ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – St. Louis gets good marks for stability and affordability, but low marks for racial disparity in the latest report from the East-West Gateway Council of Governments.
The seventh annual “Where We Stand” report compares St. Louis with 49 other big metropolitan areas on housing, education, income, health, racial disparity and more. The findings are based on data from several sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control.
Among the highlights:
**Racial disparity in poverty – St. Louis ranks 5th highest, with blacks more than twice as likely to be poor compared to whites. The median household income for black households here is $31,000, compared to $61,000 for white households.
**Unemployment for blacks in St. Louis is 2.8 times higher than whites, ranking St. Louis 8th highest in disparity between black and white employment.
**Crime here based on 2013 data shows the region ranking 30th among the 50 most populous metropolitan areas for total crime and 18th for violent crime. The region ranked 32nd for property crime.
**Education – the St. Louis area ranks 22nd for the percentage of adults 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
**Population – the region ranks 19th in population with 2.8 million residents, just ahead of Baltimore and just behind Tampa.
**Senior population – the St. Louis area has more seniors than most large urban areas, ranking 8th among the top 50 for the percent of people 65 and older.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger says he’s concerned about the racial disparity in the county.
“We have two pockets, two census tracks where we have our residents living in extreme poverty as defined by the federal government,” Stenger says, “which means that over 40 percent of the population in Wellston and in Spanish Lake live below the poverty line.”
Stenger says government alone can’t fix it, but government can take steps to help.
He points to the county’s Children Service Fund, which has $80 million he plans to spend on children in poverty and children with mental health issues.
St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern was asked what can be done to close the gap between whites and blacks.
“I think a lot of it is attributed to a lack of jobs,” Kern said. “We’ve got to do better bringing employment to the region, bringing living wage jobs to our communities. It’s a difficult thing to do.”
Jim Wild, the Interim Executive Director of East-West Gateway, says the racial disparity starts in the classroom and affects many areas of life.
“When you look at high school diplomas, whites are outpacing blacks on that,” Wild says. “When you look at home ownership, whites are three times more likely to own a home than African Americans. When you look at infant mortality rate, blacks are three times more likely to die before the age of one than whites.”
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