This Mississippi town may be the most affordable area in America, a new university research study concludes

Published 8:42 pm Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The most affordable area in America to live, particularly for those without a college degree, is around a small town in Mississippi, a new study concludes.

Stanford University economist Rebecca Diamond teamed up with a UC Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti for a four-year study that took a deep dive into the daily finances of three million Americans from across the country, reports Greg Rosalsky of NPR’s Planet Money newsletter.

According to Rosalsky, the economists found the area around Natchez, Mississippi, offers more bang for the buck for the 60 percent of American adults who are not college graduates.

Larger cities may offer greater pay, but the cost of living quickly gobbles up that extra money.

These findings come as no surprise to Chandler Russ, executive director of Natchez Inc.

It’s Russ’s job to recruit new businesses to the Natchez area, as well as offer support to existing employers here. However, as a Natchez native, Russ is very familiar with the employment history of the community and the resurgence of interest by manufacturers and other employers in Natchez.

“As you know, we’ve got a tremendous amount of jobs open and available here, and they have been for years now. Most of them don’t require a college degree. They do require a skill set — like a welder or electrician — and they may require some kind of certification, but those jobs are out there throughout the region,” Russ said. “And these are jobs that can support yourself and a family.”

Over the last 40 years, the Natchez population has declined as large manufacturers like International Paper closed mills and worked to streamline its operations as technology improved.

“This decline is not unique to Natchez but has happened in rural areas across the nation. And that’s what has helped keep this area affordable. It’s kept real estate prices and the prices of other things in check.

“Here of late, we are seeing a tremendous uptick — in the last 12 to 14 months — with home sales almost double what we typically see in a year. It’s not just people swapping houses. The reality is we have a good influx of new people coming into the area,” Russ said.

He said those with a solid work ethic and a skill set or willingness to learn can find a job with a wage that allows you to solidly support a family.

Russ said the workforce development effort being embarked upon via a partnership between Adams County, the City of Natchez and the Natchez-Adams School District would make preparing for open, well-paying jobs in the Natchez area much easier. The workforce development training will cater to preparing Natchez students and other residents who seek employment for jobs available in the Miss-Lou.

“The ultimate goal is to fill the labor niche, help existing businesses here fill open positions with skilled workers. These jobs right now are paying $35,000 to $60,000 to workers who are trained or trainable. A college degree isn’t necessary,” he said.

For workers with only a high school diploma, the highest standard of living and opportunity can be found in:

Natchez, Mississippi

Gallup, New Mexico

Summersville, W.Va.

Graham, Texas

Marquette, Michigan