By Jenny Connelly-Bowen, CBN Graduate Research Assistant

In this week’s newsletter, we’re mapping foreign-born residents in the St. Louis region. This week’s op-ed by Cyril Loum celebrates presence of immigrants in our cities and discusses some of the specific challenges that foreign-born residents face. He urges neighborhood leaders to build strong relationships with the immigrant populations in their communities and invites all of us to consider the unique strengths that foreign-born people contribute to our community-building efforts. This week’s newsletter also features a story about East Fox Homes, a new housing redevelopment project in Fox Park and Tower Grove East, led by Rise Community Development (Rise) and Messiah Lutheran Church. The apartments created by the project will be targeted to these two neighborhoods’ growing population of Bhutanese refugees—many of whom, as Rise points out, lack access to a car and benefit from living in a dense urban network with shopping, jobs, and public transit nearby. These stories come close on the heels of a report we shared two weeks ago highlighting the St. Louis area’s growing immigrant population. According to data from the American Community Survey, the St. Louis area foreign-born population grew by about 9 percent between 2014 and 2015, the greatest percentage increase of any top 20 U.S. metro area. Local organizations like the St. Louis Mosaic Projectthe International Institute of St. Louis, and Caring Ministries, Inc. are working to nurture and promote a growing immigrant population in St. Louis.

Where have St. Louis area foreign-born residents been concentrated historically, and where do the majority of them live now? The maps below, which cover the 1950 urbanized area of St. Louis, were compiled in QGIS using the 2010-2014 American Community Survey (ACS) Five-Year Estimates and U.S. Census and American Community Survey sample-based data from Brown University’s Longitudinal Tract Database. The U.S. Census defines the foreign-born population to include “anyone who was not a U.S. citizen at birth.”

The first set of maps tracks the foreign-born population count by census tract; red areas have the highest count, and gray areas have the lowest. The second set maps the share of foreign-born people in that census tract as a percentage of that tract’s total population. Here, orange tracts are areas where foreign-born people make up a larger share of the total population; in purple tracts, there are proportionally fewer immigrants. All maps also include relevant totals for that year: total population and total foreign-born population on the first set, and percentage foreign-born population on the second set.




As a general trend, notice that although the overall population of this urbanized area has declined drastically over the past 40 years (from 1,319,895 in 1970 to 798,776 per 2010-2014 data estimates), the foreign-born population has grown from 31,966 to 44,625 (with a noticeable dip between in 1980 and 1990). The percentage of foreign-born residents has also grown, from 2.42 percent to 5.59 percent.

The residential patterns of foreign-born residents have also changed significantly during those 40 years. On the 1970 maps, many immigrants appear to be concentrated along the Central Corridor in University City and Clayton. Over time, the foreign-born population spreads both west into St. Louis County and southeast into South St. Louis City and drains from North St. Louis City. These patterns are similar on both sets of maps, but the percentage-based maps reveal a trend that the count-based maps don’t: the St. Louis area’s foreign-born population has become much more condensed since 1990. At that time, in census tracts with the most immigrants, foreign-born people made up between about five to 13 percent of the total tract population. According to 2010-2014 data estimates, the tracts that are home to the most immigrants now have foreign-born populations of about 15 to almost 40 percent, and there are relatively fewer tracts in the top two categories (down to 11 from over 30 in 1990).

To see maps from previous editions of the Community Builders Exchange, click here.