It’s hard to find much positive news for Memphis and Shelby County in the results from the 2010 Census, a review of the data shows.
Consider these statistics:
–Shelby County had the lowest population increase during a decade since the 1870s when yellow fever ravaged the area.
The 1870s gain was 2,053. The increase from 2000 to 2010 was 30,172. The 31,777 increase from 1910 to 1920 had been the lowest since the 1870s.
–The 1970 Census was the last federal decennial census to indicate that more people were moving into Shelby County than moving away.
–Birth-death figures and census results also indicate that Memphis and Shelby County had net migration loss of 66,112 white residents between 2000 and 2010 and that more than half the loss were people who left the eight-county
Memphis metro area entirely.
–The metro area growth figures are weak when compared with those of the 13-county Nashville metro area.
The Memphis area’s population growth was 110,896, or 9.2 percent, while the Nashville area’s was 278,160, or 21.2 percent.
Total population in the Nashville metro area rose from 1,311,774 to 1,589,934. The Memphis area increased from 1,205,204 to 1,316,100.
Shelby County continued to have the state’s highest population with 927,644 residents compared to Davidson’s 626,881.
Also, the Nashville part of Davidson County with 601,222 residents still trails Memphis’ 646,889.
The determination of which counties are included in a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is based on standards set by the federal Office of Management and Budget. Criteria include such things as travel between outlying counties and the central city, employment patterns, other business activities and cultural and other ties.
In the Nashville area, a majority of the 278,160 growth–178,068–came from more people moving into the area than moving away, which is a sign of strong economic growth. The remainder of the increase, 100,091, was the “natural increase” from births exceeding deaths in the 13 counties.
In contrast, the Memphis metro area growth consisted of 92,415 more births than deaths and only 18,481 from more people moving in than moving away.
Calculations using census and birth-death numbers show an area’s gain or loss to movement of people, which, in census terms, is called migration.
While Shelby County had a net out-migration loss of 66,112 white residents, the metro area’s seven other counties had a net in-migration gain of only 29,085 white residents, indicating that 37,027 white residents had left the metro area.
Steve Redding, a researcher and director of the Regional Economic Development Center at the University of Memphis , said that since the numbers are calculated net migration numbers, it can’t be said with “mathematical certainty” that 37,027 left.
“However, it does appear that many did leave the area and did not just move to an adjoining county,” he said. The center closed June 30 due to a lack of funding.
The census and birth-death calculations also show that Shelby County and the metro area as a whole had a net in-migration gain from the movement of African American and other minority residents.
On the overall low growth and outward movement of residents from Shelby County, Redding cited the growing popularity of adjoining counties and the low growth rate of the metro area economy for several years.
“The slower rate of job growth has not provided a substantial replacement population for Shelby County,” he said.
Redding said the census and other numbers show there is definitely a movement of African Americans and other minority residents to the suburbs in the Memphis area.
“For instance, the minority student population of Shelby County Schools doubled from 24 percent in 2000 to 48 percent in 2010,” he said.
He said statistics show that similar movement is occurring in many other American cities.
“We are increasingly seeing that middle and working class African American households are making residential location decisions based not on historical patterns of neighborhood segregation, but rather on other selection criteria–proximity to jobs, schools, housing and neighborhood amenities, etc.”
Recent happenings have made Redding optimistic about Memphis’ regaining population.
“The rising popularity of neighborhoods in downtown, midtown and elsewhere, the transformation of public housing into choice mixed income neighborhoods, new and proposed greenways and other quality of life enhancements and our recent job growth prospects can all substantially help curb out-migration by all racial groups,” he said.
However, suburban leaders in Shelby County say they believe the approval by Memphis school board members and Memphis voters of surrender of the city schools’ charter in a move to consolidate with county schools will result in more movement away from Shelby County.
And demographers say that long-standing migration trends are not easily changed.
Dr. Louis Pol, a demographer and business college dean at the University of Nebraska Omaha, says momentum appears to have developed in the migration of people out of Memphis.
The statistics reflect that the outflow of people from Memphis reached an all-time high in the last decade.
Only time will tell what the impact of current initiatives and controversies will be.
Memphis metro area population change 2000-2010
Counties 2000 Births Deaths Net Migration 2010
Shelby 897,472 +146,081 -77,129 -38,780 927,644
Fayette 29,348 +4,502 -3,086 +9,394 40,158
Tipton 50,729 +7,520 -4,838 +5,925 59,336
Crittenden 50,866 +8,941 -4,916 -3,989 50,902
DeSoto 107,199 +20,148 -8,896 +42,801 161,252
Tate 25,370 +3,937 -2,519 +2,098 28,886
Tunica 9,227 +2,090 -1,033 +494 10,778
Marshall 34,993 +5,219 -3,606 +538 37,144
Total 1,205,204 +198,438 -106,023 +18,481 1,316,100
Source: U.S. Census Bureau and State Vital Statistics Records.