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Report: Shelby County Children Are Most Disadvantaged in the State

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A new report on adolescence ranks Shelby County last in Tennessee for children, highlighting prevailing social and economic factors that could affect a healthy childhood.

The Save the Children organization looked at  poverty levels, food insecurity, high school graduation rates, teenage pregnancy rates and childhood deaths to determine their rankings.  

Shelby County is in the bottom 12 percent of all counties nationwide. In one metric—graduation rates—about one-in-five youth here don’t graduate high school, even though the state as a whole has the third-lowest dropout rate in the country. 

The study ranks Tennessee 36th for childhood outcomes, slightly above other southern states with high poverty levels. The state rose four spots since the last report. 

Rankings also reveal a large equity gap between counties within the state. Williamson County in central Tennessee, one of the wealthiest in the U.S., is the 9th best place for children in the entire nation, according to the report. Shelby County’s childhood poverty rate is 10 times that of Williamson’s.

Yolanda Minor with the Save the Children organization says a lack of resources where a child grows up is limiting their ability to succeed. 

“It shows that far too many children in our country are missing out on the futures they deserve,” she says.  

These childhood inequalities, she says, are only becoming more pronounced during the novel coronavirus pandemic.