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NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee experienced incredible economic growth over the last two years, but those gains have not yet translated into greater economic opportunity for Tennesseans, finds the 2023 State of Our State Dashboard released today by ThinkTennessee.

Now in its sixth edition, the Dashboard shows how Tennessee ranks nationally on more than 135 different indicators across 11 categories, from the economy to health to infrastructure to housing. Taken together, the metrics provide a data-driven, unbiased snapshot of how our state is doing on the issues that matter most to Tennesseans.

“Tennessee has shown we can lead the nation on critical economic success factors like GDP growth when priorities are aligned,” said Erin Hafkenschiel, president of ThinkTennessee. “Now it is time to take that same focus and attention and invest it in Tennesseans. Improving access to opportunity through new investments in affordable housing, fair wages, and multimodal transportation options is not only the right thing to do for hardworking Tennesseans, but also imperative for the long-term economic prosperity of our state.”

Key findings:

  • Exceptional economic growth: Tennessee ranks 1st in the nation in GDP growth with a rate of 8.6%, a meteoric rise compared with 2019 when it ranked 24th. The state also jumped from 41st in 2020-2021 to 20th in 2021-2022 in the rate of new businesses. 
  • Extreme poverty is on the decline: Tennessee’s poverty ranking improved from 43rd in 2019 to 37th in 2021, correlating with a decline in the poverty rate of 0.3%. In contrast, the national poverty rate increased from 12.3% in 2019 to 12.8% in 2021.
  • Affordability challenges for the middle class are on the rise: Tennessee ranks among the bottom 10 states in median household income (41st) with Tennesseans earning $8,618 less than the national average ($71,538). Other states are also doing better when it comes to improving home ownership. With a home ownership rate of 67.7% in 2021, our national ranking fell nine spots in two years to 29th. Approximately one-fifth (20%) of Tennessee homeowners and one-quarter (26%) of renter households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. While we are ranked 14th nationally, residential electricity prices consistently increased over the past three years as well, rising from 10.77 cent/kWh in 2021 to 13.09 cent/kWh in 2022.

Debt is burdening too many Tennesseans: From student loans in default (42nd) to medical debt in collections (44th) to auto loan delinquencies (42nd) to bankruptcy (49th), Tennesseans are more likely than residents from other states to have their finances jeopardized by debt.

The State of Our State dashboard is part of ThinkTennesseee’s work to equip policymakers with tools to address the challenges of today and move our state forward. ThinkTennessee also issues regular reports, which provide important context and highlight pragmatic policy solutions.

For the sake of consistency, rankings have been standardized so low numbers always reflect positive outcomes (in other words, being ranked first is always better than being ranked 50th).

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