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, where this appears in the April issue. 

By Jimmie Covington

Shelby County as a whole has lost population for the fourth year in a row, according to 2016 county estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau in late March.

The numbers, which reflect estimates for last July 1, also show that more people are continuing to move out of the entire nine-county Memphis metro area than are moving into the area.

Although 2016 city and town estimates have not yet been released, the Shelby County estimate, 934,603, a drop of 1,528 from 2015, indicates a continued loss of population in Memphis.

For many years, census numbers have been showing a major outward movement of residents from Memphis while the suburban Shelby County cities and towns and the county’s unincorporated area have had strong growth.

Basically, all of Shelby County’s decline has been in Memphis and that pattern is likely to be repeated this year.

Shelby County reached a high population of 938,965 in 2012, the latest estimates report shows.

The major growth in the metro area has been centered in Shelby County outside Memphis and in DeSoto County.

Numbers for Shelby County outside Memphis won’t be available until city and town estimates are released in a few weeks, but the 2016 county figures show DeSoto County increased 2,399—from 173,212 in 2015 to 175,611 in 2016.

The nine-county Memphis metro area increased 888 over the year—from 1,341,954 to 1,342,842—as a result of births exceeding deaths. However, the area had a net out-migration to other places in the country totaling 6,502.

In contrast, the 12-county Nashville metro area had a population gain of 36,337 over the year, including a net in-migration from elsewhere in the United States of 20,769.

The Nashville metro area had an estimated population of 1,865,298 last July 1.

People should use some caution in considering the estimate numbers. They are based on birth-death figures, past trends and other information and are not actual counts of residents. They could be significantly off the mark.

However, people familiar with census numbers say the estimates are pretty good at reflecting trends.


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