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 his articles also appear.  

By Jimmie Covington

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and his administration have a major goal of reversing the decades-long pattern of people moving out of Memphis.

However, U. S. Census Bureau estimates released in April don’t indicate any trend in that direction. The estimates are for the nation’s counties and metropolitan areas on July 1, 2018.

It’s now less than a year before the next 10-year federal census will be conducted. The official census day is April 1, 2020. The first results are due out in December 2020.

The census is mandated by Article 1, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. The major purpose is to determine how many representatives each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives

The 2020 Census will give us a much more solid picture than the estimates of what is happening with the population locally, in the state and in the nation as a whole. Once the results are in, the annual census estimates that have been released will be adjusted to conform with the changes that are reflected in the 2020 Census count.

For now, it will be several weeks before the July 1, 2018, estimates are released for Memphis and other cities across the nation.

But unless there has been a highly unlikely change from what Shelby County estimates in the past have revealed about Memphis, the figures indicate the city is continuing to lose thousands of people to outward movement each year.

The estimates show that Shelby County had 935,764 residents, a decline of 209 from the previous July 1 but an increase of 8,082 from the 927,682 census count in 2010.

However, the newly released numbers also show that the county had  46,461 more resident births than deaths since 2010, including 4,424 more births than deaths between July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018. That’s called a “natural increase.”

Or to put it another way, Shelby County had a population loss of 209 between July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018,  despite having 4,424 more resident births than deaths. If the census estimates are anywhere near correct, that means a lot more people are moving out of the county than moving in.

But what part of the county are they moving from?  Here is where Memphis comes in.

For decades, census counts have shown that the only times that population has declined in the county outside Memphis have been when the city completed major annexations.

The city is now effectively blocked from making any more annexations and is moving to de-annex some areas.

Over the decades, the pattern has been that all of Shelby County’s slow growth in population could be linked to people moving out of Memphis.

The latest estimates also continue to show that people are not just leaving Memphis, they are leaving the nine-county Memphis metro area as a whole.

The estimates reflect that only two counties in the area – DeSoto County, Miss., and Fayette County in Tennessee — are having growth larger that the natural increase of births exceeding deaths.

The 2018 estimates also show that the population boom remains strong in the Nashville metro area. The 2018 estimate for the 14-county area is 1,930,961, an increase of 260,085 from 1,670,876 in 2010

The Nashville area ranks 36th in size among the nation’s metro areas. Memphis is 43rd. The 2000 Census was the first to show the Nashville area with more residents than the Memphis area.

Estimates for 2015 were the first to show Nashville moving ahead of Memphis to become the state’s largest city.

Shelby remains the state’s largest county with 935,764 compared to Davidson’s 692,587. Davidson’s estimated growth since 2010 is 66,027.

Here are the July 1, 2018, census estimates compared with the 2010 Census counts for the nine counties in the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Counties              2010                              2018

Shelby                 927,682                        935,764

Fayette                38,439                          40,507

Tipton                  61,006                          61,581

Crittenden           50,906                          48,342

DeSoto                161,267                        182,001

Benton                 8,728                             8,271

Marshall              37,145                          35,451

Tate                     28,878                          28,759

Tunica                  10,778                          9,944

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


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