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City of St. Louis population decline led by loss of Black residents, census estimates show

City of St. Louis population decline led by loss of Black residents, census estimates show

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Ghost town: Vacant neighbors, vacant homes

A man pulls a lawnmower down the 3900 block of Labadie Avenue in the Greater Ville neighborhood, passing five vacant homes with overgrown yards on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. Of the five, four are owned by the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA), one is privately owned and two of the five were recently slated for demolition after a 2017 fire. The sixth at right is occupied by two families. This one block stretch contains 14 vacant properties. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — The city of St. Louis continues to lose Black residents, new census estimates show, while the white population has remained largely unchanged in recent years.

Black residents totaled 136,167 as of July 1, 2019, or 45.3% of the city’s population, according to estimates to be released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

That represents declines of 3,490 from the 2018 estimate and of 21,727 from the 2010 census.

Meanwhile, the city’s white population numbered 144,649, or 48.1%, in 2019. That’s an increase of 336 from the 2018 estimate and 591 since 2010.

The chairman of the city Board of Aldermen’s African American caucus, Jeffrey Boyd, blamed the drop in Black population on “disinvestment” and deteriorating housing in many North Side neighborhoods.

“If people are living in uninhabitable conditions, they move,” said Boyd, D-22nd Ward.

He added that the disinvestment is due in part on “slumlords” who don’t maintain their property.

Andre Alexander, who is involved in efforts to bring new life to the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood, said the new estimates on accelerated Black flight “don’t surprise me, they sadden me.”

He said “unless some significant investment” in housing stock on the North Side is made, more and more African Americans will continue to leave the city for St. Louis County and Metro East communities.

Alexander, a minister, heads the Tabernacle Community Development Corp., which has been rehabbing existing homes and buying and demolishing buildings beyond repair.

The city’s overall population has been steadily sliding in the past decade, down from 319,294 in 2010 to just above 300,576 last year.

But the census estimates underscore a trend that suggests that Black residents have led the more recent part of the exodus from the city, where they once were a majority.

In 2000, when the city’s population stood at 348,189, Black residents made up 51.2% of the population.

The overall number of Black residents in the St. Louis metropolitan statistical area — which includes the city and 14 surrounding counties — has declined slightly, from 518,846 in 2010 to 517,518 last year.

Aldermanic President Lewis Reed said in a statement that the latest estimates “are a bit surprising to me” but that it underscores the need for “some type of major investment to grow and keep our City a desirable place for all to live, work and play.”

An aldermanic hearing was held Wednesday on Reed’s bill to put leasing St. Louis Lambert International Airport to private operators before voters. He says generating hundreds of millions of dollars to revitalize deteriorating areas is one of his goals.

Mayor Lyda Krewson’s spokesman, Jacob Long, said in an email that “this is a continuation of an ongoing trend.”

He added that these are only estimates and urged residents across the city to complete their questionnaires for the 2020 U.S. census by Oct. 31, the extended deadline. “We need a more complete count,” he said. “Currently the City only has a response rate of 49.3%.”

Comptroller Darlene Green in a statement said “people vote with their feet” and that the “concerns of our Black community have gone unmet for so long.” That, she said, continues to make it difficult for some to choose to live in the city. Green also urged all residents to participate in this year’s census.

Glenn Burleigh, an official with the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council, said the reasons for African Americans moving out of the city are complex.

One factor, he said, is that much of the housing built in the city in recent years isn’t affordable for many Black St. Louis residents shopping for a new home. So they instead check out what’s available in the suburbs.

“When you look at the new housing coming on line in St. Louis, it is almost exclusively fairly expensive,” he said, at a sales price of $300,000 or higher.

He also said gentrification has resulted in increased prices for sales of existing homes and for rents in the central corridor and some near south side areas.

Chris Prener, an assistant professor of sociology at St. Louis University, also listed gentrification in some areas a possible reason for the drop in African American residents. He said crime and a search for better schools were other possible “push factors.”

He also noted that Black flight from St. Louis has been going on for decades.

Ken Warren, a political science professor at SLU, said the biggest takeaway from the 2019 estimates is that the city’s population as a whole has continued its steep decline since 1950.

“This just shows that St. Louis isn’t doing what it needs to do to hold its people,” Warren said.

Among other groups, the city’s Asian population has grown from 9,454 in 2010 to an estimated 10,882 in 2019, while the number of Hispanics has risen from 11,130 to 12,543.

The number of Black residents in two of the city’s neighbors — St. Louis and St. Charles counties — has increased significantly.

St. Louis County gained 14,358 Black residents from 2010 to 2019, while St. Charles County gained 6,073.

Both counties remain overwhelmingly white; in fast-growing St. Charles County, which has gained more than 40,000 people in the past decade, Black residents represent 5.3% of the overall population.

The St. Louis metropolitan area’s overall population has grown little since 2010, according to the estimates — up half a percentage point to 2.8 million last year.

