Metro-East News

Is St. Louis really one of the worst places to live?

St. Louis stinks? Here’s what some locals think.

The recent ranking of St. Louis, MO, as one of the worst places to live isn't necessarily believed by those who live here. Here are the views of those from the region and some visitors.
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The recent ranking of St. Louis, MO, as one of the worst places to live isn't necessarily believed by those who live here. Here are the views of those from the region and some visitors.

St. Louis was recently ranked one of the worst cities to live in by 24/7 Wall Street.

But why is that?

Cities with good schools, a strong local economy and job market and a safe environment often attract new residents, the 24/7 Wall Street ranking said. Cities without those things tend to drive residents away, as with St. Louis, where the population has been nearly halved in the past 45 years.

24/7 Wall Street, a financial news and opinion website, looked at nine different criteria to rank the worst places to live in America: crime, economy, demography (which was only used to exclude cities, not to rank them), education, environment, health, housing, infrastructure and leisure. St. Louis ranked fourth, above Detroit; Flint, Mich.; and Birmingham, Ala.

Breaking down the categories, it’s clear that crime was one of the areas that brought St. Louis so close to the top. With the highest violent crime rate of any U.S. city — nearly five times the national rate — crime is a big issue in the city. In the ranking, cities with higher crime rates were penalized.

Violent crime in the city increased 4.4 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to St. Louis Metropolitan Police data. The number of homicides, 188, remained the same for the two years, but rapes, aggravated assaults and burglaries all increased.

When it comes to the economy, St. Louis isn’t much better, statistically. The city’s poverty rate is about 25 percent, according to the U.S. Census. That’s nearly double the U.S. average poverty rate. The median household income is about $10,000 lower than Missouri’s, and the unemployment rate is at 4.5 percent, but dropping, which is promising for the city.

Looking at standardized test scores, education is another area where St. Louis struggles. Scores show that the number of quality schools is increasing, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, even though the city has some of the lowest-performing schools in Missouri. Only about a third of residents have a bachelor’s degree, which is one of the key points 24/7 Wall Street took into consideration in the ranking.

One education area where St. Louis does well, however, is in the number of colleges and universities in the city. With Saint Louis University, Washington University, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Maryville University and more, there are plenty of options for higher education.

Housing, another key aspect in the ranking, is another area where St. Louis didn’t perform well. The ranking wanted median housing prices in each city to be at least 90 percent of the statewide number, but St. Louis was about $6,000 off that rate. Home values are also nearly three times the amount of the median household income.

Airports and commuting are two areas where St. Louis shines. With multiple large public and commercial airports around the city, air travel is accessible to those in the area. St. Louis also has lower average commuting times than the national average, according to a Census report.

But in commuting by foot or public transportation, St. Louis falls below national averages again. Fewer workers carpool, take public transportation and bike to work than national statistics show, according to a Census report. Five percent of workers use public transportation nationally, compared to only 2.6 percent in St. Louis County (the report didn’t measure just St. Louis city, which is what the ranking looked at).

Last but not least is leisure, the category where St. Louis most likely scored best in the ranking. With an internationally recognized zoo and popular museums, parks golf courses and other attractions — many of which are free — the city isn’t lacking in fun things to do. Golf Advisor says there are “excellent courses in all directions.”

But this is just one ranking. St. Louis has also shown up on the opposite end of the spectrum, where it’s ranked one of the best cities in the country. It depends on the criteria used in the ranking, and how they weigh each category.