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2022 Population Estimates Show Big Cities on the Move in Tennessee

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Explore the newly released Vintage 2022 Population Estimates for each Tennessee city and town by clicking or tapping on its indicator. Use the map search bar to navigate to a community.

If 2021 was the year of the small city, 2022 was the year of the large metro as Tennessee’s biggest communities lead population increases.

After lackluster 2021 data showed population declined in three of the four largest cities in Tennessee, the state’s big cities showed strong growth in 2022.

New population estimate data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that growth accelerated in large cities across Tennessee and the U.S. last year. This comes a year after migration patterns had shifted to favor smaller areas surrounding large urban counties in 2021. The new data adds more detail to state and county estimates releases, which showed Tennessee added 83,000 new residents last year.

Five of Tennessee’s six largest municipalities topped the list of the state’s fastest-growing cities in 2022. And for a few of them, last year’s increases were their largest in a single year.

They were led by two middle Tennessee cities that traded first and second positions. Clarksville added over 6,000 new residents and recorded its largest one-year increase since 2012.

Murfreesboro grew by 5,700 and likely saw its largest one-year gain ever. The city in Rutherford County has more than doubled in size since 2000 when its population was just under 71,000.

Table 1:  Ten Largest Numeric Population Increases Among Cities in Tennessee Between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022
Rank Name 2021 2022 Change Percent Change
1 Clarksville 170,912 176,974 6,062 3.5%
2 Murfreesboro 156,675 162,398 5,723 3.7%
3 Nashville 678,134 683,622 5,488 0.8%
4 Lebanon 41,022 44,166 3,144 7.7%
5 Chattanooga 181,163 184,086 2,923 1.6%
6 Knoxville 193,598 195,889 2,291 1.2%
7 Columbia 43,560 45,792 2,232 5.1%
8 Mount Juliet 40,789 42,548 1,759 4.3%
9 Spring Hill 54,122 55,800 1,678 3.1%
10 Gallatin 46,784 48,194 1,410 3.0%

Nashville landed third on the list, adding 5,488 new people in 2022. This contrasted with 2021 which showed the Tennessee capital recorded the nation’s 12th largest population decrease among cities over 50,000. That leaves its 2022 population of 683,622, about 5,800 people below its mark in the 2020 Census.

It’s difficult to square those figures when the same estimates release shows that Nashville-Davidson County added over 28,000 housing units in the past two years. That level of new residential construction was the 11th largest among all U.S. counties. It’s possible that smaller household sizes and higher household formation rates may be chewing up new supply as it is developed. American Community Survey data showed that between 2019 and 2021 the number of households in the county grew 4.6 percent annually while the population grew at a 1.4 percent annual clip.

Chattanooga landed fifth on this year’s list, also reversing a reported 400-person population decrease in 2021 by adding over 2,900 new residents in 2022. Knoxville’s addition of 2,291 new residents was sixth. For both cities, the increases were likely the largest one-year gains seen in decades, except for population increases driven by annexation in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Population increases across the state in 2022 were primarily driven by net domestic migration – more people moving in than moving out. Those figures reached record levels last year.

Growth in Middle Tennessee Cities Continue Outward Push

The new data also highlight the Nashville metro area’s continued expansion along the I-40E and I-65S corridors.

Lebanon, located on the eastern edge of Wilson County was the fourth fastest-growing Tennessee city for the second year running. It added 3,144 new residents in 2022, a 7.7 percent increase that followed a 2,100-person, 5.5 percent increase in 2021. Its neighbor to the west, Mount Juliet, added 1,759 people and netted a 4.3 percent one-year gain.

To the south, two Maury and Williamson county communities staked top spots on the 2022 list of fastest-growing areas. Columbia added over 2,200 new residents last year and moved from the ninth-fastest growing to the seventh. Spring Hill, which last year was the nation’s tenth fastest-growing city, saw its pace slow slightly but still increased by 1,678 residents. The community, which straddles two counties, grew more quickly in the northern portion (Williamson) than in its southern flanks (Maury).

Other Findings

  • The estimates show that the city of Memphis logged a 4,926-person decrease in 2022. Memphis is now the 28th most populous city in the nation and moved up one position after Detroit’s 7,791-person decline moved it down from number 27 to 29.
  • Nashville is the 21st most populous city in the country, surpassing El Paso, Texas, which held that position last year.
  • Unincorporated Knox County grew 1.9 percent in 2022 and added 5,055 new residents: outpacing Knoxville’s 1.2 percent increase. That rate would have made the outlying parts of the East Tennessee county the fourth-fastest growing part of the state. In 2021, it was the second-fastest growing area adding 3,370 people.
  • Unincorporated areas of the state continue to capture a significant share of the state’s population increases. 56.6 percent (46,961) of the state’s 2022 net increase of 83,000 people were residents of a city or town. 43.4 percent (36,027) lived in an unincorporated area.
  • The state added an estimated 51,150 housing units in 2022, a 22 percent increase over the 46,756 units that were added in 2021.

More Resources

Check out our ready-to-print population estimate reference sheets for states, Tennessee counties, cities and towns. They include data from the 2010, 2020 decennial censuses and the most recent information from the population estimates program.

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