Roanoke College is located in the city. The NCAA Division III National Football Championship, also known as the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, as well as the Division III Men's Basketball Championship, are played there annually. Salem is also the home to a minor league baseball team, the Salem Avalanche.
Salem annexed South Salem in 1953 and an eastern tract in 1960, giving it a population of 16,058 and thus making it Virginia's largest town at that time. Salem officially became a city on December 31, 1967. Salem became a city to avoid the possibility of annexation into the city of Roanoke.
In education, Salem has been the home of two colleges. In 1847, the Virginia Institute, a boy's preparatory school, moved to Salem from Staunton. The institute received a college charter in 1842 and was renamed Roanoke College in honor of the Roanoke Valley. The college is located in central Salem one block north of Main Street. Roanoke Women's College, later named Elizabeth College, operated between 1912 and 1922; the college burned in late 1921 and did not reopen. Both colleges are/were Lutheran affiliated; the former Elizabeth College campus is now the site of residence halls and athletic fields belonging to Roanoke College.
At present, Salem has a certain amount of regard in the athletic community. The Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the NCAA Division III Football Championship game is held at Salem Football Stadium. Salem's success in holding that event led the NCAA to also move the NCAA Men's Division III Basketball Championship and the NCAA Division III Volleyball Championship to the Salem Civic Center and the Women's NCAA Division III Softball Championship to Moyer Field. In August 2007, the Salem Football Stadium also hosted the Southwestern Virginia Educational Classic. This game is played annually in the Roanoke Valley and consists of two football teams from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The city hosts several other statewide, regional, and national sporting events at its facilities. These events are attracted by the city's hospitality, modern facilities and overall support. Salem High School, is also known for its athletic programs, particularly the football team which has won six state championships since 1996.
There were 9,954 households out of which 28.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.9% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.3% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.84.
The age distribution is 20.9% under the age of 18, 11.7% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 24.0% from 45 to 64, and 16.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 89.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $38,997, and the median income for a family was $47,174. Males had a median income of $32,472 versus $23,193 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,091. About 4.3% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.0% of those under age 18 and 8.1% of those age 65 or over.