New data finds Memphis is poorest large metro in America - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

New data finds Memphis is poorest large metro in America

Dr. Elena Delavega speaking to Memphis City Council about poverty numbers. (Source: WMC Action News 5) Dr. Elena Delavega speaking to Memphis City Council about poverty numbers. (Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

Troubling new numbers show Memphis is the poorest large metro in the country.

City council members discussed the data Tuesday and looked at how they can help improve the numbers.

"It was such a disappointment," Dr. Elena Delavega of University of Memphis's Department of Social Work told council members Tuesday about the recently released poverty numbers.

The numbers come from 2016 and they show that Memphis is actually getting poorer.

The data showed Memphis' overall poverty rate grew to 26.8 percent--the poverty rate for children is 44.7 percent.

"To me, what's most alarming is the wages and the wage differential. The inequality that's clearly happening," Delavega said.

The data shows that African Americans in Memphis have a median annual income $20,000 less than whites.

"When we are recruiting companies to come here and then providing incentives for them to be here, I think that we need to require or incentivize more companies that pay much more than a living wage," council member Martavius Jones said.

Council members are also exploring ways to add to Memphis' MPLOY youth summer job program. 

The six-week program currently puts 1,250 teens to work--though thousands more apply.

Council member Ed Ford Jr. wants the number of youth hired to hit 2,000 in the next three years. He said that would be a step in the right direction when it comes to reducing the cycle of poverty. 

"We can change that. It may take 5 years, it may take 10 years, it may take one generation, but I say let's start doing the work now," Ford said.

Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission will be having a joint meeting in a few weeks to discuss the numbers and work together to determine how the governments can improve the problem.

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