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

Nashville’s faster growing Hispanic population is a significant factor in that city’s moving ahead of Memphis to become Tennessee’s largest city, U.S. Census Bureau numbers show.

Census count numbers show that Memphis’ Hispanic population increased from 20,189 in 2000 to 41,994 in 2010 while the Nashville Hispanic population increased from 25,774 to 60,390.

In 2010, 6.49 percent of Memphis’ residents were Hispanic and 10.04 percent of Nashville’s residents were Hispanic.

Estimates of cities’ Hispanic residents on July 1, 2016, are not currently available. However, countywide estimates, which were released earlier in the year, show Davidson County with a net gain of 3,091 from international migration in the year ending July 1, 2016, and a Shelby County net gain of 1,258.

In both cities, many residents gained from international migration are Hispanic.

And since Nashville and Davidson County have a consolidated government, Davidson County census numbers are more reflective of Nashville, than Shelby County numbers are of Memphis.

In reporting city populations, the Census Bureau refers to the Nashville city population as “Nashville-Davidson metropolitan government (balance).” The population numbers of six incorporated municipalities that are either entirely or partly located in Davidson County are listed separately from the Nashville numbers.

The July 1, 2016, population estimates show 660,388 of Davidson County’s 684,410 residents, or 96.5 percent, are included in the Nashville number.  In Shelby County, the estimates reflect that 652,217, or 69.8 percent, of Shelby County’s 934,603 residents lived in Memphis.

Shelby County remains the state’s largest population county.

According to the 2016 city estimates, which were released in May, Nashville had 7,761 more residents than Memphis. The estimates for July 1, 2015, in the 2016 report were Memphis, 654,454, and Nashville, 654,078.

And it might be just a one-year aberration in the numbers, but the census county estimates for July 1, 2016—which were released in March—show Davidson County with a net domestic migration loss of 2,039 in the previous year.

That means an estimated 2,039 more residents moved out of Davidson to other counties in the United States during the year than moved into Davidson from other counties.

The county estimates also show that Davidson had a net gain of 10,489 from domestic migration since 2010 and a net gain of 17,445 from international migration.  Over that same period, Shelby County had a net loss of 36,795 to domestic migration and a net gain of 7,859 from international migration.

Other major factors of population change are births and deaths. The census reports show that Shelby County had a population natural increase of 36,853 from births exceeding deaths during 2010-2016 while Davidson County’s natural increase was 30,279.

A major thing that sets the Nashville metro area off from the Memphis area is the large growth that has occurred in the Nashville area’s outlying counties compared to the Memphis area counties.

Nashville and Davidson County have had good growth through the years but the majority of the area growth has occurred in other counties. The Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin Metropolitan Statistical Area now consists of Davidson and 13 other counties.

The Memphis TN-MS-AR MSA includes Shelby and eight other counties. The makeup of MSAs is determined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget based on data from each 10-year census.

An MSA consists of a central city and surrounding counties that have strong business and other connections with the central city.

The results of the 2000 Census first placed the Nashville metro area ahead of the Memphis area in population. The July 1, 2016, census estimates show the Nashville area with 1,865,298 residents and the Memphis area with 1,342,842 residents.

According to these estimates, Davidson County’s population increase during 2010-2016 was 57,830 while the increase in the area’s 13 other counties was 136,585, which made a total area increase of 194,415.

In contrast, the Memphis area total increase was 18,018, including 6,919 in Shelby County and 11,909 in the outlying counties. DeSoto County had a 14,347 increase but all but two of the other counties, Fayette and Tipton in Tennessee, had declines.

Here are the 2010 Census counts and the July 1, 2016, estimates of the populations in the counties that make up the Memphis and Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

(Calculations using these numbers may differ a little from the growth numbers in the above story.  In yearly estimates reports, the Census Bureau uses an estimates base that includes minor adjustments to official census count numbers. The numbers in the story are from the estimates reports.)


Memphis MSA—

Counties                 2010 Census             2016 Estimates       Change

Shelby                                   927,644                    934,603                    +6,959

Fayette                                  38,413                      39,590                      +1,177

Tipton                                    61,081                      61,303                      +222

Crittenden                            50,902                      49,235                      -1,667

Benton                                  8,729                         8,264                         -465

DeSoto                                  161,252                    175,611                    +14,359

Marshall                                37,144                      35,801                      -1,343

Tate                                        28,886                      28,201                      -685

Tunica                                    10,778                      10,234                      -544


Nashville MSA—

Davidson                              626,681                    684,410                    +57,729

Cannon                                 13,801                      14,027                      +226

Cheatham                             39,105                      39,880                      +775

Dickson                                 49,666                      52,170                      +2,504

Hickman                               24,690                      24,295                      -395

Macon                                   22,248                      23,450                      +1,202

Maury                                   80,956                      89,981                      +9,025

Robertson                            66,283                      69,165                      +2,882

Rutherford                           262,604                    308,251                    +45,647

Smith                                     19,166                      19,447                      +281

Sumner                                 160,645                    180,063                    +19,418

Trousdale                             7,870                         8,271                         +401

Williamson                           183,182                    219,107                    +35,925

Wilson                                   113,993                    132,781                    +18,788


Source: U.S. Census Bureau



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