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St. Louis’ population is shrinking. Here’s what needs to happen to reverse the trend

The Gateway Arch and St. Louis skyline is seen from a C-21
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Gateway Arch and St. Louis skyline are seen from a C-21 jet in October 2022.

The St. Louis metropolitan area is showing troubling signs when it comes to population trends. There are fewer residents than in years past in St. Louis and St. Louis County, and the region isn’t keeping pace with other areas of the country where the population is growing.

“We often don't like to talk about people dying,” said St. Louis University professor Ness Sandoval. “[But] St. Louis is one of nine of the top 50 metropolitan regions that have more people dying than are born.”

Sandoval’s research highlights several main factors. There’s a natural population decline because fewer people are having children. Families, particularly Black families, are leaving the region for cities like Dallas and Charlotte. And St. Louis has low racial diversity and immigration, though the region is getting closer to seeing more immigrants coming to the region than domestic residents leaving.

Ness Sandoval and Arrey Obenson
Emily Woodbury
Ness Sandoval and Arrey Obenson

“We are seeing the largest number of arrivals into St. Louis than we've ever seen,” said International Institute of St. Louis CEO and President Arrey Obenson. “These immigrants — the average age that we're seeing is about 25. They're younger and likely to have larger families over a period of time. So the more we can attract them, maybe at some point, it offsets that deficit that we're seeing.”

Ness Sandoval and Arrey Obenson joined St. Louis on the Air alongside current and former St. Louis region residents to discuss why population decline is happening, what needs to be done to turn the tide and how population growth is just one metric of a city’s success.

Listen to the discussion on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or by clicking the play button below.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Ulaa Kuziez, Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.