St. Charles County remains the fastest growing county in the St. Louis region, according to U.S. census data released Thursday.
New numbers from the 2014 American Community Survey show that the population of St. Charles County has grown by about 5 percent since 2010, from an estimated 361,602 to an estimated 379,493.
Demographics analyst and Saint Louis University professor Ness Sandoval points to the county’s relatively low cost of living as the cause of the growth.
According to Sandoval, St. Charles County has the region’s youngest population on the Missouri side of the river, and more babies are born there.
“A lot of young families that are just getting married (and) want to have children cannot afford to live in Frontenac, cannot afford to live in Ladue or even Webster Groves or Kirkwood,” said Sandoval. "And so these families are coming out to O’Fallon, they’re coming out to St. Charles (and) Wentzville.”
St. Charles County is the only area in the region to have a population change greater than 2 percent over the past five years.
During that same time span, St. Clair and Madison counties, in Illinois, experienced slight population loss, from an estimated 270, 419 in 2010 to an estimated 265,729 and an estimated 269,721 to an estimated 266,560 respectively.
Meanwhile, Jefferson County had slight gains, from an estimated 219,084 in 2010 to an estimated 222,716.
The populations of the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County have been largely stagnant since 2010, with the county growing 0.3 percent from an estimated 998,881 in 2010 to an estimated 1,000,876, and the city shrinking 0.5 percent from an estimated 319,156 to an estimated 317,419.
St. Louis actually experienced minute population gains in 2012 and 2013, but lost a thousand people in 2014. Sandoval said the loss surprised him.
“We’ve been studying the city for the past five years, and we had anticipated that the city had reached the bottom of the population decline,” Sandoval said. “This is actually a surprise to us because there’s a lot of development happening in the central corridor by Saint Louis University.”
Because people are moving into St. Louis, Sandoval said he thinks the continued population drop is due to the demographics of those attracted to the city.
“You still have families that are moving out and young people who are single moving in. And so I think you’re getting this net loss of people,” Sandoval said.
The entire St. Louis metropolitan area has grown by about 80,500 people since 2005 for an estimated total of 2,805,856 as of 2014. That's about a 3 percent increase from the region's 2005 population of an estimated 2, 725,336. Sandoval said that shows the population has stabilized after fears of decline during the recession.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.