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Population and income disparity in the St. Louis MSA

Comparing St. Louis City and MSA population growth

FRED lives at the St. Louis Fed, which is in St. Louis City, which is adjacent to St. Louis County, which are all part of the St. Louis metropolitan statistical area (MSA).* Population and income vary widely across the region, so let’s see what FRED’s Census data can show us.

The graph above shows population for St. Louis City in red (left axis) and the entire St. Louis MSA in blue (right axis).

The city’s population is less than half of what it was 50 years ago: down from 622,236 in 1970 to 302,838 in 2018. The most drastic population declines were in the early 1970s and right after the Great Recession. Despite some steadiness in the 2000s, the city’s population has consistently fallen.

The MSA’s population also declines in the early 1970s, but it stabilizes in the next decade and then steadily increases at a rate of about 0.5% per year. The Great Recession chipped away at MSA population, but soon it stabilized. Its recent growth is way below the previous trend, but the MSA’s overall population has grown by about 10% over the past 50 years.

Comparing St. Louis MSA and U.S. population growth

Overall growth of the St. Louis MSA is actually dwarfed by national population growth and growth in other regions. U.S. population grew by 60.7% from 1970 to 2018. St. Louis is now the 20th largest MSA, a far cry from its standing in 1970, when it was 10th largest.

Comparing St. Louis City and County median income

The graph above shows St. Louis median income relative to U.S. median income for 1998-2018. St. Louis County’s relative median household income is in blue (left axis), and St. Louis City’s relative median household income is in red (right axis).

St. Louis County income is consistently above the U.S. median—initially by a large margin, almost 30% in 1998. St. Louis City income is consistently below the U.S. median—always in the range of 28% to 37%. This income disparity isn’t surprising for St. Louis area residents, who are aware of the wealthy county neighborhoods west of the city (e.g., Clayton, Frontenac, Ladue, Town and Country) and the poor neighborhoods in the city itself (e.g., Hyde Park, Fairground, North Riverfront).

How these graphs were created: First graph: Search for St. Louis resident population and select the city series. From the “Edit Graph” panel, use “Add a Line” to search for and select St. Louis MSA population. Second graph: Search for “Estimate of Median Household Income” and select the St. Louis county series. From the “Edit Graph” panel, use “Add a Line” to search for and select the St. Louis city series. With the “Format” tab, select and in each line add “Median Household Income in the United States.” Using the box for changing the formula, use “a/b” and click enter. For both: Use the “Format” tab to select the right axis for one series and adjust color and line thickness to your liking.

*The St. Louis MSA includes, beyond St. Louis City and County, the Missouri counties of Crawford, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, St, Charles, and Warren and the Illinois counties of Bond, Calhoun, Clinton, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair.

Suggested by Alexander Monge-Naranjo.

View on FRED, series used in this post: MEHOINUSA646N, MHIMO29189A052NCEN, MHIMO29510A052NCEN, MOSSPOP, STLPOP

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