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What’s Living in Memphis Like? | 🏆TOP Moving to Memphis Tips [Reasons, Data, More]

Memphis is a thriving city with a rich culture and offers a variety of dining, entertainment and music options. Memphis is known for blues and rock music, amazing Southern cuisine, and a lively nightlife with nightclubs, live music venues, hip bars, and lounges. There’s always something happening in the Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll, also known by nicknames like Home of the Blues and Bluff City.

Memphis also boasts a rich history. Named for Memphis, Egypt, the city grew rapidly as a transportation and trade hub on the Mississippi River in the 19th century. It was a major slave market prior to the Civil War which led to massive waves of immigration including German and Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s. Briefly a stronghold of the Confederate Army, it was captured by the Union in the Battle of Memphis. The city grew rapidly until yellow fever epidemics struck in the 1870s, devastating the population and driving out the upper and middle classes for decades.

Union Avenue cotton merchants in 1937 when Memphis was the largest cotton spot market in the world.

Between 1900 and 1950, the population of Memphis quadrupled. The 1960s were an important time in the history of Memphis and America as it was the center for the Civil Rights Movement. It was here that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The early to mid-20th century also helped cement the reputation of Memphis in the American music scene. Already long known for its blues music, by the 1940s Memphis was the epicenter of American rock ‘n’ roll thanks to Stax Records, Sun Studio, and venues on Beale Street.

Today, Memphis is one of the best places to live in the South with amazing weather, a low cost of living, and a rich culture unlike any other place on earth.

Memphis Population & Demographics

The population of Memphis is 651,000. It’s Tennessee’s second-largest city after Nashville, the anchor of West Tennessee, and the principal city of the Mid-South region. The Mid-South does not have formal boundaries and may include parts of West Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Southern Missouri, North Mississippi, and most of Arkansas. The population of Greater Memphis is 1.35 million.

The median age in Memphis is 34.3 with a foreign-born population of just 6%, far below the national average of almost 14%. The racial and ethnic composition of Memphis is:

  • Black or African American: 64.1%
  • Non-Hispanic white: 25.7%
  • Hispanic of any race: 7.2%
  • Asian: 1.7%

 

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Memphis is a majority Black city, although the metro area has a slight white majority. Like many other cities, Memphis has experienced a reversal of the Great Migration in which Black families fled the south. This new trend has been called the “New Great Migration.”

However, a study found that Memphis is still the 4th Most Segregated City in America. More than 46% of Black and African American Memphians live in a neighborhood in which at least 80% of residents are also Black. The study also pointed to a racial disparity in poverty: while only 2% of white Memphians live in neighborhoods with a poverty rate of at least 40%, more than 20% of Black residents live in communities with extreme poverty.

Memphis Climate – What Is the Weather Like in Memphis?

The climate in Memphis is humid subtropical. While living in Memphis, you’ll enjoy all four seasons with hot, muggy summers and wet, cool winters.
At the height of summer, thunderstorms are common but short and the average temperature is 83°F. Summers can come with brutal humidity. By fall, the weather is dry, mild, and perfect for enjoying the outdoors. If you’re moving from a colder climate, you’ll love winter in Memphis with an average high of 50°F and very little snow.

Memphis gets about 54 inches of rain per year but just 4” of snow. There are 218 sunny days per year but 108 average rainy days.

 

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The best time to visit Memphis is the start of May to mid-June for warm spring activities without much rain or the end of August through October for cooler, dry weather. The tourist season is June to September when crowds (and the heat and humidity!) can be unmanageable.

LEARN MORE: Want to know more about the weather? Check our complete guide to the Memphis climate!

Memphis Transportation – How to Get Around Memphis, TN

You have plenty of ways to get around Memphis without a car thanks to a fairly robust public transit system operated by the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA). The trolley line runs along the historic Main Street in downtown Memphis and along the riverfront with three routes. The citywide MATA bus system covers 42 routes over 300 square miles and connects the suburbs and the airport to downtown.

While the public transit system does serve the suburbs, it’s best within the I-240 loop. One-way trolley and bus fare is just $1 with discounts for seniors and individuals with disabilities. 7-day and 31-day passes are not currently being sold.

 

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Memphis is served by the Memphis International Airport (MEM) 7 miles outside downtown. In 2019, over 4.5 million passengers traveled through the airport. MEM is no longer a hub for Delta and now has flights from discount carriers like Frontier, Allegiant, Southwest, and Air Canada.

