ST. LOUIS — The number of people living in the city of St. Louis fell below 300,000 in 2021, and the metro area also saw a decline in population, the US Census Bureau said in new estimates released Thursday.
The numbers, while estimates, heighten concerns about stagnant growth in a region that looks set to be overtaken by fast-growing metro areas like Orlando, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina in the years to come.
On July 1, 2021, the Census Bureau estimated that only 293,310 people lived in the core city of St. Louis, compared to 301,578 people counted in the 2020 census.
About 2.81 million people lived in the entire metropolitan area on July 1st. That was a drop of about 10,000 people in just over a year: the 2020 census counted 2.82 million in the region.
The numbers prompted another call for regional unity from the St. Louis Metro’s New Business and Civic Booster Group and a redoubling of area leaders’ efforts to attract residents and focus on “inclusive economic growth.” Much of the city’s population loss was due to black residents leaving the disinvested neighborhoods of north St. Louis.
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“Early last year, we formed Greater St. Louis Inc. with a strong belief that growth must be a top civic priority for the St. Louis metro,” said Jason Hall, CEO of Greater St. Louis Inc “These numbers tell us what we expected and underscore the urgency of aligning this metro for growth and more opportunities for all. Stagnation is the existential threat to everything we love about home.”
St. Louis County, which grew by just a few thousand people to just over 1 million people from 2010 to 2020, has fallen to 997,187 people over the past year, the estimates show.
People also continued to leave the Metro East counties, which along with the city of St. Louis, have been declining in population over the past decade. St. Clair County fell to just under 255,000 on July 1 from 257,400 in the 2020 census. Madison County’s population dropped by just over 1,000 to 264,490. Monroe County had an estimated 30 fewer residents than in 2020, dropping to 34,932.
The bright spots were in the region’s western and southern suburbs, primarily in St. Charles County. It has been estimated to have grown by nearly 5,000 people to nearly 410,000 people in the 15 months since the 2020 census. Franklin County also grew by a few hundred residents to just over 105,000. Jefferson County added about 1,000 people, growing to nearly 227,800.
Still, growth in Missouri’s suburbs and suburbs was not enough to offset the region’s overall urban-core decline. Hall in Greater St. Louis said area leaders need to focus on the region’s strengths outlined in the group’s “2030 Work Plan,” such as advanced biomedical manufacturing and logistics.
“There are bright spots and momentum that we urgently need to focus on now,” Hall said. “The STL 2030 work plan affirms that Metro St. Louis has the assets to grow as we align and unlock value with a growth mindset. We have remained focused on continuing the momentum that our investors and community partners have created over our first 14 months.”
Missouri as a whole, meanwhile, has added residents, unlike Illinois. It is estimated that Missouri had a population of about 6,168,187 as of July 2021, about 13,000 more than the 2020 census count. Illinois lost about 140,000 people, according to an estimate, falling to 12.67 million. Much of this was centered on Chicago, which is estimated to have lost about 100,000 people to its subway.
The estimates were the first to cover much of the pandemic, which has seen population declines in the country’s largest and most expensive cities, such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as people fled densely populated areas and also found new freedoms to live around remote work places with no traffic and high cost of living.
Some of the nation’s fastest-growing cities continued their upward trajectory, including places that without major change in migration patterns or regional efforts appear poised to soon overtake St. Louis in terms of population.
Orlando added nearly 20,000 people from the 2020 census through July 1, growing to 2.69 million. Charlotte grew even faster, adding 30,000 people in that time to reach an estimated 2.7 million people, surpassing Orlando.
Some of the Midwestern St. Louis counterparts also saw good growth between the 2020 census and the 2021 population estimates. The Kansas City subway added about 7,000 people, growing to just under 2.2 million. The Indianapolis region added about 15,000 people, reaching nearly 2.127 million. During this time, the Cincinnati region grew by about 3,000 people to 2.26 million.
The St. Louis metropolitan area has been declining in population since the last census estimate
* 2020 Census (April 1, 2020) ** 2021 Population Estimate (July 1, 2022) Source: Census Bureau.
|district||Census 2020 *||Estimate 2021 **||To change||% change|
|St Charles, MO.||405,262||409,981||4,719||1.16%|
|St.Louis County, Mo.||1.004.125||997,187||-6,938||-0.69%|
|St Clair, Illinois.||257,400||254,796||-2,604||-1.01%|