Monday, June 21, 2010
Detroit has not had the largest peak-to-trough decline in percentage terms among American large cities
Although it is getting close. Detroit has lost about 58 percent of its 1950 population; St. Louis has lost about 59 percent. And Detroit's population is much bigger than it was in 1900; St. Louis has lost about 30 percent of its population since 1900 (just prior to the 1904 World's Fair, when 20 million people visited St. Louis).
Posted by Richard Green at 10:43 AM
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How much of the St. Louis shrinkage sine 1900 is a function of its being land-locked--surrounded by suburban communities in a state that (apparently) makes annexation very difficult? I think that St. Louis has been blocked from a very typical sort of political-city growth, annexation, that has allowed many other cities (I'm thinking specifically of Columbus, OH; Indianapolis; Denver) to expand both in terms of population and in terms of area.
Being land locked is not a recipe for problems. I live across the river from a little known burg called NORTH Kansas City, Missouri. It's surrounded on all four sides by Kansas City, Missouri. Yet I cannot tell you where to go in that town to find blight.
I don't know the reason for that. I'll bet that being land-locked contributes to that situation in a couple of key ways. City leaders have a clearer picture of what their needs will be ten years from now than do the leaders of other ciies. Also, not being able to annex forces them to continually reinvest in what they already have.
I any case, I don't think the blame belongs with the state. Kansas City, at the other side of the state from St. Louis, hasn't added any land since the 1950's. We had a small population decline in the 1970's and 80's. Recent Census Bureau estimates suggest it's going up again. In the last decade we've added 17,000 residents to our downtown, 70% of whom are property owners. We even have a down-town grocery store, a important urban amenity that St. Louis lacks.
If I'm less than sanguine about annexation, it might also be because I live in a city that already has 4 square miles more land than New York with less than 6% of the population. Average yard sizes have been getting gradually larger for 60 years. Both of these facts make me wish somebody would track per capita spending on infrastructure.
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