Planning to rely on a car after moving to Memphis? The city is still considered car-dependent with 88% of households having a vehicle. Memphis is a transportation hub of the region with four highway and rail bridges over the Mississippi. I-40, the spur highway I-240 (which forms a loop around eastern neighborhoods of Memphis), and I-55 are the main interstate highways in the Mid-South.

LEARN MORE: This total guide to Memphis public transportation offers more information about trolley, bus, paratransit, and car transportation in Memphis, TN.

Memphis Real Estate – Rent & Home Prices in Memphis

Are you planning to buy or rent after moving to Memphis, TN? Most Memphians are renters. The homeownership rate in Memphis is 46.5%, far below the national average of 64%.

The average home price in Memphis is $169,000, far below the national average, and that’s an increase of 25.5% from 2019 to 2020! The average price per square foot is just $105 with homes usually selling for just under list price. You’ll find homeownership is easily within reach while living in Memphis with three-bedroom homes priced as low as $100,000 or below! Get an idea of what your budget can get you by searching for Memphis, TN homes for sale here.

What about renting? The average apartment rent in Memphis is $870 for a 909-square-foot apartment according to RentCafe. That’s far below the U.S. average rent of $1,468. Of course, average rent varies by neighborhood. Here’s a sample of average rent by neighborhood in Memphis:

  • Mud Island: $1,337
  • Downtown: $1,211
  • Windyke-Southwind: $1,171
  • Cordova: $1,095
  • Sherwood Forest: $1,000
  • Lenox: $981
  • Midtown Memphis: $964
  • Uptown Memphis: $753
  • University Area: $602

 

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As you can see, you can live in the safest neighborhoods in Memphis with great amenities for under $1,200. Interested in luxury living in downtown Memphis? Apartments at the historic and trendy Tennessee Brewery start at $1,170 for a one-bedroom. Enjoy direct entry to the Riverwalk, courtyards, and high-end amenities. Museum Lofts Apartments offers lounges, a glass-front fitness center, and an enclosed courtyard right next to FedExForum, the Beale Street Entertainment District, and more. Studio apartments start at $1,075 and two-bedroom apartments top $1,950.

Best Places to Live in Memphis – Top Memphis Neighborhoods

Thinking about living in Memphis? You’ll want to settle on the right neighborhood! Memphis residents take a lot of pride in their neighborhoods. There’s something for everyone in this historic city, from gritty working-class communities to upscale neighborhoods and hip, action-packed neighborhoods to safe neighborhoods in Memphis for families. Here are some of the best neighborhoods in Memphis to explore.

Midtown – Hipster Neighborhood in Memphis

Midtown is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Memphis and one of the most unique. You’ll find everything from tiny, aging apartments to grand and historic homes in this artsy community. Overton Park is Midtown’s crown jewel with a lake, golf course, park, and forest area while Overton Square is a collection of live music venues, restaurants, and dive bars. The average home price in Midtown, Memphis is $270,000 with average rent of $964.

 

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South Main – Best Memphis Neighborhood for Young Professionals

Popular with more affluent young professionals and millennials, the South Main Arts District is one of the most iconic neighborhoods in Memphis. It’s also the city’s oldest community and the historic home of the Civil Rights Movement and Blues and Rock and Roll. There’s always something happening in South Main, an entertainment hub of the city.

You can see South Main, Memphis homes for sale here with an average price of $454,000 – one of the most expensive areas of the city. Most residents rent with monthly rent ranging from $850 to $1,200 for a studio apartment. The most desirable place to live in South Main is The Landing Residences with three-bedroom apartments as high as $4,200 per month.

Harbor Town – Upscale Planned Community on Mud Island

Harbor Town is a fairly new community. This oasis just outside the downtown business district on the sandbar called Mud Island, Harbor Town is an award-winning community with a walkable layout with trails and ponds surrounding luxury homes. It’s one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Memphis with an average home price of $575,000. Check Harbor Town, Memphis homes for sale here.

 

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Cooper-Young – LGBTQ Friendly Memphis Neighborhood

This vibrant neighborhood in Midtown is known for its amazing restaurants, beautiful architecture, and craft brew scene. It’s also home to a thriving LGBTQ community with the highest density of same-sex couples households in the city. Cooper-Young also features the first rainbow crosswalk in Tennessee!

FURTHER READING: Want the amenities and job opportunities of Memphis with more space and home? Here’s a guide to the best suburbs of Memphis that may be a good fit for you.

What Is the Cost of Living in Memphis?

How much does it cost to live in Memphis? The Memphis cost of living index is 80.4. That means living in Memphis is almost 20% cheaper than the national average! It’s one of the most affordable major cities in the United States.

