MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New research shows Memphis is one of the poorest cities in the country.
The national poverty rate is going down, but the Bluff City’s numbers are climbing, and Memphis’ children are listed among the poorest of the poor.
Dr. Elena Delavega with the University of Memphis has been studying poverty for the past three years. She said poverty rates have generally gone down.
“Poverty rates for single women households with no children and married couple households have decreased,” she said.
However, child poverty rates in Memphis are on the rise. Close to half of the city’s children are listed below the poverty line.
Dr. Delavega thinks this should send a clear message to the city.
“We need to support mothers,” she said. “We need child care that is affordable. We need better public transportation.”
Delavega blames much of the problem on Tennessee’s minimum wage.
“People in Memphis who use public transportation have minimum wages that are half the national average,” she said.
Race and ethnicity also play a big part. Delavega said poverty rates for non-Hispanics have been going down steadily since 2009.
“Our poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanics is much higher than the national average,” she said.
She also noted a direct tie between poverty and crime, and thinks if Memphis is going to turn things around, we’ll have to start lending hands.
“We have to take care of our own,” she said. “If we don’t take care of our own, none of us can be safe.”
For cities with a population less than 1 million, Memphis was listed as the poorest in the nation.
Delavega said she plans on providing Memphis city officials with her research.