This post is written by Jimmie Covington, veteran Memphis reporter with lengthy experience covering governmental, school, and demographic issues. He is a contributing writer with The Best Times, a monthly news magazine for active people 50 and older. This was previously published there.
By Jimmie Covington
Surprising that the city population of Nashville has surpassed that of Memphis in recent years or is on the brink of moving ahead?
Given the outmigration loss of Memphis residents that has been going on for decades and the fact that the annual city and town population estimates are the least accurate of the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimates, there is a good chance that Nashville moved ahead of Memphis in the last two or three years.
The city’s daily newspaper made much of recently released estimates for July 1, 2015, that show Memphis at 655,770 and Nashville at 654,659. (Nashville and Davidson County have a consolidated government but there are several suburban cities in the county.)
Under the bureau’s approach, the prior years’ estimates usually change each year. For example, the July 1, 2014, estimate for Memphis this year is 656,402 while the July 1, 2014, estimate released in 2015 was 656,861.
On the Nashville side, the July 1, 2014, estimate this year is 644,729. In 2015, the July 1, 2014, estimate was 644,014.
Also, since the April 2010 Census, Memphis has completed the annexations of South Cordova with 4,900 residents and Southwind with 3,000 people.
So even if the estimates are accepted as valid, Memphis within its 2010 boundaries is already several thousand residents behind Nashville.
A review shows that Memphis has increased in population without annexation in only one decade since 1900–the 1930s.
It seems clear that if Memphis had been blocked from annexations as it is today through a state law requiring referendums or as such cities as St. Louis and Atlanta have been by being surrounded by smaller cities, Nashville would have passed Memphis decades ago.
The geographic area for Nashville’s city population has not changed since the approval of consolidated government in 1962.
Another thing to consider:
The census counts show that Memphis had 650,100 residents in 2000 and 646,889 in 2010 while Nashville had 545,490 in 2000 and 601,222 in 2010. Memphis’ Hispanic population rose from 19,317 residents in 2000 to 41,994 in 2010.
Nashville had 25,774 Hispanic residents in 2000 and 60,390 in 2010.
New Hispanic residents are helping keep Memphis as large as it is and are a significant part of Nashville’s growth.