And though northern communities collectively outpaced their peers in almost every category selected for this story by the Daily Journal, the southern towns generally made the county's biggest gains in educational attainment since 2000.
They still lag behind Tupelo and the northern 'burbs, though, in their overall populations of high-school and college grads.
The data comes from the American Community Survey, released this month by the agency that collects and distributes the 2010 Census. It's based on surveys gathered between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2009.
Compared to numbers from the start of the decade, it confirms what politicians and business leaders alike have long suspected: Residents - especially affluent ones - are leaving Tupelo and the southern suburbs for the fast-growing communities of the north.
Here's a look at what the numbers say.
The northern suburbs are Baldwyn, Guntown, Saltillo and Sherman. The southern ones are Nettleton, Plantersville, Shannon and Verona. Tupelo, as the county's biggest city, stands alone.
Although Tupelo remains Lee County's largest city by a wide margin, its population grew nearly three times slower than the average northern suburb - 4.7 percent versus 12.1 percent. Its growth rate also trailed behind the southern 'burbs, whose average community increased by 7.7 percent.
Interestingly, though, it was Nettleton that saw the largest population growth, boosting its number of residents by nearly 37 percent since the start of the decade. But Plantersville dragged down the south's average, losing nearly 19 percent of its people during the same time.
Saltillo, which bears the brunt of the blame for siphoning Tupelo's middle class, grew by nearly 20 percent. At that rate, it'd take more than a century for Saltillo to reach Tupelo's current population.
• Nettleton: Its population grew nearly 37 percent.
• Plantersville: Its population declined by nearly 19 percent.
Tupelo has the highest percentage of high-school and college graduates, but its peers are catching up fast. Verona and Guntown made the biggest strides in boosting their high-school educated populations, growing their numbers by 21.6 and 19.1 percent, respectively.
Shannon and Plantersville saw the largest increases in college grads during the same time; Shannon more than doubled its percentage from 5.8 to 12 while Plantersville went from 7.1 to 11.4.
All communities saw a gain in high school grads. Nettleton, Sherman and Verona experienced a decline in college educated residents.
On average, the southern suburbs made the biggest education gains - 12.4 percent for high school grads and 21.2 percent for college grads - but Tupelo and the northern 'burbs still have larger educated populations overall.
Nearly 85 percent of Tupelo's residents have a high school degree versus 79 percent in the average northern 'burb and 73 percent in the south. And nearly 30 percent of Tupelo residents are college educated, versus an average 14.4 percent in the north and 8 percent in the south.
• Verona: Its high-school graduate population grew by 21.6 percent in the past decade. Eighty-three percent of its adults have at least a high-school degree, the second highest in the county after Tupelo.
• Shannon: Its college-graduate population more than doubled, from 5.8 percent a decade ago to 12 percent in the survey.
Households generally have more money in Tupelo and the average north Lee County suburb than those in the south, by several thousand dollars a year. But for the first time, Saltillo knocked Tupelo out of the top spot for highest median household income.
It grew by the second fastest percentage - just behind Guntown - to reach nearly $50,000 annually. Tupelo's grew at less than 1 percent to roughly $38,500.
Both Baldwyn's and Verona's declined.
Guntown and Saltillo also saw the largest increase in monthly mortgages. Both have nearly caught up to Tupelo, which has the county's highest monthly mortgage at $1,128.
Saltillo, too, has the highest percentage of owner-occupied housing at 73 percent, and its home values grew the most, to nearly $130,000. Verona has the lowest number of home owners, losing 25 percent to renters in the past decade.
Nettleton has the lowest home values: $62,800.
Verona also has the highest percentage of people - over a third of its population - below the poverty line. But it was Shannon whose below-poverty population rate grew the most, nearly doubling to 35 percent since 2000.
Sherman has the lowest rate, at about 9 percent.
Tupelo and its southern suburbs gained a higher percentage of African Americans and lost a greater portion of whites than their northern peers this past decade.
The average southern community saw an 18.3 percent decline in white residents while its black population grew by 20.7 percent.
That's compared to the average northern 'burb, whose white population sank less than 2 percent but saw no change in its African-American numbers during the same time.
Tupelo saw an 8 percent decline in whites and a nearly 16 percent gain in blacks.
Asians declined in Tupelo and the south but grew in the north, but Hispanics overwhelmingly chose Tupelo for their home. The county's largest city also has the largest Hispanic population at 3 percent.
• Baldwyn: Its white population grew by 5.8 percent to 57.7, while its black population fell by 7.5 percent to 40.6.
• Saltillo: It saw the largest Hispanic growth, from 0.6 percent of its population a decade ago to 2.9 today.
• Verona: It lost all its Hispanics, according to the survey; some 2.2 percent of its population had been Hispanic at the start of the decade.