We’re Not in Last Place—We’re Not Even in the Race
The release of the 2020 Census Bureau numbers brought bad news: The St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has dropped out of the top 20 largest MSAs in the country. We’ve been in a so-called “race to the bottom” for a long time, but now it feels like we’re not even in the race.
The growth of the St. Louis MSA, which contains 7 counties in Missouri and 8 counties in Illinois, has been stagnant for years, driven in no small part by poor population growth in St. Louis City. While some lawmakers were pleasantly surprised that our 2020 numbers weren’t worse, I’m disappointed at what has become of a once booming and prosperous Midwestern region.
What is it that keeps St. Louis out of the race?
Maybe it’s the sales tax rates that can be over 11 percent. Or the earnings tax in St. Louis City. Perhaps it’s the poor public schools and lack of school choice. Or the crime. It’s likely a mix of all these things and more; anything that makes St. Louis a less attractive place to live, work, or start a business has negative effects on population growth. You would think that years of stagnant growth would inspire lawmakers to take steps in the right direction, but we’ve seen little change. Maybe this fall from the top 20 will finally light a fire under lawmakers.