New U.S. Census data: West TN population shrinking

If West Tennessee were a state unto itself, it would be shrinking, reports WREG TV of Memphis after a review of recent U.S. Census estimates.

The estimates show that the part of the state west of the Tennessee River, including Memphis and Shelby County, lost nearly 1,200 residents between 2010 and 2016, leaving a total population of just over 1.56 million. Of the 21 counties in the region, 15 experienced declines.

The problems of West Tennessee contrast sharply with the relative growth and prosperity spreading across other parts of the state. During the same six-year period, Middle and East Tennessee combined to attract more than 305,000 new residents, and their populations increased by about 9.4 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively.

The growth in Middle Tennessee isn’t limited to Davidson County, which added more than 6,000 residents from 2015 to 2016 alone. Smaller outlying counties such as Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson each have experienced gains of up to 4,000 to 10,000 people a year.

East Tennessee also sustained healthy growth despite declines in the Tri-Cities area and Upper East Tennessee, which have been hard hit by losses in manufacturing and mining jobs. Hamilton and Knox counties each added more than 20,000 residents between 2010 and 2016, while Blount, Bradley and Sevier counties increased by 4,500 to 6,500 people.

In West Tennessee, Hardeman County suffered the largest population loss, declining 6.7 percent from 27,253 in the 2010 census to 25,435 last year. But other counties, including Haywood, Obion and Weakley, saw their populations fall by about 4 percent to 5 percent during the six-year period.

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