The Strategic Assessment of the St. Louis Region
The Where We Stand (WWS) series produced by East-West Gateway (EWG) has provided comparisons of the St. Louis region with other large metropolitan areas since 1992. WWS ranks St. Louis among the 50 most populous Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in the United States (the peer regions) on a broad range of topics important to the region.
In November of 2018, EWG published the eighth edition of WWS coupled with an expanded webpage. Explore this webpage to find more on where St. Louis stands among its peer metropolitan regions. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback, questions, or to subscribe to our email list.
Note: Acrobat Reader is required to view many of the files on this page.
Where We Stand – 8th Edition
The eighth edition focuses on three topic areas that are strategic priorities for EWG and regional partners. In May of 2018, the EWG Board of Directors along with representative from the business and non-profit sectors affirmed that economic development, workforce development, and public safety are three areas that require a regional collaborative effort. The 130 metrics in this edition pertain to these focus areas. An introductory chapter on demographics is also included to provide an overview of the population of St. Louis and the peer regions.
- Executive Summary
- Where We Stand – 8th Edition – Full Report
Where We Stand Updates, White Papers, and Technical Reports
EWG staff produces several types of reports that complement the main publication. Where We Stand Updates, White Papers, and Technical Reports are periodically released to update St. Louis’ standing based on new data, provide further insight on a specific topic, or provide more detail on methodologies used in the calculations for Where We Stand reports.
- Update 9, September 2018 - Motor Vehicle Fatal Crashes, 2006 to 2016
- Update 8, June 2018 - Transportation Mode Split
- Update 7, April 2018 - Population Trends
- Update 6, November 2017 – Roadway Congestion & System Reliability
- Update 5, September 2017 - Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- Update 4, June 2017 – Addressing Racial Equity for a Sustainable Future
- Update 3, June 2017 – Racial Segregation, 1970 to 2011-2015
- Update 2, April 2016 - Seniors and Aging
- Update 1, January 2016 - Demographics of Business Owners
Where We Stand Data
WWS tables that appear in the eighth edition of WWS as well as tables included in previous editions are grouped here by topic areas. EWG will update these tables on a periodic basis. If you are interested in updated data for a Where We Stand table that you viewed previously, please contact us at email@example.com.
Shifts in demographics pose challenges to the St. Louis region as well as opportunities. This section provides data on the region’s slow population growth, an aging population, the growing immigrant population, the proportion of the population with disabilities, and the composition of households. See page 1 of Where We Stand – 8th Edition for further discussion. Click on a tab to view the Where We Stand tables for a section, click on the tab again to collapse it.
Data – Demographics
St. Louis has had slow but steady population growth in recent years. Natural change (more births than deaths) accounts for most of the region’s population increases. International migration also contributes a small amount. These factors have produced population growth despite the fact that more people move out of St. Louis to other parts of the country than move in.
Over 90 percent of the population in St. Louis is black or white. The Hispanic or Latino and Asian populations in the region are small relative to the peer regions but have increased in numbers. Compared to peer regions, St. Louis has few immigrants.
St. Louis has an aging population with one of the oldest median ages among the peer regions. The age of the population has important implications for the workforce and social service programs.
St. Louis has a relatively large disabled population compared with the peer regions, although the region is about average on the proportion of the senior population with disabilities.
The composition of households in the United States has changed in the past few decades, including smaller household sizes and an increasing proportion of non-family households, which is in part due to more people over the age of 65 living alone.
Land use is important to community planning and economic development. It is also important to the environmental quality of a region. This section highlights St. Louis’ relatively low population density, dispersed development patterns, and large amount of farmland. Click on a tab to view the Where We Stand tables for a section, click on the tab again to collapse it.
Data – Land Use
The St. Louis region has low-population density relative to the peer regions, particularly in the central city, with a relatively large proportion of the population living in rural parts of the region.
Development in the St. Louis region is dispersed throughout the region. The large amount of developed land per capita is an indication of low density. This development pattern has led to lower housing costs but can increase transportation costs for families and make access to amenities more challenging. For further discussion, see the Developed Land per Capita performance indicator on OneSTL.
The St. Louis region has a relatively large amount of farmland compared to the peer regions. A majority of this land is used for crops while the remainder is woodland, pasture, and other land. Farmland is an important piece of the region’s environmental health as well as the economy.
