Who lives better? Recent demographic data comparing African Americans in one of the poorest counties in the United States to the cities of Los Angeles, California and Flint, Michigan may give you pause.
Holmes County in Mississippi has a population of 18,796, of which 82.9% is Black according to the 2013 U.S. Census estimate. The county demographics show that 87% of the population live in rural areas. The median (50% above and below) household income is $19,758 in 2012 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars (Table 1 below). The term inflation-adjusted is used to describe the real value of wages, prices, food, and other items needed for daily living taking into account the effect of inflation.
That means Holmes County is significantly below the 2013 median household income of $34,560 for African Americans as a whole. Holmes County offers a mixture of hometown values and a Southern lifestyle conveniently placed between the medium size cities of Jackson, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. The closeness of several large cities combined with “Country Living” is appealing to many people. The cost of living index in Holmes County is 79.7 (U.S. average is 100) as of March 2012. The cost of living index is the cost of purchasing those goods and services that are included in an accepted standard level of consumption. The index includes food, shelter and clothing.
There are several possible reasons for the low median household income and cost of living index.
- Few large businesses located in the county.
- Lack of a large unionized labor force.
- There are few high paying jobs in the county.
How are the Black City Folks Doing?
Living in Flint, Michigan
Flint, Michigan is about 925 miles from Holmes County, Mississippi and appears in many ways very different. Flint is a northern city with a strong union presence and large businesses located in the area. General Motors in the largest employer with several healthcare organizations also contributing to employment.
Flint, Michigan has a population of 101,649, of which 57.6% are Black Americans (Table 2 below). The median household income in 2013 inflation adjusted dollars was $21,703 (Table 3).
Flint is the birthplace of General Motors, and the United Auto Workers, men such as David Buick, Louis Chevrolet, Albert Champion, Billy Durant, C.S. Mott, Walter Chrysler, Charles Nash and Alfred Sloan lived and worked in Flint.
Today Flint remains at the center of the auto industry but has developed into a college town with Kettering University, the University of Michigan-Flint, Mott Community College, Baker College and more, and a center in the health field with Hurley Medical Center, McLaren Regional Medical Center, Genesys Regional Medical Center and Diplomat Pharmacy.
The cost of living index in Flint is 80.4 as of March 2012. Flint was one of the many northern U.S. cities blacks moved to during the “Great Migration” of the early to mid-20th century seeking a better life. Flint is also part of the “Rust Belt”, the northeastern and mid-western states of the United States in which heavy industry has declined.
The reduced influence of the labor unions and increased competition from foreign automotive companies has contributed to Flint’s economic problems. The building of most new automobile factories in southern, non-union states and the lack of growth industries with high wages is another significant factor.
Living in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles, often known by its initials L.A., is a major city in California’s Southern California region, approximately 342 miles (551 km) south of San Francisco. It has some of the most famous neighborhoods in America, including Beverly Hills and the Sunset Strip. Los Angeles has a population of 3.8 million people, of which 9.4% are Black (Table 4). Los Angeles has a median household income of $32,478 (Table 5) which is slightly below the national African American average of $34,560. The cost of living index of Los Angeles is 134.9 as of March 2012.
African American household income in Los Angeles is significantly lower than the overall U.S. median average of $52,250 (Table 6). Jay Harold discusses the significant difference between African American median household income and the U.S. National average in another article.
Urban or Country Living? L.A. vs Flint vs Holmes County
The cost of living in Flint, MI, and Holmes County, MS is 20 percentage below the national average while Los Angeles is 35 percent above. It costs 50 percent more to live in Los Angeles over Flint and Holmes County. Holmes County has no Walmart or Target stores at all! Flint has an average January high temperature of 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Lexington, MS, the county seat of Holmes County has an average January high temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit and Los Angeles’s average January high temperature is 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Los Angeles has many advantages including a multi-cultural society, great weather, and excellent entertainment venues. Los Angeles also has terrible traffic problems and urban congestion.
The racial problems in Mississippi can’t be overlooked! The political consequences of having over 35 percent of the population Black Americans has heightened tensions in Mississippi. The legacy of intolerance in the state will keep many people from considering Holmes County. Flint, Michigan was at one point a good place to live because of the automotive jobs and industrialization of the region during the “Great Migration”. Flint is now struggling to remake itself. Los Angeles is an expensive place to live. Many young people live with their parents because renting is extraordinary expensive and buying your home is a dream.
Picking a place to live is a deeply personal decision. I believe most people living in the cities think they are better off than those in rural areas. I prefer the cities over the rural areas. Los Angeles is the city of choice for me. What do you think?
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|Holmes County, MS||Flint, MI||L.A., CA|
|Style of Living||Country||City||City|
|Percentage Black Population||82.9%||57.6%||9.4%|
|Median Household Income||$19,758||$21,703||$32,478|
|Cost of Living Index||79.7||80.4||134.9|