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Racial disparity, segregation persist in St. Louis

Racial DisparitiesRacial Disparity St. Louis MSA 2015

  • Black residents of metropolitan St. Louis comprise 18.1 percent of the population yet 85.9 percent of the people living in concentrated poverty are black.
  • Almost one third of black St. Louis residents fall under the federal threshold for poverty, compared to 8.4 percent of whites.
  • The unemployment rate for black adults in St. Louis, 13.5 percent, is three times higher than that for whites.
  • About twice as many whites have college degrees, 34.9 percent, than do blacks, 17.6 percent.
  • Median household income for blacks in St. Louis is about half of what it is for whites.
  • Just one out of 20 white households in the metro area does not have access to a car. For blacks, about one out of five households do not have access to a car.

Racial Segregation

  • The average white resident of the St. Louis metro area lives in a census tract that is 84.9 percent white.
  • The average black St. Louis resident lives in a census tract that is 60.6 percent black.
  • Since 1970, segregation has declined in the St. Louis region, however over the last decade the decline in segregation has slowed.
  • Among the nation’s 50 most populous metro areas, St. Louis ranks as the 7th most segregated between black and white residents, 4th highest in terms of white isolation, and 9th highest in terms of black isolation.
  • The foreclosure crisis of 2008 resulted in one of the largest migration events in U.S. history, having an effect on all races and ethnic groups, yet the crisis disproportionately affected minority households.
  • Studies have shown that segregation can lead to significant health and economic disparities, as well as be an impediment to regional economic growth.

BW-Segregation-dissimilarity-index-2011-2015Where We Stand and OneSTL

The East-West Gateway Council of Governments produces Where We Stand to gauge how the St. Louis region is doing compared to the 50 most populous Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the country. The most recent edition of Where We Stand, the 7th edition published in 2015, included more than 200 tables that ranked the St. Louis compared to other metro areas. Periodic updates have been compiled since Where We Stand was first published in 1992.

The Where We Stand updates on racial disparity and racial segregation were presented to the East-West Gateway Board of Directors at its monthly meeting on June 28.

Part of the reason for these reports is to update the metrics used in the 2017 OneSTL Report to the Region. OneSTL is a plan for sustainable development that includes a vision, goals, and objectives for the future of the region as well as strategies, tools, and resources for achieving the OneSTL vision. There are more than 50 OneSTL performance indicators grouped under nine themes, all intended to measure the St. Louis region’s progress toward sustainability.

Although the St. Louis region is performing well on many of the metrics used to measure the performance of the OneSTL plan, applying a racial equity lens highlights that gains are not reaching everyone in the region. The report showed that the region continues to struggle with the challenge of addressing disparities that exist between black and white residents.

Racial disparities in employment, education, and income persist throughout the nation, and the St. Louis metropolitan area often ranks among the regions with the largest gaps between blacks and whites. Black people in St. Louis are more likely to live in poverty, have less access to healthy foods, and live in areas with a high concentration of poor people. These factors make it challenging to access resources and amenities as well as build wealth.

Many of the working groups engaged in planning the 2017 Sustainability Summit expressed a need for additional information with which to apply a racial equity lens to issues of sustainability. To this end, the report on racial disparity adds comparative data to the OneSTL performance measures to show how St. Louis ranks among the 50 largest metropolitan areas on racial disparity. Data are not available to review the differences between whites and blacks for all of the OneSTL performance measures, but the measures included in this report cover important aspects of life— housing, transportation, education and economic well‐being.

The update on racial segregation takes a closer look at the trends from 1970 to 2011-2015 in the St. Louis region, including how St. Louis ranks among the 50 most populous regions. Generally, the report finds that diversity and integration have increased in St. Louis, but not at the same rate as in many other peer regions.

Despite progress, most communities in St. Louis are still highly segregated. Since 1970, segregation has declined in the St. Louis metro area and throughout the country, though over the last decade the decline in segregation has slowed and even reversed in some regions. In St. Louis, the pace of integration over the last 15 years was slower than in the 1980s and 1990s. The trend has been similar in other regions, although many peer regions have had lower levels of segregation.

Access the Where We Stand Updates and other reports in the Where We Stand series at ewgateway.org/wws .

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