When it comes to housing, St. Louis is one of the most affordable large metropolitan regions in the country. However, black families are less likely than white families to own a home, more likely to be housing cost-burdened, and much more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty. The region is also one of the most racially segregated among the peers. Where one lives is an important factor in many aspects of life including access to jobs and amenities, quality of schools, and exposure to crime. Click on a tab to view the Where We Stand tables for a section, click on the tab again to collapse it.
Data – Housing
The St. Louis region continues to have some of the lowest priced housing among the peer regions, even with an increase in prices that was similar to the national average over the past five years. The rate of homeownership in the region is one of the highest among the peers. However, black households are twice as likely to rent as white households. Relative to the peers, the region has a fairly high vacancy rate and a low rate of new housing starts.
Despite relatively affordable housing, St. Louis has a substantial number of homeowners as well as renters paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. A larger proportion of black owners and renters are cost-burdened compared to their white counterparts.
St. Louis is one of the most racially segregated regions among the peers. The dissimilarity index is a standard measure of segregation. A score of 0 would mean a region is completely integrated and a score of 100 would mean a community is completely segregated. Black residents are much more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty—where 40 percent or more of the residents live in poverty. See Where We Stand 7th Edition, Update 3 and Update 4 for further discussion.
The region’s transportation network provides assets important to the growth of St. Louis, including an extensive road network—serving residents, businesses, and freight—and low congestion relative to the peer regions. The region’s challenges in this section include relatively high crash fatalities and lack of access for non-auto commuters. For further discussion, see the performance indicators in the Connected Theme on OneSTL. Click on a tab to view the Where We Stand tables for a section, click on the tab again to collapse it.
Data – Transportation
The tables in this section are four measures the state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and transit agencies are required to track, according to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. These metrics reflect traffic congestion, the efficiency of the system and freight movement, and protecting the environment. The truck travel time reliability is a metric that lacks an intuitive interpretation, but it indicates the region’s highway system is more reliable for moving freight than many of the peers.
Each year, tens of thousands of people die in motor vehicle crashes in the United States. St. Louis has one of the higher overall crash fatality rates among the peers. The region’s fatality rate due to speed is particularly high relative to the peers, and the region is above average on crash fatalities associated with distracted driving as well as those that involve drugs and alcohol. See Where We Stand 7th Edition Update, 9 for further discussion.
The St. Louis transit system ranks about in the middle among the peers for total ridership, the utility of the system, and the amount of funding spent on the system. Regions with more extensive transit systems tend to be more densely populated. The range among the peer regions is considerable on these metrics. For further discussion, see the Transit Ridership performance indicator on OneSTL.
The measures in this section indicate that St. Louis is about average with respect to how efficiently people can reach destinations when considering time, distance, and cost. The region has shorter than average commute times, a higher Walk Score for the city of St. Louis than is average among the peers’ largest cities, and about an average number of flight departures. Residents in St. Louis who do not have access to a vehicle are limited in the destinations they can reach. Black households are far more likely to have this barrier. For further discussion see the Employment Transit Access and the Residential Transit Access performance indicators on OneSTL.
The most popular mode of commuting to work in all of the peer regions is by car. Providing more transportation choices can have environmental benefits, increase physical activity, and reduce traffic congestion. The St. Louis region’s long-range transportation plan includes a goal to increase non-single occupancy travel (SOV); St. Louis has one of lowest rates on this metric. See the Transportation Choice performance indicator on OneSTL for further discussion.
A quality workforce begins with an excellent education system. This section documents that the region is about average on measures related to the competitiveness of the region’s primary and secondary school system. Regarding the adult population, the region is relatively well educated. See page 60 of Where We Stand – 8th Edition for further discussion. Click on a tab to view the Where We Stand tables for a section, click on the tab again to collapse it.
Data – Education
- School Resources
- School Quality
- Learning Environments
- Pre-K through High School
- Field of Study
The St. Louis region is about average among the peer regions regarding the amount of education spending per pupil in primary schools. Nationwide, less than 10 percent of funding for schools is from federal sources. There is a wide range in the amount of funding from state and local sources among the peer regions. St. Louis is just below the national average on state funding per pupil and just above average on local funding per pupil. See Where We Stand 8th Edition White Paper 2 for further discussion.
