Memphis Success Tied to Reducing Poverty


“It is nothing short of criminal that almost half our children are living in conditions of grinding, concentrated poverty.  But if the moral and religious reasons aren’t enough for action, it’s in our enlightened self-interest because poverty and its web of problems drive up the cost of government and drive down our economic opportunity.”

– Smart City Memphis blog

It’s the poverty, stupid.” That’s the blunt assessment of a Smart City Memphis post about what our number one priority should be in Memphis.  The post was a response to recent statistics comparing the economic conditions in 35 regions of the U.S.  

The post does not site the origin of the study, but the numbers closely resemble this 2011 Strategic Assessment report released about the St. Louis Region.  This study compared 35 peer regions and found Memphis, sadly, ranked #1 in several key areas that are crippling to social and economic growth.

Our education, public safety, and economic wellness have continued to rise and fall with the level of poverty in our community.  More than one-quarter of this city’s population (26.5) lives in poverty. This is why Memphis Mayor AC Wharton is seeking Tennessee governor Bill Haslam’s commitment to lower the poverty rate in Memphis by 10% in the next 10 years. 

In this 2011 article, Memphis Magazine contributor Tom Jones put Memphis’ poverty rate into perspective – approximately 150,000 Memphians live in poverty, which makes it a “city” the size of Chattanooga. 

The Smart City Memphis post argues that while education reform must continue (and we would add criminal justice reform) none of these efforts can move the needle significantly if the root causes of poverty in Memphis are not sytematically addressed.  

“It is the moral and economic issue of our time and there is no issue that more deserves concerted effort.” 

 – Smart City Memphis blog

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