A New Dataset to Better Understand Economic Upward Mobility in Shelby County

By Ryan Hanson

On Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau released the Opportunity Atlas, which aims to show neighborhoods that offer children the best and worst opportunities to rise out of poverty. The project is a collaboration between the Census Bureau and Harvard and Brown universities and includes data ranging from that for the entire nation down to Census tract level.[1]

A recent article in The New York Times pointed out that there are huge variations in neighborhoods that enable economic upward mobility.[2] Data from the Opportunity Atlas for Shelby County show that individuals who were raised in poor families grew up to earn drastically different household incomes based upon the neighborhood in which they were raised. Individuals coming from low-income families, below 25th percentile, in tract 000200 in the Uptown area north of Downtown grew up to earn an average annual household income of $14,000 in 2014-15, while individuals with parents who earned similar low incomes growing up in tract 021351 in Germantown grew up to earn an average household income of $51,000.[1] Map 1 shows the location of these two tracts within Shelby County.

The Opportunity Atlas provides an interactive online tool that allows users to explore a wide variety of data that show children’s adulthood characteristics based upon where they grew up. It is hoped that these data can be used to make more informed decisions on how to address issues of poverty and better enable economic upward mobility.[2]

The following maps were created using the Opportunity Atlas website and show children’s adulthood outcomes based upon the Census tract in the Shelby County area where they grew up. Similar geographic patterns are seen in each map. Map 2 shows household income outcomes and demonstrates a concentration of children who grew up to earn higher incomes along the Poplar Corridor and in Southeastern Shelby County. In Map 3, a similar pattern can be seen regarding teen pregnancy rates, with lower rates occurring in higher income areas. Map 4 shows that the areas where children grew up to have the highest rates of poverty occurred in Memphis’ inner city.

Visit the link below for further data from Opportunity Atlas:

https://www.opportunityatlas.org/

  Map 1. Reference Map of Shelby County Tracts and Neighborhoods

Map 1. Reference Map of Shelby County Tracts and Neighborhoods

  Map 2. Household Income

Map 2. Household Income

  Map 3. Teenage Pregnancy Rates

Map 3. Teenage Pregnancy Rates

  Map 4. Poverty Rates

Map 4. Poverty Rates