Ever since the 2010 census came out, it seems that Metropolitan St. Louisans have been wringing their hands. From the Post-Dispatch to virtually every area pundit, the story is the same. There is nothing but “doom and gloom” in the numbers. The city lost population—again. The region as a whole is getting older. Worst of all, the census showed that the region is not growing as fast as the nation.
But I would like to offer a different take. Instead of being dismayed by the census, I think there are a number of positive signs. The figure from the census which really jumps out at me is that St. Louis is still ranked the 18th largest metropolitan region. I was fully expecting that St. Louis was going to be passed by either Tampa or Denver. While we did not grow as rapidly as either of these two regions, we grew fast enough to maintain our position.
While commentators have lamented that the region only grew at a 4.23% rate, they do not point out that this was higher than for the three largest regions—New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Nor do they note that it was virtually the same as for two “cooler” regions—Boston (3.67%) and San Francisco (5.13%). Considering that the region took two “body blows” not of our making during the decade—losing two major employers, Ford and Chrysler—holding onto our position in the second tier of major metros is incredibly good news. We have problems, but we have a lot going for us as well—a diversified employment base, great neighborhoods, world class amenities and institutions—plus we are still in the middle of the country. We could be the “sleeper” region in the next decade.