Assessing and comparing the quality of schools is challenging due to the many factors that can affect student success, as well as the multitude of ways states assess the quality of their schools. This section provides rankings for metrics that are associated with the quality of school instruction. St. Louis ranks competitively on these measures collectively, but the learning experiences of schools vary considerably within the region. See Where We Stand 8th Edition White Paper 3 for further discussion.
School districts in the St. Louis region are highly segregated, and as a result learning experiences vary considerably by race. The region has a high rate of out of school suspension, and low rate of students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses. The region has fewer students who are chronically absent than most of the peer regions, but there is a wide disparity between races on this metric as well. For a further discussion of learning environments in the St. Louis region, see Where We Stand 8th Edition White Paper 3.
Relative to the peer regions, St. Louis has a large proportion of children enrolled in preschool, a small (and shrinking) adult population that does not have a high school diploma, and is about average on adults with a high school diploma or equivalent as the highest level of education.
The region is relatively well educated and is experiencing above average increases in the college education levels of adults. A larger proportion of the St. Louis adult population has an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or advanced degree than those in many of the peer regions. The region is below the national average on percentage of adults enrolled in college, which is in part due to the large senior population in the region. See the College Attainment performance indicator on OneSTL for further discussion.
A fairly large percentage of adults in the St. Louis region have degrees in science, engineering, and related fields, but the proportion is small relative to the peer regions. Further, there is evidence that there is already a growing shortage of qualified workers in this field. The region has relatively high proportions of adults with degrees in the business and education fields and is about average on percentage with degrees in arts, humanities, and other similar fields.
Income and Economic Opportunity
The income of residents in the St. Louis region is about average among the peer regions, but the low cost of living means residents’ dollars go further in St. Louis than in many other areas of the country. While a smaller proportion of the St. Louis population lives in poverty than in many of the peer regions, racial and other disparities are large in the region and mean there is less opportunity to thrive in the economy for some population groups. See page 25 of Where We Stand – 8th Edition for further discussion. Click on a tab to view the Where We Stand tables for a section, click on the tab again to collapse it.
Data – Income and Economic Opportunity
The St. Louis region is about the same as the U.S. average on measures of overall income but has relatively high racial disparity in income. When the difference in cost of living among the peer regions is considered, the St. Louis region’s income is able to purchase more goods and services due to relatively low prices. Income consists of earned income (wage and salary, supplements to wages and salaries, and proprietors’/self-employment) and unearned income (transfers and dividends, interest, and rent). The region is about average on unearned income but lags behind on the categories of earned income.
The St. Louis region has seen an increase in per capita income in recent years, but the region had less growth than the nation as a whole as well as than most of the peer regions. While the average wage per job in the region has increased, self-employment income has declined. This has resulted in the St. Louis region diverging from the longer-term trend of tracking the United States on average earnings per job, to now being below average. See page 25 of Where We Stand 8th Edition for further discussion.
Most of the jobs in the St. Louis region pay what is considered a middle-wage, but that percentage has declined in recent years. The proportion of jobs in the region that pay a low-wage increased more in recent years than jobs that pay a high-wage. The nation also saw a decline in the percentage of jobs that pay middle-wages, but saw a larger increase in high-wage jobs than St. Louis. See page 32 of Where We Stand 8th Edition and White Paper 1 for further discussion.
The St. Louis region has a lower poverty rate than that of the nation and many of the peer regions, yet there are still a substantial number of people in the region who do not have enough income for what is considered necessary to meet basic needs. The income amount that is considered poverty level varies by household composition. For example, one threshold is $19,730 for a two-adult and one-child household. Non-Hispanic blacks are more likely to be in poverty than non-Hispanic whites as are people with disabilities compared to those without disabilities. These gaps are wider in St. Louis than they are in many of the peer regions. See the Poverty performance indicator on OneSTL for further discussion.
The St. Louis region ranks about in the middle of the peer regions on two metrics that indicate the amount of inequality between the rich and the poor. Also, on a measure of income inequality between sexes, the region has a relatively high gap. The Gini index is a measure of income inequality where a score of zero represents a community where everyone receives equal income and one represents a community where one person collects all the income. See the Income Inequality performance indicator on OneSTL for further discussion.
