Census: Tupelo’s pre-annex areas grow

Tupelo stockBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo’s population, not including areas annexed a year ago, grew by nearly 3 percent to an estimated 35,490 in 2012 compared to three years ago.

After the 2010 Census showed anemic growth of about 1 percent from a decade earlier, this change shows the city with a slightly higher rate of population increase, amounting to just less than 1,000 new residents.

Population for the city slightly outpaced Lee County, which had a 2.6 percent increase during the same time, with an estimated population of 85,042.

Population estimates are based on migration, birth and death rates, and records from the IRS to see if people moved.

However, annual population estimates aren’t based on hard numbers.

After the annexation was final in 2012, Tupelo added about 3,100 new residents, which aren’t included in the population estimates, bringing the city’s 2010 resident population to 37,691.

In the Census’ 2010-2012 American Community Survey released today, a wide range of information is available for communities throughout the country with populations between 20,000 and 65,000.

While population has been an important topic for the city in recent years, since the 2010 Census showed nearly flat growth in Tupelo and much faster growth in suburbs to the north, Ron Cossman, a demographer and associate research professor at Mississippi State University, said people shouldn’t place too much weight on a single population estimate at a given time.

“One data point does not constitute a trend,” he said. “For right now, you’re stretching to say anything beyond saying that it’s an interesting number.”

To prove his point, ACS population estimates for 2007-2009 showed Tupelo with a population of 36,059, more than 1,500 residents than the actual 2010 Census count for the city.

In recent years, talk of finding ways to encourage more people to live in the city had been a priority for elected officials. Former Mayor Jack Reed Jr. proposed an ambitious agenda of neighborhood redevelopment, home loan downpayment assistance and even tuition assistance to Tupelo High School graduates attending a four-year university.

While the City Council didn’t support many of Reed’s initiatives proposed, the city is progressing on early stages of a pilot redevelopment project in the West Jackson Street area.

Taking office in July, Mayor Jason Shelton said his top priority is attracting and retaining middle-class families to the city by focusing on quality-of-life issues.

Stacy Gimbel Vidal, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Census bureau, said the strength in the ACS population estimates is in the characteristics of people living in a specific area that isn’t included in the Census, which releases population data every decade.

For 2010-2012, Tupelo had an estimated 13,438 households, a third of them have at least one child under 18 years old. The average family size in the city has three members.

For women in Tupelo age 15 and older, 44.1 percent are married, while 49.5 percent of men in that group are married.

As for educational attainment for the 22,685 people 25 and older living in the city, 26.8 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree, 6.5 percent have an associate degree, 13.5 percent didn’t graduate from high school, and 58.2 percent are high school graduates, some of whom attended college but didn’t graduate.