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Stunted Growth

Population estimates indicate slow growth for the Memphis metro area.


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The first official population estimates since the 2010 U.S. Census provide worrisome news for the Memphis metro area in terms of growth.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates for July 1, 2011, released in April, show that more people have moved out of the eight-county metro area than moved in during the 15 months since the 2010 Census was taken on April 1, 2010. That's a turnaround from the last decade, when 18,481 more people moved to the metro area than moved away.

DeSoto County, which has been listed among the nation's top 100 fastest-growing counties throughout the last decade, failed to retain that ranking for the 15-month period.

Fayette County, which has also been among or near the nation's top 100 fastest-growing counties during most of the last decade, did not make the top 100 list either.

Shelby County continued to lose people to outward movement, which has been occurring since the 1970s. However, a demographer at the University of Nebraska at Omaha said the latest figures, combined with other population trends, indicate that Shelby may be on a path toward no growth or population loss.

Louis Pol, dean of the university's college of business and a former faculty member at the University of Memphis, did not forecast when the no-growth or population loss situations may occur. He said whether Shelby drops to no-growth or population decline may depend on whether the county's Hispanic population continues to increase at a good pace.

"I am very interested in the increase in the number of Hispanics moving to Tennessee in general but in particular to Memphis and Shelby County," Pol said.

Census figures show that Shelby County's population increased by just over 30,000 between 2000 and 2010, rising to 927,644. Countywide, the Hispanic population increased by nearly 29,000, climbing to 52,092.

"If you take this 30,000 increase [in Shelby County overall] and take out this almost 29,000 increase in the Hispanic population, you basically have no growth at all," Pol said.

The census estimates for July 1st of last year show Shelby with a 7,444 population increase since April 1st of the previous year. The increase resulted from births exceeding deaths and people moving into the area from foreign countries. During the period, the county had 8,382 more births than deaths, while there was a net domestic out-movement of 2,920 and net international in-movement of 2,005.

The dominant factor in Shelby County's low growth in the last decade was the major outward movement of people from Memphis. Census and birth-death numbers reflect that at least 80,000 more people moved out of the city than moved in during the decade. Many of the movers left Shelby County or the entire metro area.

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