Updated at 10 a.m. Thursday with statement from the city comptroller

St. Louis population estimates

Census estimates show city’s population loss has been led by drop in Black residents. Asians, Hispanics and others, who comprise less than 7% of the city’s population, are not included in this chart. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

YEAR WHITE % BLACK % TOTAL
2010 144,058 45.1 157,894 49.4 319,294
2017 145,406 47.1 143,500 46.6 308,233
2018 144,313 47.6 139,657 45.3 303,419
2019 144,649 48.1 136,167 45.3 300,576

St. Louis MSA 2010 and 2019

Population estimates show little overall change in St. Louis metropolitan statistical area, a region that includes 14 counties in Missouri and Illinois and the city of St. Louis (U.S. Census Bureau)

COUNTY TOTAL WHITE % BLACK % ASIAN % HISPANIC %
2000 CENSUS
Bond County, Ill. 17,768 16,283 91.6% 1,114 6.3% 69 0.4% 547 3.1%
Calhoun County, Ill. 5,089 5,044 99.1% 7 0.1% 12 0.2% 40 0.8%
Clinton County, Ill. 37,762 35,709 94.6% 1,374 3.6% 168 0.4% 1,058 2.8%
Jersey County, Ill. 22,985 22,476 97.8% 94 0.4% 78 0.3% 222 1.0%
Macoupin County, Ill. 47,765 46,717 97.8% 370 0.8% 129 0.3% 418 0.9%
Madison County, Ill. 269,282 240,201 89.2% 21,402 8.0% 2,336 0.9% 7,313 2.7%
Monroe County, Ill. 32,957 32,422 98.4% 73 0.2% 148 0.5% 450 1.4%
St. Clair County, Ill. 270,056 177,439 65.7% 82,736 30.6% 3,359 1.2% 8,785 3.3%
Franklin County, Mo. 101,492 98,727 97.3% 873 0.9% 418 0.4% 1,397 1.4%
Jefferson County, Mo. 218,733 211,996 96.9% 1,817 0.8% 1,435 0.7% 3,408 1.6%
Lincoln County, Mo. 52,566 50,287 95.7% 1,003 1.9% 198 0.4% 1,032 2.0%
St. Charles County, Mo. 360,485 330,356 91.6% 15,183 4.2% 8,019 2.2% 9,983 2.8%
St. Louis County, Mo. 998,954 709,884 71.1% 234,276 23.5% 35,109 3.5% 25,024 2.5%
St. Louis city, Mo. 319,294 144,058 45.1% 157,894 49.5% 9,454 3.0% 11,130 3.5%
Warren County, Mo. 32,513 31,035 95.5% 630 1.9% 143 0.4% 957 2.9%
Total 2,787,701 2,152,634 77.2% 518,846 18.6% 61,075 2.2% 71,764 2.6%
2019 ESTIMATE
Bond County, Ill. 16,426 14,874 90.6% 1,041 6.3% 134 0.8% 594 3.6%
Calhoun County, Ill. 4,739 4,658 98.3% 21 0.4% 14 0.3% 68 1.4%
Clinton County, Ill. 37,562 35,295 94.0% 1,376 3.7% 224 0.6% 1,198 3.2%
Jersey County, Ill. 21,773 21,008 96.5% 175 0.8% 220 1.0% 314 1.4%
Macoupin County, Ill. 44,926 43,606 97.1% 434 1.0% 187 0.4% 568 1.3%
Madison County, Ill. 262,966 230,444 87.6% 23,226 8.8% 2,710 1.0% 9,035 3.4%
Monroe County, Ill. 34,637 33,834 97.7% 153 0.4% 209 0.6% 570 1.7%
St. Clair County, Ill. 259,686 168,280 64.8% 79,344 30.6% 4,056 1.6% 11,215 4.3%
Franklin County, Mo. 103,967 100,364 96.5% 1,037 1.0% 573 0.6% 1,936 1.9%
Jefferson County, Mo. 225,081 216,023 96.0% 2,649 1.2% 1,839 0.8% 4,704 2.1%
Lincoln County, Mo. 59,013 56,117 95.1% 1,184 2.0% 307 0.5% 1,557 2.6%
St. Charles County, Mo. 402,022 360,266 89.6% 21,256 5.3% 11,072 2.8% 13,754 3.4%
St. Louis County, Mo. 994,205 674,770 67.9% 248,634 25.0% 46,253 4.7% 29,916 3.0%
St. Louis city, Mo. 300,576 144,649 48.1% 136,167 45.3% 10,882 3.6% 12,543 4.2%
Warren County, Mo. 35,649 33,717 94.6% 821 2.3% 169 0.5% 1,245 3.5%
Total 2,803,228 2,137,905 76.3% 517,518 18.5% 78,849 2.8% 89,217 3.2%
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