University of Tennessee

Survey: Tennessee commute times to work, median gross rents show growth

December 7, 2017

Tennessee’s metropolitan areas experienced an increase in average commute times and median gross rents according to the 2012-16 American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates. Released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, Tennessee’s changes are in line with national trends.

Tennessee’s median gross rent was $782. Only three Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the state had a higher rate. The Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin MSA had the highest median gross rent in the state at $899, a $44 increase from the 2007-11 ACS five-year figure of $855 (adjusted for inflation). But the MSA with the highest dollar increase was Clarksville, which grew from $788 to $855, a $67 jump. The Memphis MSA, at $863, was the only other area that had a median gross rent higher than the state’s. (Note: The Clarksville and Memphis MSAs are among those that include counties in other states.)

All of Tennessee’s MSAs had a median gross rent lower than the national median, which was $949.

As the nation’s largest household survey, the ACS is the only annual data set that produces this range of statistics for all of the nation’s 3,142 counties. It is the only available data set for the 2,323 counties with populations too small to produce single-year statistics.

Today’s release features data collected between 2012 and 2016 on more than 40 demographic, housing, social and economic topics including commuting, educational attainment and home value.

 “The American Community Survey allows us to track incremental changes across our nation on how people live and work, year-to-year,” said David Waddington, chief of the bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division. “It’s our country’s only source of small area estimates for socio-economic and demographic characteristics. These estimates help people, businesses and governments throughout the country better understand the needs of their populations, the markets in which they operate and the challenges and opportunities they face.”

Other highlights from the 2016 survey include:

  • Nashville MSA commute time was the longest at 27 minutes, while the Jackson MSA had the shortest at 20 minutes.
  • Tennessee’s median household income was $46,574, which represents a slight decline from the 2007-11 ACS inflation-adjusted figure of $46,929. Only 19 counties had a median household income above the statewide median.
  • Of the 3,142 counties across the nation, 167 counties (5.3 percent) experienced a decline in poverty rates, while 566 counties (18 percent) showed an increase. In Tennessee, nine counties saw a decline in their rate, while six saw an increase. The remaining saw no significant change in their poverty rate.

A local partner to the bureau, the Tennessee State Data Center is housed within the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research in UT’s Haslam College of Business.

The center’s mission is to provide efficient access to census data and products, training and technical assistance to data users, and feedback to the Census Bureau on data usability, as well as responding to state and local government data needs and operational issues.


Lydia McCoy (865-974-6086,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,