississippi).
Of note, seven of our 17 urban (metropolitan area) counties showed growth but only seven of our 65 rural counties showed growth. Uh, most of our politicians represent rural areas.
Then there’s this.
“Counties Where the American Dream Is Dead,” headlines a story in USA Today that lists 50 such counties – 13 of them in Mississippi: Coahoma, Humphreys, Tunica, Claiborne, Leflore, Hinds, Tallahatchie, Sunflower, Bolivar, Oktibbeha, Washington, Grenada, and Quitman. (All lost population except Oktibbeha, home to Mississippi State University.)
The story says the opportunity to achieve the American Dream is virtually dead for young people living in these counties.
The results come from a 24/7 Wall St. review of data published by The Equality of Opportunity Project, tax returns from 1996 to 2012, and U.S. Census data.
The Equality of Opportunity Project, part of a Harvard University program, looked at the likelihood of 26-year-olds achieving upward income mobility on a county by county basis. The project researchers found little hope and low probability for young people raised in low-income counties to earn more as adults than the average annual income for the bottom quartile of earners nationally. Every year spent in such counties decreased their opportunities for success.
Declining population, particularly in rural counties, and declining hopes for many young people are not good things or indicators of prosperity.
You probably won’t hear much about this from incumbent politicians running for re-election or higher office.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicate columnist from Meridian.
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