Metrics on the economy indicate some strengths for the St. Louis region, as well as some challenges. The region has a diversity of employment that held fairly steady while employment and income took dramatic swings in other regions. Yet, employment is not increasing at the same rate as in many other regions. The region is above average on employment-population ratio and has low unemployment. The region has assets important to the freight industry but is below average on foreign exports. St. Louis also shows potential on some measures of innovation. See page 17 of Where We Stand – 8th Edition for further discussion on the topics in this section, including more detailed data on what is happening within the St. Louis region. Click on a tab to view the Where We Stand tables for a section, click on the tab again to collapse it.
Data – Economy
The economy of the St. Louis region has remained fairly steady relative to many of the peer regions. The region is below average on change in employment and change in gross domestic product (GDP) but has seen increases in both in recent years. The unemployment rate in St. Louis is currently lower than the national average and then many of the peer regions. The gaps between the unemployment rates of persons with disabilities compared to those without and black adults compared to white adults are larger in St. Louis than in most of the peer regions.
The employment-population ratio indicates the proportion of the traditional working-age population that is employed, including those not looking for work. St. Louis ranks above average on this metric and had larger growth than the nation in recent years, a positive economic indicator. The other tables in this section provide characteristics of the region’s workforce—a relatively small percentage of foreign-born workers but high proportion of foreign-born workers who are college educated and about average on percentage of young adults who are college-educated. There are also indications of areas for opportunity to engage population groups with a relatively low employment rate of those with disabilities and a sizeable percentage of youth who are not in school or working.
The St. Louis region is similar to the nation in the composition of employment by industry. The two exceptions are that St. Louis has a larger proportion of employment in the health and social assistance sector and a smaller percentage in the government sector.
In recent years, the St. Louis region has seen smaller rates of growth in each of the nine industry groups than was seen nationally. However, the region did see growth in all sectors except two--government and information. The region experienced near national average growth rates in the region’s two largest sectors—health care and social assistance and professional and business services. The growth rate in manufacturing employment for the region was also close to the national average and is a sector which the region continues to have a substantial number of jobs. See page 20 of Where We Stand 8th Edition for further discussion.
The region has many assets in the freight industry, exemplified by the metrics in this section. St. Louis has a large volume and value of freight imported to, exported from, or shipped within the region compared to most of the peer regions. This section also includes indication of an area for potential growth for the region, as the amount of foreign exports is below average.
This section offers indicators of an innovative economy, which is a goal of many metropolitan regions. Innovation is thought to generate more economic growth and income. While the region is below average on many of these indictors, St. Louis has some assets, including a sizable amount of venture capital investment, relatively moderate paying STEM Jobs, and slightly above average percentage of jobs in STEM. Further, the region ranks competitively on patents and would likely rank higher if plant patents were included in the data. See page 35 of Where We Stand 8th Edition for further discussion.
Crime in the United States, and the St. Louis region, has been on a long-term decline but violent crimes, particularly murders, increased in recent years. This section uses two sources of data that provide slightly different perspectives. The data under “crime rates” is from the FBI Uniform Crime Report, documenting crimes where they occur. The data in the “victims” section is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provides data on the location of the victim’s residence. St. Louis ranks about average on most indicators but has a relatively high rate of murder. See page 69 of Where We Stand – 8th Edition for further discussion. Click on a tab to view the Where We Stand tables for a section, click on the tab again to collapse it.
Data – Crime
The overall crime rate for the St. Louis region is slightly higher than the national average and lower than many of the peer regions. Property crimes comprise a vast majority of all crimes, and drive the overall crime rates. St. Louis is above the national average on violent crimes, yet still has lower rates than a number of the peer regions. Murder and rape are two types of violent crimes. St. Louis has a relatively large rate of murders and is below average on the rape crime rate.
The homicide rate in most of the peer regions increased in the past couple of years with St. Louis landing toward the top of the rankings. Most homicides are committed with firearms and blacks are disproportionately likely to be murdered.
