By Jenny Connelly-Bowen, CBN Graduate Research Assistant

This week, we’re looking at maps that chart population over time in the St. Louis area. It’s well-documented that the St. Louis region experienced a massive population loss over the second half of the last century. Earlier this summer, we shared a post from NextSTL that featured images of the City of St. Louis between 1949 and 1952, when the City’s population peaked (at 856,796 in 1950). By 2010, the City’s population had fallen to 319,294. Another NextSTL article from 2014 discusses population loss, population density by area, and potential implications for the future in St. Louis City specifically, with a particular focus on the decade between 2000 and 2010. While the Central Corridor experienced an 11.03 percent population growth between 2000 and 2010, population fell in both North (by 15.03 percent) and South St. Louis City (by 9.18 percent).

The surrounding counties have experienced population loss as well. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this March that the 15-county St. Louis region’s population growth rate during 2015—0.2 percent, or an increase of roughly 5,400 people—was the third-slowest growth rate that year among the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. On a local level, the article highlights a pattern of “exurban” growth, noting that the population of St. Charles County has grown about 7 percent since 2010 and gained more new people between 2014 and 2015 than any other Missouri county. By contrast, population loss has hit the Illinois side of the St. Louis region hard, where Monroe, Clinton, Calhoun, Jersey, Bond, Macoupin, Madison, and St. Clair Counties have lost about 11,500 people since 2010.

The maps below, created using QGIS software, document the population of St. Louis by decade from 1970 until 2010 in the 218 counties that are a part of the 1950 urbanized area of St. Louis. Data are from the full-count U.S. Census. To more easily visualize change over time while accounting for the regional population fluctuations discussed above, each map displays population by census tract as a percentage of the total population of the 218-county area at that time. Below are regional population totals for each decade, which reflect the population drain the region has experienced since the middle of the twentieth century:

1970: 1,318,335
1980: 1,049,210
1990: 941,084
2000: 855,315
2010: 798,908



Unsurprisingly, population concentrations generally move further away from the center of the region with each decade. In 1970, population levels seem fairly evenly mixed throughout the metro area, with two notable exceptions in St. Louis County (tract 2218, in Kinloch) and St. Clair County (tract 5045, in East St. Louis). (The top five census tracts by population are listed for both 1970 and 2010 below.) There are also several tracts with high population in North St. Louis City and the Central Corridor. 1980 and 1990 saw growing populations in St. Louis County and St. Clair County. This pattern continues into 2000, at which point several tracts in South St. Louis City (1172, in the Shaw neighborhood, and 1022, in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood) also show high population levels. It’s around this time that many tracts in North St. Louis City start to slip into the maps’ least-populated category, which covers counties with less than about 0.30 percent of the region’s population. By 2010, the two darkest shades of purple (tracts where between 0.64 and 0.98 percent of the region’s population lived in 2010) are entirely absent from North St. Louis City.

Below are the five most highly populated census tracts in the St. Louis region in 1970 and 2010:

1. Tract 2218 (St. Louis County – Kinloch)
2. Tract 5045 (St. Clair County – East St. Louis, National City, and Brooklyn)
3. Tract 1271 (St. Louis City – St. Louis Place neighborhood)
4. Tract 1275 (St. Louis City – Carr Square and Downtown West neighborhoods)
5. Tract 2122 (St. Louis County – Pine Lawn and Northwoods)

1. Tract 2158 (St. Louis County – University City)
2. Tract 2162 (St. Louis County – University City)
3. Tract 2120.01 (St. Louis County – Jennings)
4. Tract 2198 (St. Louis County)
5. Tract 2176 (St. Louis County – Crystal Lake Park, Huntleigh, and Des Peres)

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