Tennessee ranked 16th in population in the US with an estimated total of 5,797,290 in 2002, an increase of 1.9% since 2000.
In 2000 the median age was 35.9. Persons under 18 years old accounted for 24.6% of the population while 12.4% were age 65 or older.
The first permanent white settlements in the state were established in the 1760s, when people from North Carolina and Virginia crossed the Unaka Mountains and settled in the fertile valleys. Between 1790 and 1800, the population increased threefold, from 35,690 to 105,600, and it doubled during each of the next two decades. After the Civil War, the population continued to increase, though at a slower rate, tripling between 1870 and 1970.
A pronounced urban trend became apparent after World War II. In 1960, for the first time in the state's history, census figures showed slightly more people living in urban than in rural areas. In the 1990s, approximately 70% of all Tennesseans lived in metropolitan areas. Memphis is the state's largest city; in 2002, it had an estimated population of 648,882. Nashville (Davidson County) had 545,915, followed by Knoxville, 173,661, and Chattanooga, 155,404. The Memphis metropolitan area, including parts of Arkansas and Mississippi, had an estimated 1,105,058 residents in 1999, while metropolitan Nashville had 1,171,755.