Despite a relatively low rate of residents who lack health insurance and a population that is about as physically active as the average U.S. resident, the region is at the top of the rankings for prevalence of some chronic conditions (stroke, diabetes, and asthma) and has high rates of death from leading diseases (heart disease and cancer). The region also has relatively high rates of heat- and cold- related deaths and opioid-drug related deaths. The prevalence of smoking tobacco, binge drinking, obesity, racial disparity, and infant mortality provide some potential indications of the causes for some of the high rates seen in the region. Click on a tab to view the Where We Stand tables for a section, click on the tab again to collapse it.
Data – Health
The St. Louis region has a relatively low percentage of the population that lacks health insurance coverage, but black people in the region are twice as likely as white people to lack insurance. St. Louis has relatively high rates on three factors associated with poor health and diseases—tobacco smoking, binge drinking, and obesity. The region is about average on the percentage of adults that meet the recommended exercise standard of 150 minutes or more of aerobic physical activity per week. For further discussion, see the Healthy and Active performance indicator on OneSTL.
The St. Louis region has a relatively low rate of youth that do not have health insurance coverage, a rate that has decreased in recent years. The infant mortality rate in St. Louis is higher than the national average and many of the peer regions. The racial disparity on this metric is indicative of the wide disparities in health care coverage and socioeconomic factors present in St. Louis as well as in all of the peer regions. The St. Louis region has an above average youth mortality rate.
This section provides tables on the percentage of the population that has ever been diagnosed with major chronic conditions. The region has some of the highest rates among the peers for stroke and asthma; is about average for rates of cancer, diabetes, and mental distress; and is just below average for rate of heart disease.
In 2016, the 10 leading causes of U.S. deaths were heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide. Compared to the peer regions, St. Louis has high death rates due to heart disease, cancer, heat and cold, and opioid drugs. The region is about the same as is average for the United States on death rates due to suicide as well as those related to drugs and alcohol.
The number of local governments in the St. Louis region is relatively high compared to the peer regions and the amount of government spending is relatively low. Whether these are good or bad thing is a long-debated topic in the region. See page 112 of Where We Stand – 7th Edition for further discussion. Click on a tab to view the Where We Stand tables for a section, click on the tab again to collapse it.
Data – Government
The total units of local government takes into account special purpose districts, including fire protection, transportation development, library services, water supply, and parks. These special purpose governments make up about half of the total units in the region. The region has a relatively high number of school districts with relatively low number of students per district.
“Local government general revenue from own sources” includes all revenue collected by all types of local government through taxes and other fees. In St. Louis, local government revenue accounts for below average amount of economic activity in the region compared to the peer regions. Local governments in all peer regions are more reliant on property taxes than sales taxes regarding tax revenue with St. Louis being more reliant than many on sales taxes. The region has relatively low spending when it comes to local government.
Engagement and Access
This section provides indicators of the involvement of residents in their communities–civically and socially as well as metrics on how accessible amenities are in the regions. Click on a tab to view the Where We Stand tables for a section, click on the tab again to collapse it.
Data – Engagement and Access
For the 2016 general election, the St. Louis region had a higher voter participation rate than was seen nationwide. U.S. voter turnout was slightly higher in the 2016 election than in 2012, but for St. Louis, voter turnout was about the same. The volunteer rate in the region has declined in the past few years. Currently, the percentage of St. Louis adults involved in some volunteer activity is slightly higher than what is seen nationally but less than many of the peer regions. See the Voter Participation and the Volunteer Rate performance indicators on OneSTL and page 118 of Where We Stand 7th Edition for further discussion.
Being able to access necessities and amenities can be important to quality of life. Ease of access can be more challenging for low-income residents due to a lack of access to a vehicle and less resources. In this section, access to healthy food choices provides an indication of how easily low-income people can obtain healthy food options. St. Louis has better access than what is seen for the entire U.S. population but is about average among the peer regions. The percentage of households that lack a computer and the percentage that lack internet access in their homes is greater than in many of the peer regions. See the Access to Healthy Food Choices performance indicator on OneSTL and page 120 of Where We Stand 7th Edition for further discussion.
Visit the EWG blog to review posts about WWS.
Looking for Prior WWS Editions and Updates?
EWG’s Library contains important agency documents including those from prior years. Use the button below to access WWS Editions 1 through 7 and the associated WWS updates.