Poverty and Memphis have been tightly linked for too long. For years, Memphis has hovered at or near the top of many national poverty rankings. The following statistics accurately describe Memphis today, but they need not be predictors of Memphis tomorrow.
among 53 MSAs with populations greater than 1,000,000, in child poverty.
among 53 MSAs with populations greater than 1,000,000, in overall poverty.
among 34 cities with populations greater than 500,000, in child poverty.
among 34 cities with populations greater than 500,000, in overall poverty.
Even more troubling, Memphis leads the country in child poverty. This speaks to the intergenerational quality of much poverty; most children who "inherit" poverty from their parents will face much greater challenges in escaping it themselves later in life.
What are the odds that a Memphis child born into the bottom fifth income bracket will move to the top fifth income bracket?
The almost inescapable challenges of multidimensional poverty deprive families and neighborhoods of opportunities for stability and growth for generations.
Tom Jones, Principal of Smart City Consulting, sheds light on the ever-increasing number of impoverished neighborhoods in our city. He states, "It's become our version of the Bermuda Triangle, but instead of vanishing ships and airplanes, whole families vanish into our sea of poverty. And we hardly take notice."
While Memphis ranks near the top in nearly every category of poverty, the city was also recently named by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as the most generous city in America. Given the deep structural and intergenerational factors that inhibit true economic mobility, and our limited local ability to affect broader macroeconomic trends, there is no doubt that our generosity matters. Whatever the source or reason for our giving, we as a city are trying.
So how do we reconcile this generosity with the persistence of crippling poverty? There are a few possible explanations.
Learn more about how Slingshot Memphis will disrupt poverty in the Bluff City.