The campaign for mayor has been defined by generalizations, platitudes, and talking points.

Rarely have candidates illustrated their positions with data or how their proposed agendas would be shaped within Memphis’ data context.

It all begins with a vision, a compelling, inclusive, and inspiring vision that can mobilize and inspire the city, a vision which every Memphian can see themselves part of.  Mayors of many successful cities are keepers of their cities’ visions, articulating a specific vision for what their cities aspire to be, and they then build the programs, projects, and plans to achieve that vision.  

For too many years, city government has not set out a vision for Memphis so it has lacked that key driver for all of its ambitions and the benchmark on which everything it does can be measured.

Once armed with the vision, Mayor-elect Paul Young can identify some overriding strategies and address Memphis’ most troublesome and richest opportunities.  Data should be the starting place for their development.

As the new mayor considers his vision and the priorities associated with it, here are some key  data points that should factor into his deliberations:   

  • 26% – the increase in violent crime rate since the Crime Commission was created, standing now at 582.1, compared to 462.7 in 2006.
  • 346% – increase in the number of murders since the Crime Commission was created, which should raise questions about effectiveness of its strategies for crime reduction
  • 31% – increase in major violent crime since Strickland Administration took office, suggesting the need for new thinking that better balances intervention and prevention with enforcement
  • 42% – share of African American workers earning less than $15 an hour
  • $31.30 – living wage (hourly wage) needed for one adult with one child
  • 50% – how much higher median hourly income is for White workers compared to Black workers
  • 17% – percent of working poor
  • 19% – percent of houses sold in 2022 bought by Wall Street investment firms (#2 among 50 largest cities)
  • 20% – percent of renters facing eviction, 2016-2019
  • 80% – percent of high school graduates who are not ready for college or career
  • 5% – Percent of 16 -24 year-olds not working or in school, 2020 (#6 of 100 largest metros)
  • 60% – percent of people in poverty who are women
  • 8 – number of zip codes with poverty rates higher than 30% (2 higher than 40%)
  • 32.7% – percent of children under 18 living in poverty – #3 among cities of 500,000+
  • 41% – percent of children whose parents lack secure employment
  • 66% – percent of people in poverty not living in households with children
  • 9% – percent of children living in low-income households where no adults work
  • 14% – percent of children who speak a language other than English at home
  • 87,000 – number of children in single-parent families
  • 13,000 – number of children living with neither parent
  • 9,000 – number of children in care of grandparents
  • 3% – percent of people in poverty living near public transit running every 15 minutes
  • 55% – percent of parents experiencing employment problems due to inadequate child care
  • 25,833 – population loss since 2010
  • 34 – median age, 2020
  • 57% – percent of residents experiencing housing burden
  • 36% – percent of residents living in high-poverty neighborhoods (44% of Black residents)
  • 22 – average number of minutes traveling to work
  • 46% – percent of residents living within 10-minute walk to a park
  • 38% – percent of adults who are obese (Shelby County)
  • 26% – percent of physically inactive adults
  • #135 – ranking for high-performing cities using economic indicators
  • #140 – ranking among cities for high-tech GDP growth, 2016-2021
  • $416 million – gain in disposable income for renters if no rent burden
  • $24.7 billion – increase in GDP as a result of closing racial income gap (for MSA)

Sources: National Equity Atlas, U.S. Census, Slingshot Memphis, Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities, ParkScore, Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center, County Health Rankings, Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, MIT Living Wage Calculator


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