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Census data proves we’re all in together

If area officials needed a reminder that we are all in this together, all they had to do was look at the numbers the Census Bureau published Thursday.

Despite all of the big industrial announcements, with multiple visits by the two Mississippi governors, the numbers keep dropping for Adams County and Southwest Mississippi.

Courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, which released its annual population estimates Thursday, Adams County and all of the counties in the southwest corner of our state continue to see population losses.

To be fair, it takes a long time to reverse a trend that has taken shape over the last decade. Few of the industries that have been announced in the last three years have ramped up enough to significantly affect population numbers. Until they do, we can only hope that any losses we do experience are minimal.

According to census estimates, which looked at population growth between April 2010 and July 2012, all of the counties west of I-55 and south of I-20 have decreased in population. That includes Claiborne, Jefferson, Adams, Wilkinson, Amite and Franklin counties. Adams County fared the best with a 0.5 percent loss — 175 people. Wilkinson County fared the worst with a 4.5 percent population drop. In two years, Wilkinson County is estimated to have lost nearly 450 people.

By my calculations, the entire six-county region lost 1,300 people in the last two years. That is compared to the entire state, which is estimated to have gained nearly 18,000 people between 2010 and 2012, according to the census.

The nearest county to Adams County with positive growth is Lincoln County with a meager 0.1 percent rise. For the record, Lincoln County grew by 31 people in those two years, according to estimates.

The counties in Southwest Mississippi are apparently not alone. It turns out that one in three counties in the country experiences population losses. Hit by a combination of aging citizenry and weak local economies that are prompting young people to move away, most of these dying counties are in rural areas.

Census data reveals that 1,135 of the nation’s 3,143 counties are now experiencing what the government call “natural decrease.” That’s the definition given to areas where the number of deaths exceeds births. In many rural areas, this phenomenon is exacerbated by people moving to larger metropolitan areas.

An example of people moving to urban areas is reflected in the our own state where the counties that make up the Jackson metropolitan area, the counties just south of Memphis and the counties on the coast saw significant population increases. So too, have many of the counties that form a line between Hattiesburg and Tupelo.

While these large regions are not only surviving, but prospering, southwest Mississippi follows a trend that is being played out in other parts of the country that depend on waning local economies, like farming, mining or manufacturing. Areas of the country that not only relied on traditional industry models but also included information technology, oil and gas production and other diversified economies fared the best, according to the census.

Let’s hope that our area can hold on until the long-promised industries for Natchez and Adams County come to fruition. As soon as that happens, the easier it will be to turn the ship around.

 

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.