NCRM releases poverty report comparing previous 50 years in Memphis

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A poverty report was released Tuesday detailing how African Americans have fared in Memphis and Shelby County over the last 50 years.

Memphis is currently the poorest metropolitan area in America. In an effort to improve the city, National Civil Rights Museum commissioned a report on poverty in the city.

Despite more white collar jobs than 50 years ago, African American poverty rates are 2.5 times higher than that of whites.

"Has there been enough movement? No, there hasn't been enough movement based on a 50 year time frame," NCRM President Terri Freeman said.

Tuesday, the museum released a study called "The Poverty Report: Memphis since MLK".

University of Memphis Professor Elena Delavega evaluated the poverty in Shelby County since the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The data presented shows African Americans are more educated than 50 years ago, but the median income for African Americans has remained approximately at 50 percent of the income for whites.

"Though people are working, those wages are not enough to bring people out of poverty. If we had a mechanism for increasing minimum wage every year with the cost of living, that would be a lot easier on everybody. It would be a lot easier on business," Delavega said.

"It's really hard in 2018, to move from being in poverty to being on the other side," Freeman said.

But now the question is: where do we go from here?

"Populations of jails and prisons were a fraction of what they are today in 1968. The largest percentage growth in that population has been black people," Josh Spickler with Just City said.

"I don't think this is about placing blame, but I think it's about coming together to make policies that are more equitable and more fair," activist Wendy Thomas said.

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