Changes in Mississippi’s economy have been paralleled by major demographic changes. Beginning in World War II, large numbers of black Mississippians migrated to Northern cities to find better pay and freedom from segregation. Agricultural mechanization and consolidation forced large numbers of black Mississippians from the countryside into nearby towns.
The number of blacks in Mississippi’s population has declined dramatically. In 1900 six of every ten Mississippians were black. By 1990 Mississippi’s black population numbered 915,000, or 36 percent of the state’s total population of 2,578,000.
This decline in black population was entirely the result of black migration to Northern cities. Meanwhile, another migration was occurring inside Mississippi. Before World War II, most black Mississippians lived as tenants on plantations. Farm mechanization forced them off the land and into nearby towns. Today in the old plantation areas of Mississippi, the countryside is largely white while many of the towns have black majorities.
The decline of agricultural employment and the rise of manufacturing and trade have produced new living patterns for Mississippians. Since World War II, Mississippi’s largest cities have been growing, but most small towns and villages have been shrinking or disappearing.
The growth of three metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) accounts for most of Mississippi’s urban growth. The Jackson MSA is Mississippi’s largest urban area with a population of 395,000. On the Gulf Coast two urban areas, Biloxi-Gulfport and Pascagoula-Moss Point-Jackson County, constitute one MSA and account for a population of 315,000. DeSoto County in north Mississippi (68,000) is part of the Memphis MSA. These MSAs account for 64 percent of Mississippi’s urban dwellers. Despite the growth of these large urban areas, Mississippi remains a rural state. In 1970 only 45 percent of Mississippians lived in cities. By 1990 that figure had risen to only 47 percent.
The larger metropolitan areas are growing at the expense of smaller towns and cities. A very large number of Mississippians continue to live in rural areas and commute to jobs in nearby towns and cities. "Mississippi" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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