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Tennessee continued to follow national trends, seeing a decline in its poverty rate for the second year in a row, according to the 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) one-year estimates released Thursday, September 14, by the US Census Bureau.

The state’s poverty rate decreased from 16.7 percent in 2015 to 15.8 percent in 2016, which was still slightly higher than the national average of 14 percent in 2016. Tennessee also saw increases in its median household income averages and its percentages of people covered by health insurance, according to the annual survey.

The ACS provides a wide range of demographic and economic statistics on states and local areas for communities of 65,000 or greater.

“The one-year estimates are important for researchers because they are the timeliest of the American Community Surveys and are useful when analyzing large populations,” said Melissa Stefanini, director of the Tennessee State Data Center. “We look forward to the five-year estimate release in December, which will give us a fuller picture of all populations.”

A local partner to the US Census Bureau, the Tennessee State Data Center (TN SDC) is housed within the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business.

Local highlights from Tennessee and the Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) from the 2016 survey include:


  • Half of the MSAs experienced poverty rates below the state average of 15.8 percent: Chattanooga*, Clarksville*, Cleveland, Knoxville, and Nashville–Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin (Nashville).
  • Cleveland and Nashville MSA poverty rates were also lower than the national average.


  • Tennessee’s median age was 38.6, which was slightly older than the national average of 37.9.
  • Clarksville, Jackson, Memphis*, and Nashville MSAs reported media ages younger than the state average.
  • Clarksville had the youngest MSA in Tennessee at 30.8, while Kingsport–Bristol–Bristol* had the oldest at 45.1.


  • Tennessee had a lower median household income ($48,547) than the national average of $57,617.
  • Nashville’s median household income ($60,030) was the only MSA in the state to surpass the national average.
  • Five MSAs had median household incomes above the state average: Clarksville, Cleveland, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville.
  • Median household income increased in eight MSAs and Tennessee from 2015 to 2016.

Health Insurance Coverage

  • The percentage of Tennesseans who were insured increased from 2015 to 2016 from 89.7 percent to 91 percent, respectively. That was slightly below the national average of 91.4 percent.
  • The Knoxville MSA has the lowest percent uninsured at 8.1 percent.
  • Four MSAs have a lower percentage of uninsured population than the nation (8.6 percent), and seven are lower than the state average of 9 percent.

*The Chattanooga, Clarksville, Kingsport–Bristol–Bristol, and Memphis MSAs include counties in other states.

For a snapshot of Tennessee and its MSAs, visit the TN SDC.

According to the US Census Bureau, the ACS “provides a wide range of important statistics about people and housing for every community in the nation. The survey is the only source of local estimates for most of the 40 topics it covers for even the smallest communities. It produces statistics for ancestry, language, education, commuting, employment, mortgage status and rent, as well as income, poverty, and health insurance. Statistics will be available for all geographies down to the block group level regardless of population size.”

The mission of the TN SDC is to provide efficient access to US Census data and products, training and technical assistance to data users, feedback to the Census Bureau on data usability, as well as state and local government data needs and operational issues.


Melissa Stefanini (865-974-6070,

Lydia McCoy (865-974-6086,