MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A new report is giving us a look at the poverty rates in Memphis and Shelby County. Most of which are increasing with the exception of one.
"They came to work and to seek opportunities where they can provide a better life for their families," said Las Americas Executive Director Greg Diaz.
Diaz says that's why he's not surprised the Hispanic population in Memphis and Shelby County is bucking the latest trend.
The 2019 Memphis Poverty Fact Sheet shows an increase in poverty across all demographics in Shelby County with the exception of Hispanics. The group saw a 20% decrease in poverty from 2017 to 2018, he time period measured in the report.
The report also shows Hispanic families are exiting poverty and moving to the suburbs. Researchers say this could be because Hispanic families are choosing to enroll their children in those schools.
“As Latinos increase their work, and they’re able to make more money, they’re able to buy houses just about anywhere they want to,” said Diaz.
This latest report, compiled from the U.S. Census Bureau, is co-authored by Dr. Elena Delavega and Dr. Gregory Blumenthal.
They say the trend across Shelby County and Memphis isn't a good one as poverty continues to rise above overall poverty rates in both the United States and Tennessee.
"Part of the problem is that the minimum wage has not increased since 2009," said Dr. Delavega.
Delavega says in order to fight the trend, wages and public transportation need to improve.
Having a poverty rate of 27.8% in the city has a negative impact and reaches many.
"They're not able to go to the small restaurants and to buy anything from anybody and that has a very negative impact on the entire economy of the region," said Delavega.
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris released this statement in regards to the report:
“It is extremely troubling that our poverty numbers are worsening. This is why my administration will remain focused on initiatives that will help lift people out of poverty. We will continue to advocate for an investment in public transit, a livable wage, an expansion in re-entry programming, and workforce development.”
City of Memphis’ Chief Communications Officer Ursula Madden released the following statement:
“Addressing poverty is no easy task, but we work hard every day to lessen it effects. Since 2016, 20,000 more people are employed, and we’ve seen billions in development. Very soon we will have universal, needs-based Pre-K for every child in Memphis that needs it. We recently created the Public Service Corps to help those in our community that are disconnected from society by giving them a chance to do meaningful work and receive free education to better themselves. Every day, we’re working to improve the quality of life for all Memphians, but we still have more work to do.”