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Street Talk

Population Holds Essentially Steady

By Mickey Howley

Last week the front page of this paper had an article about the declining population of Yalobusha County in the last 10 years. The 2010 census shows a 2.9% drop in population since the one taken in 2000. By actual numbers it is 377 people less or an average 3 more people leave Yalobusha than move in for every month in the last decade.

That may not seem like much, but incrementally if it remains the pattern, it could add up. The county population has been lower in 1840, 1960, 1970, and 1990. Looking at figures from the last six censuses from 1960 to present, there seems to be up and down fluctuation of about 1,200 people with an average population between 12 to 13 thousand people. Looking at the data from 1960 to the present for near-by counties, three patterns seem clear.

Counties to our west like Tallahatchie, Quitman, and Leflore all have had dramatic declines in population. Counties to our south and east like Webster, Calhoun, Grenada, and Chickasaw are in the same pattern as Yalobusha of having relatively constant population numbers. Counties to our north like Lafayette, Lee, Pontotoc, Tate, and Marshall all have had strong and steady population increases in the last 50 years.

Mississippi’s population in 1960 was 2,178,141 and now it is 2,967,297. The United States as a whole has gone from 179 million in 1960 to 308 million in 2010.

So what does this all mean? That Water Valley and Yalobusha are holding essentially steady for the last half-century while the state has grown and county has grown does not look so good or bad. Growth is almost an American mantra, but clearly many rural counties, not only in Mississippi but through out the country, have had dramatic decreases in population. What can be done? In a way, for Yalobusha and Water Valley to grow, it is in the interest of  everyone in the community to make the best of what we have and work to diminish the negatives and strive for improvement in general. I have heard we cannot keep young people here. The truth is young people, especially in their 20s, will move and see some of the world if they can. That is the same if you grew up in Water Valley or New York City. The thing is just to have a place that natives would want to come home to and newcomers can see making it a home.

Mark your calendars for two Water Valley Art Council events. On Friday, March 4, the Art Council is hosting a poetry evening. It will have a special Water Valley flavor to it. Saturday night March 19 the Art Council is throwing a “Come As You Aren’t” Costume Dance Party and Fund Raiser. The fund raising aspect goes to support the youth summer art camp and if you remember last time the Art Council had the “Chair-ity Auction” for this. That event won a statewide award for most creative fundraiser. This event promises to be every bit as much fun. Start planning your costumes now

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