Our Changing State

Four Trends Transforming Tennessee’s Population

Data for this study was provided by States of Change: Demographics and Democracy, a collaboration of the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, and the Center for American Progress.

  • Our state gets more diverse every year. Tennessee’s minority population grew steadily from 1980 (17%) to 2014 (26%), and that trend is projected to continue, increasing by about three percentage points every decade. In 2030, 30% of Tennesseans will be minorities; by 2060, the minority population will total about 39%.
  • Tennessee’s minority population itself is diversifying. The overwhelming majority of minorities in 1980 were black. In 2014, one third of Tennessee’s minorities were Hispanic, Asian or other; by 2060, 46% will be.

  • Tennessee’s children today are more diverse than our adults, and that gap will persist. From 2014 (33% children v. 23 % adults) to 2030 (39% children v. 27% adults) to 2060 (49% children v. 36% adults), the percentage of minority children continuously outnumbers that of adults.
  • Our state’s minority population is growing significantly faster than its white one, principally because of the changing demographics of Tennessee’s children.

  • Tennessee’s working-age population is steadily declining. In 2030, we’ll have fewer Tennesseans of working age (59%) than we did in 2014 (62%). By 2050, our working-age population will drop to 56%.
  • Tennessee will have significantly more senior citizens in 2060 (23%) than we did in 2014 (16%).
  • The growth in minorities in the state will help offset the aging population as younger minority workers support a growing retiree population.

  • Tennesseans are less likely to be married today than we were in 1980. More than two out of three Tennesseans age 18 or older were married in 1980.
  • Today, adult Tennesseans are almost as likely to be unmarried (45%) as we are to be married (55%).

Read the full Our Changing State report here.

Note: The percentages in this report describe the share of the Tennessee population that falls into each demographic category. Notably, the changes articulated here are year-over-year comparisons of proportions, not gross population figures. For instance, a demographic group can be described as “shrinking” when it is proportionally smaller relative to a previous year.