Missouri’s population is spreading out, adding to the costs of providing services and infrastructure across the state, according to a new study released today by the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy.
The 84-page study, Growth in the Heartland: Challenges and Opportunities for Missouri, reports that Missouri’s population is quickly dispersing, with smaller metropolitan areas experiencing some of the state’s fastest growth and residency in unincorporated areas on the rise. Though new residents and jobs fueled prosperity in the 1990s, the report finds that growth has slowed in the past year, and suggests that the state’s highly decentralized development patterns could become troublesome as Missouri contends with a slowing economy and serious budget deficits.
Sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Growth in the Heartland provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date body of research and statistics yet assembled analyzing the direction, scope, and implications of development in Missouri. In addition to assessing the consequences of those trends for the state’s fiscal health, economic competitiveness, and quality of life, the report addresses the potential role of state and local policy in shaping those trends in the future. Specific findings of the report conclude that:
- Growth in the Columbia, Springfield, Joplin, and St. Joseph metropolitan areas strongly outpaced that of the Kansas City and St. Louis metropolitan areas in the 1990s. Altogether the four smaller areas captured fully one-quarter of the state’s growth and doubled the growth rate of the Kansas City and St. Louis areas.
- Population and job growth also moved beyond the smaller metro areas and towns into the state’s vast unincorporated areas. Overall, residency in these often-outlying areas grew by 12.3 percent in the 1990s—a rate 50 percent faster than the 8.1 percent growth of towns and cities.
- Most rural counties reversed decades of decline in the 1990s, with eight in ten rural counties experiencing population growth and nine in ten adding new jobs. By 2000, more rural citizens lived outside of cities and towns than in them, as more than 70 percent of new growth occurred in unincorporated areas.
“Missouri experienced tremendous gains during the last decade, but the decentralized nature of growth across the state poses significant fiscal challenges for the future,” said Bruce Katz, vice president of Brookings and director of the policy center. “The challenge for Missouri is to give communities the tools, incentives, and opportunities to grow in more efficient and fiscally responsible ways.”
The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy is committed to shaping a new generation of policies that will help build strong neighborhoods, cities, and metropolitan regions. By informing the deliberations of state and federal policymakers with expert knowledge and practical experience, the center promotes integrated approaches and practical solutions to the challenges confronting metropolitan communities. Learn more at www.brookings.edu/urban.
The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and policy solutions. Its mission is to conduct high-quality, independent research and, based on that research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations for policymakers and the public.