NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 5, 2019) – Tennessee’s overall economy is strong, but our rural areas and working families face financial challenges, according to the 2019 State of Our State dashboard ThinkTennessee released today.
The dashboard shows how Tennessee ranks nationally across 100 different indicators and highlights opportunities to improve and strengthen Tennesseans’ quality of life.
“With newly elected leaders at all levels of government, 2019 offers an incredible opportunity to bring fresh, innovative ideas to Tennessee,” said Shanna Singh Hughey, president of ThinkTennessee. “This dashboard helps us see and understand where we are as a state today before we determine how far we want to go and the best way to get there.”
- Criminal Justice: From public safety to rehabilitation, the dashboard underscores the need to further reform Tennessee’s criminal justice system, especially with respect to re-entry. Tennessee is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to felon disenfranchisement (48th). Three quarters of those Tennesseans barred from voting based on a past felony conviction (323,354) have already completed their sentence (including probation and parole).
- Working Families: While there are signs that Tennessee’s economy is strong—and getting stronger, working families continue to face serious economic challenges. Tennessee has a comparatively low cost of living (6th) and rate of unemployment (up from 42nd in 2017 to 22nd in 2019), but our state still lags others when it comes to measures like poverty (41st) and affordable rental shortage (34th).
- Rural Economic Development: Tennessee’s business environment is increasingly welcoming. Yet the state is not as far along on other key elements of economic development, particularly for rural areas. For instance, the state ranks 45th in broadband subscriptions, with nearly a quarter of rural families totally lacking access compared to 1.7% of urban Tennesseans. Rural Tennesseans are also struggling more than their peers across the country in terms of employment, ranking 32nd in the urban-rural employment gap.
The State of Our State dashboard update is just the first phase of ThinkTennessee’s 2019 landscape analysis. The group will continue its highly regarded policy brief series with new releases throughout the spring, providing important context and highlighting policy options that will move our state forward.