Virtually everything is affordable in Memphis. The cost of groceries and Memphis utilities are about 88% of the national average while healthcare is even cheaper. The Memphis housing index is 68 – that’s 32% more affordable than average!

LEARN MORE: Our guide to the Memphis cost of living covers living expenses, housing costs, and more in greater detail.

Memphis Typical Living Expenses

  • Ribeye steak, 1 pound: $10.34
  • Milk, half gallon: $1.93
  • Dozen eggs: $1.24
  • Movie ticket: $11.24
  • Monthly fitness club membership: $31.40
  • The average monthly utility bill is $129.99

According to Numbeo, average living expenses in Memphis for a family of four are $2,883 without rent.

Memphis, TN Taxes

Low taxes contribute to a low cost of living in Memphis!

  • There is no Tennessee income tax
  • The Memphis sales tax rate is 9.750%. This includes the Tennessee sales tax of 7.0%, a 2.25% Shelby County tax, and a 0.5% Memphis sales tax.
  • The Memphis property tax is $3.195986 per $100 assessed value.

Homeowners in Memphis pay a Shelby County property tax in addition to a city tax. When you compare the Memphis vs Nashville cost of living, Nashville’s property tax rate is almost 25% higher! Plus, Nashville has a much higher median home price.

Memphis Economy Overview

Memphis is the anchor city of the Mid-South and it has been the region’s major shipping hub for over 150 years. The Memphis International Airport is the second largest cargo airport in the world and the city (together with the airport) is America’s third largest rail center. Thanks to its history as a shipping and transportation center, Memphis is home to major corporations like FedEx, AutoZone, and International Paper.

In recent years, the Memphis economy has diversified with service industries, but manufacturing and transportation industries alone accounted for almost 35% of jobs in 2014.

The Memphis GDP in 2018 was $76.75 million, 49th among the top 50 metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S.

Jobs in Memphis – Average Salary & Best Places to Work in Memphis

Over the next decade, the Memphis job market is expected to grow by almost 37%. In 2020, local economic development leaders projected 68 new projects will bring 3,800 jobs to Shelby County. Memphis has one of the fastest-growing job markets in the United States! According to the BLS, major employment sectors at the end of 2020 included:

  • Trade, Transportation & Utilities (180,000 people)
  • Professional & Business Services (98,000)
  • Education & Health Services (96,000)
  • Government (83,000)
  • Leisure & Hospitality (64,000)
  • Manufacturing (39,000)

Average Household Income & Salary in Memphis

How much do you need to make to live in Memphis? The average salary in Memphis is $61,000, according to Payscale, with an average hourly rate of $16.61.

The median household income in Memphis is $43,794. That’s about 80% of the Tennessee median of $56,000 which is higher than the Mid-South metro area. About 22% of people living in Memphis are below the poverty line.

Here’s the average salary you can expect in common occupations.

  • Operations manager: $65k
  • Human resources manager: $68k
  • Financial analyst: $61k
  • Certified nurse assistant (CNA): $12/hour
  • Registered nurse (RN): $28/hour
  • Customer service representative: $14/hour

Major Employers in Memphis

Greater Memphis is home to many large corporations, small businesses, and government entities. Major employers include:

  • FedEx (click here for FedEx careers in Memphis)
  • Shelby County Schools
  • Tennessee State Government
  • United States Government, including two IRS service centers
  • Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, the largest healthcare provider in Memphis named one of the Best Companies to Work for by Forbes in 2017.
  • City of Memphis (click here for City of Memphis jobs)
  • Baptist Memorial Health Care and its flagship Baptist Memorial Hospital
  • Naval Support Activity Mid-South with 7,500 military, contract, and civilian personnel
  • Kroger
  • Shelby County Government
  • St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a world-renowned organization headquartered in Memphis and named one of the 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials. (Click here for careers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)

 

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Where is the best place to work in Memphis? St. Jude Children’s Hospital frequently tops the list and it’s made Fortune’s list of top companies to work for 9 years running. Glassdoor’s list of the best places to work in Memphis according to employees also includes Hilton (the Information Technology headquarters and data center for Hilton is in Memphis) and Nike which has a large distribution center in Memphis.

Memphis Healthcare & Hospitals

Healthcare in Memphis is consistently ranked well nationwide with top doctors and hospitals. The city is particularly known for its pediatric healthcare system.

The largest Memphis healthcare provider is Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare which operates 7 hospitals as well as outpatient clinics and home health agencies. Memphis is also the headquarters of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital which offers pediatric treatments and is nationally ranked in the treatment of pediatric cancer.

Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis is the best hospital in Memphis and high performing in 6 specialties. Methodist Hospitals of Memphis is nationally ranked in 8 children’s specialties.

