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How St. Louis stacks up

Martin Luther King Bridge connects Illinois and downtown St. Louis. It was built in 1951.
Sarah Kellogg | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis—still a flyover city?

The East-West Gateway Council of Governments just released a “Where We Stand” report documenting St. Louis’ place on the list of the top 50 metro areas in the United States.

The most recent “Where We Stand” is the seventh iteration of a project analyzing St. Louis’ current standing and recent progress. Topics considered include emergency preparedness, education, demographic shifts and their impact, economic opportunities and strengths, and the availability and use of public transportation.

Some of the results of the report, like St. Louis' severe racial disparities, were less than shocking; others, like the cost of transportation in the region, may spark initiatives for improvement.

The report ranks St. Louis among it's so-called 'peer regions': those 49 other metro areas with the largest populations in the country. St. Louis is populated just below average but ranks higher than many of its peers in that respect, including Baltimore, Charlotte, Kansas City, Cleveland, and Milwaukee. The area has experienced a 0.7% increase in population since 2010 due in significant part to rising international immigration.

East-West Gateway defined the St. Louis metro region as comprising of 15 counties, the ninth-largest land area in the study. But getting around that big space is more difficult in St. Louis than other cities: transportation is less affordable, costing about a quarter of median household income, despite low traffic congestion and a vast network of roads. The report suggests that regions with extensive public transit systems impose lower transportation costs on their residents.

The report also tracks fluctuations in the St. Louis economy over the past fifty years, connecting regional changes to shifts in the global and national economy; it concludes that “over the last half century, the only constant seems to be economic turmoil.”

But another constant for the St. Louis region might be the uneven effects of economic downturns. The metro area as a whole disproportionately suffered the nationwide decreases in manufacturing and industry. While the metro area suffered rather less than other cities in the Great Recession of 2007-2009, it also experienced less growth than the country as a whole.

The recession seemed to cause individual inequities in economic misery, as well: African-Americans in the region were more likely to be unemployed than white St. Louisans. Although the racial gap in employment was lower for women than men, black women were still a striking 23% more likely to be unemployed than white women during recession years.

To see where St. Louis ranks on other issues, like demography, crime, environment, and government, see the full report.

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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