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The East-West Gateway Region

Spanning portions of the states of Missouri and Illinois, St. Louis is the 20th most populous of the nation’s 382 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). About one of every 114 Americans lives in the St. Louis MSA.[1] An estimated $155 billion of  the nation’s $18.0 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP) was produced in the St. Louis MSA in 2015.[2]

PopTable-2015At the heart of the 15-county St. Louis MSA is the East-West Gateway Region (EWG Region), comprised of the eight counties served by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments -- the city of St. Louis and Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties in Missouri and Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair counties in Illinois. Together, these counties serve 2.6 million residents, about 92 percent of the population base and 96 percent of the employment base of  the larger MSA.

When the East-West Gateway Council of Governments was established in 1965, the St. Louis MSA included six counties -- four in Missouri and two in Illinois.  Most economic activity in the region was concentrated in the city of St. Louis  and the suburbs near the urban core with agricultural production predominating in the region’s outlying counties. Manufacturing and distribution were the region’s principal economic strengths.

Since that time, both the city of St. Louis and the EWG Region have undergone substantial change. Now, about 12 percent of the region’s population resides in the city of St. Louis, and 18 percent of the 1.3 million employees in the EWG Region work in the central city.[3]  Although the manufacturing  industry continues to employ over 100,000 people, the service sector has long  surpassed manufacturing in share of economic activity. The modest population and employment growth in the region reflects years of population declines in the city of St. Louis and inner-ring suburbs, combined with growth in the suburban  and rural areas.

Table 1 depicts the population shift in the region over the past 25 years.  Population movement from the city of St. Louis to the suburbs has slowed but the  fastest growing counties in the region continue to be outside the urban core.














The primary driver of population growth in the St. Louis MSA is natural change (births minus deaths), which accounted for a 1.7 percent increase in the population from 2010 to 2015. International migration from 2010 to 2015 increased the St. Louis MSA population by 0.9 percent, contributing the 7th lowest amount of growth among the 50 largest regions in the country. Net domestic migration decreased the population of the MSA by 1.7 percent over the same time period.[4]

The EWG Region has promising assets for competing in the global economy. Yet, it also has persistent challenges. The following include a handful of the tables presented in East-West Gateway’s report, Where We Stand: The Strategic Assessment of the St. Louis Region. Additional information on these and other regional comparisons are available in the full publication at www.ewgateway.org/wws.

These data can help leaders and residents understand where St. Louis stands in comparison to other large metropolitan regions in the United States. The tables are meant to help guide decision-making on how to be more competitive and address the region’s challenges. 


St. Louis is home to many innovative institutions, including four research universities, the Danforth Plant Science Center, CORTEX, T-REX, Monsanto, and Boeing. This foundation of innovation is a strong driver of economic growth in the global economy. One indicator of an innovative economy is employment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. St. Louis ranks 14th among the 50 largest MSAs with 22 percent of jobs in the region requiring knowledge of STEM.

Freight is another area where there is high potential for economic growth. It is also an area in which St. Louis possesses strong assets and is poised to capture anticipated growth. St. Louis has six class I railroads, four interstates with access in all directions, is the third largest inland port, is served by six interstate natural gas pipelines and has two major commercial/cargo airports.[5] Building on these strengths, the St. Louis Regional Freightway was founded in 2014 and officially launched in 2016 to promote existing freight infrastructure and new freight developments in the region. Among the Freightway’s numerous efforts is a push to replace the 127 year old Merchants Bridge.

Among non-coastal regions, St. Louis is one of the leading MSAs in terms of freight. Ranking 11th among the 50 largest metro areas, the St. Louis MSA shipped over 340 million tons of freight in 2012 at a value of around $261 billion.

Despite incremental improvements, St. Louis continues to have one of the lowest rates of change in employment among the 50 largest metro regions, ranking 41st with a decrease of 0.5 percent from 2007 to 2015. The majority of population and employment growth continues be concentrated in the suburban areas of the region.

The Population Change table shows that St. Louis ranks 44th out of the 50 largest MSAs on population change from 2010 to 2015. The region continues to have slow and steady population growth but is not growing as fast as many of its peer regions.


Measures of economic and racial equity illustrate that the benefits of economic growth are not widely shared among all populations in the region. Disparities among blacks and whites are wide in all metropolitan regions of the United States, but St. Louis tends to have some of the widest disparities among the largest 50 metro regions. In St. Louis, white adults are 2.1 times more likely to have a high school education than black adults; the average white household has an income that is nearly twice that of the average black household; and black adults are 2.8 times more likely to be unemployed.

The number of governments in the region is a topic that continues to receive a high level of attention. The St. Louis MSA has the 3rd largest number of local governments per population among the 50 largest metro areas. Some believe the large number of governments allow citizens easy access to government while others think the government structure is inefficient and presents challenges.

Will the current rate of population and employment growth be adequate for the metropolitan area to maintain our position as a national center? Will this growth happen in such a way as to preserve and enhance the sense of community residents’ value? What physical, fiscal, and governmental infrastructure is needed to support future goals? Will we be able to afford it?     

Link to Rivers in the St. Louis Region

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East-West Gateway Council of Governments
One Memorial Dr., Ste 1600
St. Louis, MO  63102
phone:  (314) 421-4220 or (618) 274-2750
    fax: (314) 231-6120
e-mail: webmaster@ewgateway.org

last update: Thursday, March 09, 2017