Nashville Surpasses Memphis as Tennessee’s Largest City

Nashville now takes the crown as the largest city in Tennessee. Recent census statistics have surfaced that now gives Nashville a slight (just under 8,000 residents) advantage over Memphis, one that is projected to continue to increase given the level of growth and immigration to the Nashville area, due in large part to strong job and housing markets.

But really?

Curious to see how things really panned out, and how Memphis could’ve been ahead of Nashville in past, I did a little digging. If you go outside of the city limits and consider the broader metropolitan areas, you come up with the following census data.

In 2013, the ten county / three state Memphis Metropolitan Area of 3,013 square miles showed 1,341,746 residents overall. In 2016, the fourteen county all-Tennessee Nashville Metropolitan Area of 7,484 square miles showed 1,865,298 residents overall. It’s interesting to see that the numbers, even though three years apart, also support this slight advantage.

Of particular interest also is Murfressboro, which is for a second year one of the nation’s fifteen fastest-growing large cities, and the only one in Tennessee, with a 4.7 percent growth to a population of 131,947.


Growth in Nashville is in large part due to the growth that’s already occurring. It’s a pack mentality thing to see a successful and expanding city as a great place to relocate to – people do what others do, often without anyone really telling them to. It works for companies looking to expand their operations or relocate just as well as it does people in search of a better life for themselves and their families.

So what fuels the growth? Low taxes, a great job market, and a healthy and expanding real estate market. There are jobs around every corner. In fact, there aren’t enough people to staff the jobs. It all sounds too good to be true, and it mostly isn’t, aside from the soaring price of real estate.

The key to future expansion and continued success will be the implementation of mass transit along the major corridors of 40 and 65, allowing people who have to live 20-40 minutes from where they work to be able to afford it the ability to quickly and easily get to work and to the things they need.

Mayor Megan Barry has already committed light rail along Gallatin Pike, and has put forward an initiative to get approval for $6 billion worth of public funding. While that’s great, the growth and expansion along 65 is as great if not even greater, although somewhat further out, and just as needed as eastward service. She has said that Gallatin Pike carries the most mass transit riders in the region, but that’s not necessarily indicative of where the need is, as the thoroughfares that show the most volume are the areas most in need; with continued growth, all lines will eventually max out to capacity.

Keep Reading

Interested in more details? The Tennessean has published an at-length article with all the nuts and bolts of the population changes right here, and also have written on the subject of light rail here.

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