(WMC-TV) - Sobering new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau rank Memphis as the poorest large metro area in the nation. The data characterizes metropolitan Memphis as a socioeconomic nightmare.
In fact, according to the data, one in every five people in metropolitan Memphis lives in poverty.
"My understanding is that we're actually better than we were last year, it's just that other cities improved more," said Dr. Jeff Wallace, an economic expert at the University of Memphis.
The survey covers more than 40 topics, including education, income, health insurance coverage, occupation and living expenses.
Memphis' poverty ranking is a full two percentage points ahead of second place New Orleans and the three remaining communities that make up the top five.
Wallace said the city is feeling the long term effects of decades of segregation within government and schools.
"It's not necessarily the fault of the schools, but it is a community-wide problem and one that we're going to face for many years to come," he said.
Wallace also cited a low cost job market with an undereducated workforce.
"If you are only offering cheap labor, there's always somewhere else in the world that offers cheaper labor," he said.
And while Wallace believes the data identifies the problem, the solution could be decades away.
"We definitely have to improve opportunities one way or another for our minority population here," he said. "If we don't do that we'll never succeed."
10-year census figures will be out soon, and Wallace expects those to reflect the same poor ranking.
You can read the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey here: http://www.census.gov/acs/www/
Photo courtesy Flickr user Sean Davis.