Top Restaurants in Memphis, Tennessee

What food is Memphis known for? Memphis-style barbecue and fried chicken! While living in Memphis, these comfort foods will be some of your go-to favorites. Here are some of the top Memphis restaurants you’re sure to love.

B.B. King’s Blues Club

Enjoy Southern comfort food and blues in this laid-back listening room. It’s not just one of the best live music venues in Memphis; the ribs are spectacular!

B.B. King’s Blues Club, 143 Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103 (901) 524-5464

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

 

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Memphis is famous for its fried chicken and Gus’s is a favorite among locals.

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, 310 S Front St, Memphis, TN 38103 (901) 527-4877

Soul Fish Café

This Memphis chain restaurant serves up Southern seafood favorites like po’ boys, catfish, and tacos with beer in a casual environment.

Soul Fish Café, 862 Cooper St, Memphis, TN 38104 (901) 725-0722

Best Things to Do in Memphis

Memphis is famous for its strong music scene. The birthplace of Sun Records, the area launched careers for artists like Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley. The city is most often associated with its historical roots in blues and rock and roll; however, more contemporary artists like Justin Timberlake and Isaac Hayes can also thank Memphis for giving them their start.

Many fun things to do in Memphis involve the music scene in some way, but the city also boasts beautiful scenery and outdoor recreation along the Mississippi River. Ready to see which attractions and exciting Memphis activities will keep you busy? From music venues, museums, and casinos to hip entertainment districts, zoos, and shopping, here are the top things to do in Memphis for couples, families, kids & tourists.

Memphis Attractions

The Harahan Bridge connecting West Memphis, AR and Memphis, TN features America’s second-longest pedestrian bridge over the Mississippi.
  • Graceland is the estate and mansion of Elvis Presley with two jets, a large car museum, and exhibits to explore. It’s the top tourist attraction in Memphis with frequent events!
  • Big River Crossing is a large pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the Mississippi River.
  • Memphis Zoo in Overton Park in Midtown boasts over 3,500 animals including giant pandas.
  • Memphis Botanic Garden in Audubon Park is a 96-acre garden with a Japanese tranquility space and other specialty gardens.
  • Gold Strike Casino Resort is one of the most popular casinos along the Mississippi River in Memphis and owned by MGM Resorts.
  • Go Ape Zipline & Adventure is an adventure chain venue and one of the best things to do in Memphis on date night or a family outing! Try a challenging treetop rope course and the Tarzan swing.
  • Golf and Games Family Park is one of the top family-friendly attractions in Memphis with zip lines, mini golf, go-karts and more!

Memphis Arts & Entertainment

The entrance to the world-famous Beale Street Entertainment District.
  • Beale Street Entertainment District is America’s Most Iconic Street and Home of the Blues with live music, restaurants, nightclubs, and more.
  • Levitt Shell in Overton Park is a popular open-air theater that hosts free concerts in the summer.
  • Orpheum Theatre is a beautiful historic opera house that hosts opera and ballet performances and live music.
  • Crosstown Concourse is a mixed-use development in Crosstown with tons to see, drink, and eat. It’s a vertical urban village with shopping, live music, a brewery, and more.

Memphis Museums

Memphis Parks

An aerial view of downtown Memphis and Mud Island with one of the city’s most popular riverfront parks.
  • Shelby Farms Park is a massive 4,500-acre city park 5x larger than NYC’s Central Park with horse and bike trails, fishing, boating, playgrounds, and more!
  • Tom Lee Park overlooks the Mississippi with 30 acres of green space and events like the Beale Street Music Festival.
  • Overton Park is one of the best things to do in Memphis in the summer with a museum, zoo, golf course, Rainbow Lake and other attractions.
  • Greenbelt Park is a gorgeous riverfront park with beautiful views and biking paths. It’s a popular site for parties!

Memphis Shopping

  • Wolfchase Galleria is a large shopping center with a movie theater, food court, and major chains.
  • Oak Court Mall is a major shopping destination with department stores, chain stores, and a food court.
  • Overton Square is a funky and fun hangout with live music, a multiplex cinema, restaurants, and shopping.

Map of Things to Do in Memphis

Is Memphis, TN Safe? Understanding Crime in Memphis

Is Memphis dangerous? That’s a big concern if you’re considering living in Memphis. The city has long struggled with crime, particularly violent crime. Over the past 20 years, it has frequently been named one of the most dangerous cities in America for its size, but serious crime has declined since 2006.

