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2020 Poverty

The State of Children in Memphis

Memphis and Shelby County have made important strides in reducing child poverty, but children still bear the brunt of poverty and suffer the consequences.

In 2019, Memphis continued in second place in both overall poverty and child poverty among large Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) with populations greater than 1,000,000 and in child poverty among large cities with populations greater than 500,000.

Memphis, however, ranked in fifth place in overall poverty among large cities with populations greater than 500,000, and improved significantly among MSAs with populations larger than 500,000. Memphis may be doing better, but children continue suffering the most egregious poverty levels.

Additionally, median incomes for all groups increased in both Shelby County and the City of Memphis. This is in contrast with the rest of Tennessee, where median incomes for all groups declined. In 2019, Memphis performed better than Tennessee, even though poverty rates remain higher in Memphis than in the rest of the State

Source(s): The 2020 Update of the Memphis Poverty Fact Sheet, Produced Annually by Dr. Elena Delavega of the School of Social Work at the University of Memphis, and Dr. Gregory M. Blumenthal. Data from the 2019 American Community Survey Released in September 2020 and previous datasets.

Top Ten Large Cities in Child Poverty
Table 13 © 2020 Poverty Fact Sheet. Elena Delavega, PhD, MSW, School of Social Work, University of Memphis, & Gregory M. Blumenthal, PhD, GMBS Consulting

The Racialization of Poverty

The Relationship between Poverty and Race It has now been observed for several years that the poverty rate among non-Hispanic Whites is lower in Shelby County than in Tennessee or the nation as a whole. The differences between the poverty rates of minority groups and non-Hispanic Whites are striking. While Memphis ranks second in overall poverty, it ranks significantly better when only non-Hispanic Whites are included. The disparities between non-Hispanic Whites and Blacks are much more severe than nationally, and this is cause for great concern. The divide between the city and the county, as evidenced by the racial and geographical differences in poverty, tends to deprive the city of Memphis of the funds it needs to support the region. 

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Poverty Rates by Zip Codes

The impact of poverty on education, on health, and on social outcomes is relevant to the entire community, regardless of what zip codes have greater levels of poverty. 

Poverty Rates By Zipcode 2 © 2020 Poverty Fact Sheet. Elena Delavega, PhD, MSW, School of Social Work, University of Memphis, & Gregory M. Blumenthal, PhD, GMBS Consulting