As Memphis hits 200 years, poverty and unemployment for minorities still very high

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As Memphis hits 200 years, FOX13 is taking a closer look at how many people in our community make a living wage.

Poverty rates are down in Memphis overall but poverty and unemployment for minorities are still very high.

Memphis is home to the headquarters for FedEx and AutoZone with more on the way.

However, there are still hundreds of employees working at University of Memphis and other public sector jobs who aren't making $15 per hour.

“If we continue to rely on companies offering low wages jobs, we’re going to continue to be in poverty. We need to grow our own entrepreneurial base, we need to grow Memphis from the bottom up,” said Dr. Elena Delavaga, who studies poverty at the University of Memphis.

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Delavaga said the numbers show Memphis still has lot of work to do.

Currently, about 25 percent of Memphis population lives in poverty with staggering racial disparities.

According to Delavaga's research, more than 24 percent of African Americans and nearly 30 percent of Latino Americans are living in poverty.

“We need to start paying those wages, so every Memphian is not only a worker but also a consumer who can participate in the economy – and who can help bring Memphis to the level we want Memphis and that we know Memphis can be,” said Delavaga.

Memphis’ unemployment rate is around four percent. But those numbers are more than double for African Americans at 9.6 percent and even higher for African American men at 11.4 percent.

In the future, Delavaga believes the city should transition from warehouse jobs and start investing in more small businesses.

“Micro credit, small credit at very low interest rates for small business,” she said. “We had so many small businesses in Memphis, great talent. But it is difficult for people to really grow a business if they are having financial difficulties,” Delavaga said.