Study: Best Cities to Live in Mississippi

With so many great places in Mississippi to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which city to call home. The CreditDonkey team has put together a list of Mississippi's best cities to help new residents and natives narrow down their options.

William Faulkner once said that to understand the world, you must first understand Mississippi. The birthplace of the Blues and Elvis Presley, the Magnolia State is defined by its antebellum charm, hardworking people and the unmatched beauty of the Gulf Coast. Residents continue to honor Deep South traditions like good food, enduring faith and a commitment to family, while the state as a whole is evolving and growing with an eye on the future.

Mississippi's foundation was built on agriculture and much of the landscape remains covered by farmland. While you'll find larger urban areas like Jackson and Gulfport, many Mississippians prefer the slower pace that goes along with life in a smaller town.

10 Best Cities to Live in Mississippi

Study Methodology

Each city is ranked based on these five attributes:

  1. Crime Rate
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Education
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

Like any other state, Mississippi experiences its fair share of crime but certain spots pose less of a risk than others. We measured each city's overall safety in terms of the odds of being the victim of a violent crime.

In Jackson, biking and walking to work are encouraged to help minimize congestion along the city's streets. If you live in an area where you have to drive, you want to keep your commute as short as possible. Each city's ranking is based on the average time it takes to get to work on average.

Having a college degree can make a significant difference when it comes to earning potential. We looked at the percentage of residents who earned a bachelor's degree or higher for each city, as well as the median household income to find those places where you can expect to be paid the most.

Tip: Still in college? Read our money tips for college students.

Mississippi cuisine embodies the best of southern comfort, with catfish, fried chicken and pecan pie perennial favorites. From backyard barbecue joints to five-star eateries, there's something to suit every taste. Our rankings reflect the number of restaurants per capita each city has to offer.

10. Olive Branch

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 487.7
  • Commute Time: 26.2 minutes
  • Income: $65,543
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 27.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 595 inhabitants

Once part of the Chickasaw Indian territory, Olive Branch has transformed from a small trading post to one of Mississippi's most rapidly growing cities. Nestled close to the Tennessee border, the city has seen an influx of newcomers from nearby Memphis in recent years. While residents have one of the longer commute times, at just over 26 minutes, they also earn some of the highest median incomes.

Did You Know: A popular attraction among horticulturalists, Brussel's Bonsai is a 175,000 square foot nursery devoted exclusively to the growing of bonsai trees.

9. Southaven

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 342
  • Commute Time: 22.9 minutes
  • Income: $56,164
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 20.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 499 inhabitants

Just minutes from the Tennessee state line, Southaven is technically considered a suburb of the Memphis area. A planned community, the city offers many of the amenities you'd enjoy in a larger metropolis while still conveying a warm and welcoming feel. Residents of all ages enjoy an active lifestyle, and nearby Arkabutla Lake is ideal for fishing, hunting and sailing.

Did You Know: Southaven is less than five miles from Graceland, the famed home of singer Elvis Presley.

8. Biloxi

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 239.6
  • Commute Time: 19.1 minutes
  • Income: $40,144
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 24%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 611 inhabitants

Biloxi sits on Mississippi's Gulf Coast, close to the city of Gulfport and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the city has experienced a slow but steady resurgence and its population has grown in recent years. The Keesler Air Force Base is one of the area's top employers, but there's also a healthy tourism trade, with several major casino resorts located nearby. Biloxi is also a premier fishing spot, thanks to an abundance of red drum, sea trout, mackerel and flounder.

Did You Know: Biloxi is the setting for Biloxi Blues, Neil Simon's semi-autobiographical play that was later made into a feature film.

7. Pascagoula

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 261.4
  • Commute Time: 17.3 minutes
  • Income: $40,998
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 19.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 530 inhabitants

Further down the Gulf Coast is Pascagoula, Mississippi's busiest port city. Shipbuilding is a major industry and one of the state's largest employers, Ingalls Shipbuilding, is located here. The Pascagoula Inner Harbor is a top spot for boating and the Scranton Nature Center is a favorite among families. In the mood for seafood? Bozo's Grocery is the place to go for shrimp and oyster po' boys or fresh soft shell crab.

Did You Know: According to local legend, infamous pirate Jean Lafitte was a frequent visitor to Pascagoula and the surrounding gulf area.

6. Hattiesburg

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 396
  • Commute Time: 16.8 minutes
  • Income: $26,328
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 31.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 254 inhabitants

Mississippi's fourth largest city, Hattiesburg embodies the best of southern charm and genteel hospitality. Healthcare and education are the pillars of the city's economy, with both the University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University attracting students and job seekers alike. Downtown is a mix of museums, art galleries, cafes and restaurants like Mrs. Butta Bean, which serves up all your favorite down-home dishes.

