Memphis Population 2017

Memphis has an estimated population of 670,000, up from 652,000 in 2011. The greater Memphis metropolitan area, which includes counties in Arkansas and Mississippi, has an estimated population of 1.33 million, which makes Memphis the second-largest metro area in Tennessee after Nashville. This metropolitan statistical area (MSA) includes the Tennessee counties of Fayette, Tipton, and Shelby, along with the Mississippi counties of Tate, Marshall, DeSoto and Tunica, and Crittenden County, Arkansas. The overall metro area has a higher percentage of white residents and a higher per capita income than the city proper.

Memphis Demographics

The racial composition of Memphis is:

  • Black or African American: 62.6%
  • White: 31.7% (non-Hispanic: 29.5%)
  • Asian: 1.7%
  • Native American: 0.2%
  • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.1%
  • Other race: 2.7%
  • Two or more races: 1.2%
  • Hispanic or Latino of any race: 5.0%

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Memphis is the poorest city in the United States with a median household income of $32,285, or $37,767 for a family. 17% of families and almost 21% of the population lives below the poverty line, including 30% of people under the age of 18.

Memphis History

Memphis is located on a large bluff rising from the Mississippi River, which means it was quickly settled by Native Americans. It was first settled by the Mississippi Culture. Europeans first explored the area in the 16th century, first by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and then French explorers. The Spanish governor of Louisiana acquired land in the area at the end of the 18th century and built a fort, although the territory was eventually ceded to the United States. It then became the westernmost point of the new state of Tennessee in 1796.

Memphis was not laid out as a city until 1819, at which point it was named after the ancient Egyptian capital on the Nile. It quickly became a transportation center because it is located in a flood-free area high above the river, while the outlying areas became cotton plantations.

Many African-American slaves were brought to the area and Memphis transformed into a slave market. Around one million slaves were transported to plantations in the area in a forced migration in the 1800s, many along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Increased immigration in the 1840s through 1860s caused the Irish population to increase from 9.9% to 23.2% in 1860.

Tennessee seceded from the Union in 1861 and Memphis became a Confederate stronghold until it was captured by the Union Army and used as a supply base. This attracted many escaped slaves to the city and the population rose from 3,000 in 1860 to 20,000 just five years later. This led to growing tension between Irish policeman and black Union soldiers after the war, culminating in the Memphis Riot in 1866, with the population plummeting to 15,000 by 1870. In the next decade, the population was further decimated by an outbreak of yellow fever, which caused the Memphis population to fall by 75%. This led the city to lose its city charter for five years.

The city quickly began to grow again, with a population that grew 92% from 1880 to 1890.

Memphis Population Growth

Population growth in the Memphis metropolitan area is currently stagnant, according to recent Census estimates. The nine-county metro area has grown just 0.6% per year, while Metro Nashville is growing three times faster.

Year Population Change
2015 655,770 1.40%
2010 646,889 -0.50%
2000 650,100 6.50%
1990 610,337 -5.50%
1980 646,174 3.60%
1970 623,988 25.40%
1960 497,524 25.60%
1950 396,000 35.20%
1940 292,942 15.70%
1930 253,143 55.90%
1920 162,351 23.80%
1910 131,105 28.10%
1900 102,320 58.60%
1890 64,495 92.00%
1880 33,592 -16.50%
1870 40,226 77.80%
1860 22,623 155.90%
1850 8,841 0.00%

Memphis Population in 2017 Source: Thomas R Machnitzki

Memphis Race Data

Race Population Percentage
White 198,852 30.28%
Black or African American 412,583 62.83%
American Indian and Alaska Native 1,572 0.24%
Asian 11,214 1.71%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 238 0.04%
Some Other Race 20,581 3.13%
Two or More Races 11,675 1.78%

Population Pyramid

Memphis Housing Indicators

Indicator Value
Total Housing Units 297,955
Owner-Occupied Units 122,906
Renter-Occupied Units 126,869
Median Home Value $94,000
Median Rent $828
Vacancy Rate 16.2%
Houses With Mortgage 81,701
Houses Without Mortgage 41,205
Median Number of Rooms (per House) 5.2

This chart shows the employment and labor force participation rates in Memphis for residents over 16 years of age. The 2015 unemployment rate is 7.9% and the labor force participation rate is 64.2%.

Memphis Family/Household Indicators

Indicator Value
Average Household Size 2.57
Average Family Size 3.41
Married Couple Families 72,884
Male Householder (no wife) Families 13,466
Female Householder (no husband) Families 59,491
Non Family Households
Unmarried Partner Households (Opposite Sex) 5.8%
Unmarried Partner Households (Same Sex) 0.5%