For almost a decade, I have led a long-term study of growth and equity in the St. Louis region and St. Louis city compared to other large regions and cities in the Midwest and Southeast. I’ve used three criteria for success. First is population growth: Is a region becoming larger, more capable of competing with Chicago and Atlanta? Second is per capita income growth: Is the average person becoming more economically secure? Third is Black-white wealth and income gaps: Are we becoming more equal?
The data suggests that St. Louis is underperforming dramatically on growth and economic equality, and that turning around these trends depends on raising Black incomes in the St. Louis region.
In 1970, St. Louis was the 10th-largest region by population in the United States. It is now the 21st-largest. In 1970, our region had almost twice the population of Atlanta. In 2019, Atlanta was over twice the size of St. Louis. Between 2000 and 2019, the St. Louis region grew by 5% while the United States population grew by 15%. The trends in the city of St. Louis, the heart of our region, are particularly challenging. In 1910, St. Louis was the fourth-largest city in the country. We are now the 65th. As we become a smaller and less important region in the country, it is harder to recruit companies, conventions and highly mobile workers.
The story of regional income growth by race is complex. Between 2000 and 2019, the average per capita income in St. Louis grew (in inflation-adjusted dollars) by 3%. That is about the national average. What is v
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