The largest generation of Americans is fleeing Mississippi.
An FKD Feature exclusive

Millennials (people born between 1981 and 2000) are now the largest generation of Americans, but their population is declining in certain areas. Mississippi had the most severe millennial population decline in the U.S., losing 3.9 percent of their millennial population between 2010 and 2016.

Mississippi currently has a millennial population of less than 802,000. This has left older generations worried, since many young Mississippi natives leave the state before they enter the workforce.

Jackson is Mississippi’s largest city, but its population still sits below 200,000. Jackson is also the only city in Mississippi with a population of more than 100,000 people, so there aren’t any other large cities in the state.

As of 2015, Mississippi had the fourth-largest rural population in the U.S. Its heavily rural population has made it hard for Mississippi to appeal to millennials; the state just doesn’t have the resources or the opportunities to compete with large cities.  

It’s not an isolated issue

Rural areas all over the United States have struggled as millennials move to urban areas.

Part of the problem is that rural students have been moving to cities for college, and they haven’t been returning home. Rural areas keep losing these college-educated workers because when students leave to go to school, they find more competitive job opportunities in urban areas.

Another major problem for rural areas is the decline of manufacturing and agriculture jobs. Many rural areas were built on these industries, and now that they require fewer workers, people are moving away to find jobs.

Even suburban areas are struggling to attract the massive millennial population. Connecticut has had a particularly hard time attracting millennials, as suburban separatism has left its population divided and its cities neglected.

So where are millennials going?

The short answer? Cities.

The longer answer involves a variety of social factors. States with big cities and metropolitan areas are able to attract millennials, but certain cities draw in higher percentages than others.

Virginia Beach saw the largest increase in millennials — 16 percent — from 2010 to 2015. This increase is, at least in part, a result of direct action. The city issued a survey to millennials and worked to accommodate their requests. Virginia Beach extended its light rail, developed new restaurants and revamped shopping centers — and it paid off.

Millennials are also flocking to large cities. Washington, D.C. has the highest percentage of millennials per capita, and New York City had the greatest total increase in millennials in the country.

But two unexpected states have had the highest positive millennial migration rates: Utah and Alaska.

Utah draws millennials in with its rapidly growing capital, Salt Lake City, which boasts a huge older millennial population and low unemployment rates.

Alaska attracts millennials with an unconventional job market, drawing them in with its nine military bases and its unique fishing, mining and oil industries. Social aspects, such as the legalization of marijuana, also have brought millennials to Alaska.

Takeaway

The rural-urban divide is one of the biggest issues harming rural states such as Mississippi. States without large cities can’t seem to draw in millennials, and this lack of millennials feeds into a cycle that directly harms the workforce.

Millennials are following the jobs, and as of now, rural areas can’t compete with urban ones when it comes to opportunities. Without rural revitalization, this gap between urban and rural well-being will only grow, and that’s undoubtedly a bad thing.

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Header image: Getty Images

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Posted 07.26.2017 - 01:22 pm EDT