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Census figures tell the Memphis story.

Census Figures Tell the Memphis Story

Is Memphis a boom town? Can Memphis support an NFL team? Do we need another new shopping mall? Who is buying all the new homes in Shelby County? Where should we locate our new business? All of these questions and many more can be answered using census data. An examination of census data for one time period will give a snapshot of the size, demographic composition, and location of the population. When examined over time, an analysis of census data will identify changes that are taking place in the area. Consequently, census data is an extremely valuable tool for planning both public and private expenditures and investments. For the public planner, it helps identify infrastructure requirements for growth areas and public assistance needs for areas in decline. For the private investor, it helps identify growth areas, new markets, changes in old markets, and new investment opportunities.

For the public, the data is widely used to redesign voting districts so that they are of equal size to assure that one-man/one-vote takes place. For policy makers, the data is used to allocate state and federal government funds for programs that are population or need based. So census data and its analysis plays a key role in many aspects of our daily lives.


The answer depends on how you define "Memphis." If you simply mean the city, then the answer is 610,337. If you mean Memphis-Shelby County, then the answer is 826,330. If you mean the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), then the answer is 981,747 because the MSA includes Shelby, Tipton, DeSoto, and Crittenden counties. Recent attempts to get the Census Bureau to increase our population figures to one million have failed, but natural population growth rates will soon (approximately three years) make the MSA larger than the one million target without the adjustments.


The population growth rate for the period 1980-1990 for the Memphis MSA was 7.5 percent, which was greater than the 5.0 percent growth rate for Tennessee but less than the 9.6 percent growth rate for the country. The MSA's growth reflects the increasing urbanization of the region's population and the slower growth of the rural areas of the surrounding states. The fact that Tennessee grew at slightly more than half the national rate indicates that this state was not a high growth state during the 1980s and that other states (Florida is one example) were growing much faster than we were growing.


The growth rates for the MSA conceal changes in the attractiveness of areas within the MSA. For example, while approximately 80.0 percent of the population growth in the MSA occurred in Shelby County, when looking at growth rates for the other counties in the MSA, both Tipton (14.1%) and DeSoto (25.9%) grew faster than Shelby (6.3%). Crittenden County experienced almost no growth from 1980 to 1990. Yet small percentage changes in Shelby County represent dramatically larger population changes because of the large population base in Shelby County.


Growth figures for the cities in the Memphis MSA reflect the increasing suburbanization of the MSA population. Memphis' population fell 5.5 percent (nearly 36,000 people) over the decade, while Bartlett (+57.2%), Collierville (+84.0%), and Germantown (+60.8%) were growing at a rapid pace. Millington's population fell by 11.7 percent during the 1980s, but changes in Millington Naval Air Station heavily influence Millington's population data.

Southaven has benefitted from the movement of the population from rural areas of northern Mississippi and from the suburban sprawl of Memphis. Especially important to the growth of Southaven (11.7%) and even Olive Branch was the rapid growth of the unincorporated area--Hickory Hills--in southeast Shelby County. Much of the growth in Shelby County not included in the cities occurred in Hickory Hills.

The attractiveness of south, southeast, east, and northeast Shelby County suburbs and adjacent cities will continue to challenge elected officials to provide adequate transportation and public service infrastructure for the areas' residents. New schools, roads, sewers, light systems, water, and other infrastructure items will be required to meet these expansion pressures.

The issues of annexation, tax rate differentials, impact fees on new developments, new road construction, merged school systems, and even combined government functions will continue to attract attention in the 90s.


The Memphis MSA, like most urban areas, is an economic magnet and melting pot for people of all races. Unlike cities with large concentrations of Hispanic, Indian, or Asian people, however, the Memphis MSA has only 1.2 percent of its residents in these racial categories. The Memphis MSA's racial composition is primarily white and black. In 1990, nearly 400,000 people (40.6%) of the MSA's population were black and nearly 550,000 were white (58.1%). From 1980-1990, the number of black residents rose by 9.5 percent, and the number of white residents increased by 5.3 percent.

The population of Memphis proper was nearly equally divided along racial lines in the 1980s. The city's black population grew by nearly 27,000 people over the decade to a total of 334,737, while the city's white population fell by 65,189 to a total of 268,600. As a result, the percentage distribution of the population changed from 51.6 percent white and 47.6 percent black in 1980 to 44.0 percent white and 54.8 percent black in 1990.

Similarly, the black population of West Memphis increased by only 2,000 people over the decade, but the percentage of the population who were black rose from 35.1 percent in 1980 to 42.1 percent in 1990. Millington and Collierville had 2,830 and 1,604 black residents in 1990, up 16.5 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively, from 1980 population estimates. Total changes in the white population were: West Memphis (-10.8%), Millington (-34.5%), Collierville (100.5%), Bartlett (54.9%), Germantown (56.5%), and Southaven (9.1%). [Tabular Data Omitted] [Graphs Omitted]

Dr. John Gnuschke is professor of economics at Memphis State University and director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research and the Center for Manpower Studies.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gnuschke, John
Publication:Business Perspectives
Date:Jun 22, 1991
Previous Article:Charting Tennessee's transportation system for the 90's.
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