TN’s largest county faces housing-cost burdens
By Sabrina Bates, MVP Regional News Editor
The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth recently released its annual report that provides a snapshot of each county in the state and how it measures up when analyzing data for overall child well-being.
Shelby County saw a slight jump in rank in overall well-being, according to this year’s report in comparison to statistics from the previous year. It still ranks among the bottom in the state in the economic well-being category of the TCCY report. The county ranked 93rd, which improved slightly from 2022’s rank of 94th.
Shelby County has the highest number of people with a recorded population of 924,453 in 2022. Tennessee’s overall population last year is noted at 6,975,170, which is an increase from 2021’s overall population at 6,886,786.
Although the state is seeing an increase in population, Shelby saw a decrease, with a recorded 2021 total population of 936,023. Children under age 18 make up 24.9 percent of its total population. Last year, there were 230,187 youth in Shelby County. In 2021, that number was higher at 230,999.
Determination factors for a look at the economic well-being of families in Shelby County include children living in poverty and housing and child-care cost burdens. It faces significant challenges in those facing housing-cost burdens, compared to last year’s report.
Shelby County’s rank remained dead last in the state when determining the percentage of its population that is considered severe housing-cost burdened. The county’s rate slightly increased from 17.3 percent in 2022 to 17.7 percent this year. In assessing those who are housing cost burdened, the state examined the number of households that spend 50 or more of their total income on housing costs. Shelby County ranked 95th in that category in reports from last year and this year.
Nationally, those who rent are seeing spikes in monthly amounts, while Tennessee and its counties show numbers that are reflective of the trending increase. In February 2022, the median monthly household rent was reported at $1,904. Earlier this year, those numbers jumped to $1,937 across the U.S.
Tennessee’s monthly median rent prices climbed 12 percent in the past year. Rent.com reports the median in Tennessee at $1,605 this year, compared to $1,412 in 2022. The spike left Tennessee with having the 9th highest median monthly rent prices in the nation.
Shelby County only saw a slight increase in monthly rent costs – from $1,203 in 2022 to $1,219 – according to the TCCY report.
As inflation continues to impact households, Tennessee and its counties weren’t immune to seeing an increase in the price of homes. The median price of home sales reported during 2021 was $244,900. Last year, that number rose to $283,410. Home prices also increased in Shelby County. In 2021, the average home price was $233,000. That price increased to $260,000 in 2022 in the county.
There were less children in the food-stamp program in Shelby County last year compared to the previous year. In 2021, 93,263 children (40 percent) received the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the county. In 2022, that number dropped to 87,874 children (38 percent) in the program in Shelby County.
State and county data shows increases in personal incomes from 2021 to 2022. Tennessee’s average annual income was reported at $51,046 in 2021. That amount increased to $56,560 in 2022. In Shelby County, personal income averages were slightly higher than the state at $53,855 annually in 2021 and $59,212 in 2022.
The county saw a slight decrease in the percentage of children living in poverty in 2022 than the previous year, which improved Shelby County’s state ranking. According to the TCCY data, the percentage of children living in poverty in Shelby County in 2022 was 23.9 compared to 33.2 percent in 2021. The county’s ranking in that category went from 88th last year to 68th, based on this year’s data.
Statewide, 18.4 percent of children live in poverty. The county with the lowest percentage of children living in poverty was Middle Tennessee’s Williamson County, with Franklin, Brentwood and Spring Hill a part of that county. Williamson County’s rate was 3.9 percent.
The county with the highest percent of children living in poverty was Hancock County, which borders Virginia. It is among the smallest counties in Tennessee, with a reported 2022 population of 6,757. Hancock County shows 42.6 percent of its children living in poverty in 2022.
Another data-set determining counties’ economic well-being includes child-care cost burden. The burden is defined as child-care costs for a household with two children as a percent of median household income. In Tennessee, the percent of households that are “burdened” by child care costs was 23.9 in 2022.
Shelby County still ranks low in the state. The 2022 report showed 26 percent of households burdened by child-care costs. This year’s report saw that percentage slightly increase to 26.7. It ranked 85th in last year’s report and climbed to 77th this year.
Lake County in West Tennessee has the highest percentage of families burdened with child-care costs in the state at 40.1. Williamson County has the state’s lowest percentage at 11.9, based on its population and median household income.
For more information, visit https://www.tn.gov/tccy/data-and-research/county-profiles.html.