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Mississippi needs our millennials

Mississippi is running out of time. It must find out why millennials are leaving the state at the highest rate in the United States. And it must find out quickly.

Many millennials leave, not for a job, but for a place they want to live. And those who are leaving for a job are winding up in states where wages are higher.

The other side of that coin, though, is Mississippi is a very affordable place to live. See what kind of home $100,000 will get you in San Francisco, or Boston, or Miami.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Millennials will be by far the largest segment of the population still in the market for housing and other big-ticket items. And by the time they hit 35 or so, they’re likely to be where they’ll stay.

And of course, we want them to be here. Most would rather be near their families, near their roots.

In a lot of ways, Mississippi makes that tough.

We don’t have the public transportation options they want, and yet, we can’t even decide on whether our transportation system needs to be upgraded nor how to pay for it if it does.

We have few walkable, bikeable communities, another option they favor, and few millennials can afford housing prices in the communities that offer those amenities.

And, we have Mississippi’s reputation for intolerance, a reputation in many respects undeserved, but one that is referenced by online cranks and legislators who settle a disagreement with the refrain, “if you don’t like it go back where you came from.”

We must do better.

—The Sun Herald