ST. LOUIS – Population data for the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan Area reveals two consistent trends over the last half-century. People are moving away from the City of St. Louis, but the number of people living in the metro has not dramatically changed.

FOX 2 recently compiled Census data for the City of St. Louis, plus every county in the St. Louis metropolitan area, from 1970-2020.

As part of the data evaluation process, FOX 2 compiled numbers from 15 counties that Greater St. Louis Inc. lists as part of the region. That includes seven Missouri counties and eight Illinois counties.

Here’s a closer look at the numbers….




Over the last half-century, the City of St. Louis has lost half of its population, but the population of the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan Area has increased by almost 12 percent, according to U.S. Census figures.

There are a few other notable trends within population figures over the years…

Westward expansion

St. Charles, Lincoln, and Warren counties are booming in growth, increasing at each of the last five decade-beginning points and all at least doubling in population compared to their figures in the 1970s.

St. Charles County also had the largest spike in population increase from 2010 to 2020, a jump of more than 12 percent. People are settling for a little more distance from the flagship city of St. Louis compared to decades ago.

Slow growth or little change in some spots

St. Louis County has only grown by about 50,000 in size over the last half-century, roughly a 5% change. From 2010 to 2020, it gained more residents than lost, but didn’t even grow 1% in size.

For the eight counties under the Illinois Metro East umbrella, their combined population only increased about 2.5 percent over the last half-century. Madison County overtook St. Clair County as the largest Metro East County in population, but it’s only grown around 6 percent over the last half-century.

Taking all 15 counties of the Census-designated St. Louis region into consideration, they have accounted for almost 12 percent of population growth since 1970, but only about 1 percent over the last decade. There was a small decline from 1970 to 1980, but the region has gradually rebounded in size since then.

Suburbia stays strong

The Census numbers don’t necessarily account for inbound and outbound moves from St. Louis City and the region, but research from St. Louis Public Radio suggests around 75% of people who grow up in the region still live there, even when they move homes.

If you take that into consideration with St. Louis City’s population loss over the last half-century (around 320,000 people), that scale means roughly 240,000 people who moved from the city likely still live somewhere else in the region, either in Missouri or Illinois.

Suburbia proved strong after the World War II era and might not be as pronounced in modern times, but people are more content with suburbs and exurbs now compared to the 20th century.