New Census Bureau study confirms what we already knew: St. Louisans don’t move away
Live in St. Louis long enough and you’ve either been asked this question or heard about people asking: “Where’d you go to high school?” even to people who haven’t been in school for decades.
It’s a bit of a St. Louis-specific meme, but the message it telegraphs is significant. The overwhelming majority of people living in the St. Louis region haven’t moved away since they were children, or had moved away and returned by their mid-20s.
A new study from the U.S. Census Bureau and Harvard University released Monday adds validity to that message. The study examines migration patterns for young adults across the country, tracking where U.S. residents born between 1984 and 1992 were living when they were 16 years old and then again when they were 26. This population group is now between the ages of 30 and 38.
The data for St. Louis show about 75% of people who grew up in the region were still living there by the time they were 26, a figure consistent with other Midwestern cities like Chicago and Cleveland. This metric is higher for Black residents in this age group, with about 81% staying since growing up in and around St. Louis.
For Latinos in St. Louis, the percentage is 66%, and it’s 61% for Asians. However, these numbers may not fully represent migration patterns for current younger Asian and Latino St. Louisans.
Both Latinos and Asians have experienced significant population growth in St. Louis since 2000-08, the time period when people born between 1984 and 1992 were turning 16. Additionally, the majority of Latinos in St. Louis are younger than 29, which is below the bottom age range of the population sample in this data.
It’s also important to remember the context of when people represented in this data turned 16 and 26.
They turned 16 between 2000 and 2008 and 26 between 2010 and 2018. In the middle of these year ranges was the Great Recession, when many people represented in this data were entering the job market. These economic conditions weren’t favorable and may be one explanation why many members of this population group were living at or close to home by the time they turned 26.
Where people go
Of the 25% of St. Louisans represented in this data who did not remain in the region, the top 10 destinations were a mix of areas in Missouri or Illinois, like Kansas City and Chicago (which were the top two), and major cities including Los Angeles, Denver, New York, Dallas and Washington, D.C.
The destinations outside of the Midwest changes based on race. Top destinations for Black St. Louisans represented in this data include Southern and Sun Belt cities like Atlanta, Houston and Phoenix along with Los Angeles and Dallas.
Latino and Asians who moved away mirrored overall destinations in Missouri or Illinois and the larger cities listed. However, the samples of these population groups are about 10 times smaller than Black and “other” population groups listed, meaning these data points may miss migration patterns happening today.
Where people are coming from
The people who moved to St. Louis overwhelmingly came from nearby areas in Illinois and Missouri. Edwardsville, Chicago, Farmington, Kansas City and Columbia were the top places younger people represented in this data moved from to live in St. Louis.
Eric Schmid covers economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.