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Census projections suggest Mississippi’s ‘brain drain’ continues, affecting major cities

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A voter signs an electronic registry prior to being issued a paper ballot at Spann Elementary School in Jackson, Miss., during the statewide primary elections, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Recent census projections are suggesting that major cities in Mississippi are going through a population decline.

Lacey Alexander

Census projections suggest Mississippi’s ‘brain drain’ continues, affecting major cities


Jackson, Gulfport, Biloxi and Hattiesburg are all projected to have population declines of at least .5% since 2020 based on recent data from the US Census Bureau. The largest change is a 5% decrease in Jackson, followed by a 1% decrease in Gulfport.

Jamiko Deleveaux is the interim director for the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi. He says that while the cost of living in Jackson is lower than other large cities in the region, wages in the capital city still need to be higher to attract more residents and businesses.

“When you look at Nashville and you compare it to Jackson, the pay range that you get paid in Nashville is completely different than the pay ranges that you're going to get paid in Jackson,” he said. ”We also have to contend with making sure that Mississippi salaries are comparable.”

State leaders have made addressing "brain drain," a phenomenon of young educated people relocating to other states, a priority. Deleveaux says for populations to increase in Mississippi, the state will have to invest more into their urban areas.

“I think that we have to look at it from a long-term perspective,” he said. “And if in the next couple of years there's new economic development and jobs that pay higher salaries, that’s really gonna attract people to Mississippi.”

The state as a whole saw a .7% decrease in population from 2020 to 2022.