While the world is facing a whole new set of problems with the COVID-19 crisis, the city of St. Louis continues to struggle with a problem it has had for years: population decline. The U.S. Census Bureau released new population estimates for 2019 and St. Louis hasn’t done so well in the past year, or the past decade for that matter. Could local policies be negatively affecting St. Louis’s population growth?
According to the new estimates, the city of St. Louis is getting close to dropping below 300,000 residents. The city’s 2019 population estimate is 300,576, down by over 2,800 from 2018. This isn’t a new occurrence, but rather a continuing trend—the city’s population has fallen by nearly 6% since 2010, shown in the graph below. St. Louis County also lost population, dropping by 1,014 from 2018 to 2019.
Other areas of Missouri are not experiencing this same trend. Right outside of the St. Louis area, St. Charles passed the 400,000 mark, adding 3,242 people in 2019. Many other areas also experienced growth, including Clay, Greene, and Jackson counties.
Though we can’t know for certain why people are moving out of St. Louis, Show-Me Institute researchers have written on population trends before, and much of what has been said still holds true. Policies that promote success and freedom for people and businesses can attract residents while those that place onerous burdens can deter.
Things like an earnings tax on residents and workers, high sales taxes, and stringent business regulations can create an unwelcoming environment. Additionally, poor school performance, high crime rates, and failed public projects can make St. Louis an unattractive option. If we want to reverse the trend, policymakers will need to address these issues. The sooner, the better.