According to the Memphis Police Department, their use of the FBI National Incident-Based Reporting System is a far more detailed way of reporting crime than most cities use which contributes to the seemingly very high rate of crime in Memphis.

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics (2019), your risk of being the victim of crime in Memphis is 1 in 12.

The Memphis crime rate is:

  • 8,349 total crimes per 100,000 people
  • 1,943 violent crimes per 100,000 people
  • 6,406 violent crimes per 100,000 people

The Memphis homicide rate is 28.5 per 100k people, more than 5 times the national average of 5.0 per 100k people. The Memphis violent crime rate is particularly high: the national crime rate is 2,580 total crimes per 100k people.

Is Memphis safer than Nashville? While Nashville has a slightly lower crime rate, Memphis offers a lower cost of living.

While the Memphis crime rate may seem shocking, keep in mind most crime is easy to avoid. Violent crime and most serious property crime is usually confined to just a handful of dangerous neighborhoods in Memphis. Gang activity also accounts for a large share of crime; in 2016, one-third of homicide victims were involved in gang activity.

Dangerous areas of Memphis include:

  • Downtown Memphis which has a violent crime rate of 3,086 per 100k people.
  • Beale Street, a world-famous attraction in downtown but infamous for its high rate of violent crimes.
  • Parkway Village – Oakhaven has a violent crime rate 627% above the national average. This neighborhood alone accounts for a large share of crime in Memphis.
  • Frayser in North Memphis just outside downtown. This area is actually two neighborhoods; Frayser has a reputation as one of the bad areas of Memphis.
  • Berclair Highland Heights has a total crime rate of 9,912 crimes per 100k people with a violent crime rate 535% above the national average.

 

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As you can see just from these examples, only a handful of neighborhoods in Memphis contribute to the vast majority of crime. By comparison, the safest neighborhoods in Memphis include:

  • Windyke-Southwind has a crime rate 86% below the Memphis average. The crime rate is 1,103 per 100k people, less than half the national average.
  • Eads-Fisherville has a crime rate 82% below the Memphis average.
  • Cordova has a population of 83,000 but a crime rate 63% lower than the city average.

Memphis Sports

Are sports important as you consider whether moving to Memphis is a good idea? Memphis is one of America’s most underrated sports cities! Memphis only has one team in the “big four” leagues but plenty of minor league and major college teams. Here’s who you will be rooting for:

  • Memphis Grizzlies (NBA) play at the FedExForum
  • Memphis Tigers (NCAA D1) play at the FedExForum
  • Memphis Hustle (NBA G League) play at the Landers Center
  • Memphis Redbirds (MiLB) play at the AutoZone Park
  • CBU Buccaneers (NCAA D2) play at the Nadicksbernd Field
  • Memphis 901 FC (USLC) play at the AutoZone Park
  • Memphis Tigers (NCAA D1) play at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium

Memphians strongly follow the Memphis Tigers, the college basketball team for the University of Memphis. The city has many other sporting events to enjoy too like the St. Jude Classic, an annual PGA golf tournament, and races at the Memphis International Raceway.

Schools in Memphis – Public Schools & Higher Education

While living in Memphis, you’ll be served by Shelby County Schools now that the Memphis school district is dissolved. The district has over 200 public schools with top high schools in Memphis including Middle College High School and White Station High School (22nd in the state).

There are dozens of highly rated private schools in Memphis like the Memphis University School (boys grades 7-12), the co-ed Briarcrest Christian School, and Lausanne Collegiate School, the top-rated private school in the county.

Memphis also offers plenty of opportunities for higher education with major universities and colleges:

  • University of Memphis
  • University of Tennessee Health Science
  • LeMoyne-Owen College, a private historically black college
  • Southwest Tennessee Community College

Setting Up Memphis Utilities & Getting a Tennessee Driver’s License

Ready for moving to Memphis and experiencing its amazing culture first-hand? Ahead of relocating, it’s helpful to know how to set up utilities in your new home and get your new Tennessee driver’s license.

The primary Memphis utility provider is Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW). You can set up utilities online, but you must provide proof of identification.

LEARN MORE: Find out more about setting up utilities, trash service, and average utility costs in this complete Memphis utilities guide.

You must get a Tennessee driver’s license within 30 days of moving to the state. You will need to go to a full-service driver service center and bring your current license, proof of U.S. citizenship or legal presence, proof of Social Security number, and two proofs of Tennessee residency.

Does living in Memphis, TN sound like a dream come true? At Big League Moving, we’re ready to make relocating to Memphis as easy as possible with a team of experienced full-service movers on hand. Give us a call at 901-486-6897 to schedule a free Memphis moving estimate to get started!

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