Did You Know: Hattiesburg was the home of noted civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer.

5. Brandon

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 3,679.8
  • Commute Time: 22.6 minutes
  • Income: $67,824
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 37.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 452 inhabitants

Part of the Jackson metropolitan area, Brandon is less than 15 miles from the Mississippi capital. The city's popularity hinges largely on the fact that it's one of the safest places in the state, with the odds of being the victim of a violent crime 1 in nearly 3,700. Wages here are also much higher compared to other cities, with residents taking home a median income of more than $67,000. Home prices tend to register at the higher end of the scale but the overall cost of living is still well below the national average.

Did You Know: Brandon is close to the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir, a favorite local spot for fishing, boating and camping.

4. Clinton

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 852.4
  • Commute Time: 20.8 minutes
  • Income: $59,043
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 43.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 560 inhabitants

Clinton sits on Jackson's northwest border, less than 15 miles from the metro area. Mississippi College is an important source of jobs and median incomes approach the $60,000 mark. Residents appreciate the low occurrence of violent crime and home prices are more affordable compared to some of Jackson's other suburbs. The Froghead Grill is the go-to spot for burgers and sandwiches with a side of Cajun spice.

Did You Know: Provine Chapel on the Mississippi College campus served as a hospital for wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War.

3. Madison

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,760.6
  • Commute Time: 21.6 minutes
  • Income: $96,780
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 63.1%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 497 inhabitants

Named after President James Madison, this city of 24,000 people is the most affluent location on our list and one of Jackson's most desirable suburbs. Residents here are the most educated of any city in the state; more than 60% hold at least a bachelor's degree. Manufacturing is the chief industry, with Nissan leading the way as the top employer. The rarity of violent crime and a median income that nears the six-figure range are significant contributors to Madison's appeal.

Did You Know: Thanks to its lush strawberry fields, Madison was once known as the "Strawberry Capital of the World."

2. Ridgeland

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 645.8
  • Commute Time: 20.1 minutes
  • Income: $53,509
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 49.9%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 219 inhabitants

Ridgeland sits squarely between Madison to the north and Jackson to the south. Similar in size to Madison, the city also offers many of the same amenities, including shopping, dining and plenty of outdoor attractions. Ridgeland also features safe neighborhoods, and homes here tend to be more reasonably priced. The average commute clocks in at just over 20 minutes, although it may take a little longer if you're driving into Jackson.

Did You Know: Ridgeland lies adjacent to the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile long scenic route that extends from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN.

1. Oxford

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 2,429.4
  • Commute Time: 13.7 minutes
  • Income: $34,523
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 54%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 223 inhabitants

Deep-rooted customs, an unparalleled cultural heritage and friendly, pleasant people are just a few of the things that make Oxford our number one choice for Mississippi's best place to live. Home to Ole Miss, this quiet college town is tucked away in the northern part of the state, close to Holly Springs National Forest and Sardis Lake. The University is the city's largest employer, but the healthcare industry also supplies a significant number of jobs. Oxford ranks second on our list for overall safety, and residents enjoy the shortest commute of any city in our study. There are loads of places to grab a bite and the Handy Andy Grocery is a top local pick for barbecue and burgers.

Did You Know: Novelist William Faulkner penned some of his most famous works at his home, Rowan Oak, now one of Oxford's foremost historic attractions.

To be sure, larger cities like Jackson and Gulfport are not to be outdone when it comes to the kinds of job opportunities, nightlife and attractions they offer. While there are plenty of great reasons to call either one home, we believe that the 10 cities in our study are a cut above the rest.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

The Top 10 Cities to Live in Mississippi

RankCityViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute TimeMedian Household Income% Bachelor's Degree or HigherPeople per Restaurants and Bars
1Oxford1 in 2,429.413.7$34,52354.0%223.2
2Ridgeland1 in 645.820.1$53,50949.9%218.5
3Madison1 in 1,760.621.6$96,78063.1%496.8
4Clinton1 in 852.420.8$59,04343.8%559.8
5Brandon1 in 3,679.822.6$67,82437.8%452.2
6Hattiesburg1 in 396.016.8$26,32831.3%253.6
7Pascagoula1 in 261.417.3$40,99819.2%529.7
8Biloxi1 in 239.619.1$40,14424.0%610.7
9Southaven1 in 342.022.9$56,16420.6%498.8
10Olive Branch1 in 487.726.2$65,54327.3%595.0

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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