Immigrants thrive in St. Louis, but the metro lags in attracting more of them, study says – featuring Betsy Cohen

The St. Louis metro area ranked sixth for places where immigrants are thriving best nationwide, but over the past decade has lagged in percentage and numerical growth of the foreign-born population, according to a study by the George W. Bush Institute.

To compile its rankings about where immigrants are thriving the best, the Dallas-based nonpartisan institute used 12 measures on educational attainment, income, financial well-being and living standards adjusted for local costs of living. The St. Louis metro area ranked only behind the San Jose, Baltimore, San Francisco-Oakland, Seattle-Tacoma and Washington, D.C., metro areas.

“Cities like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Dayton – which have performed better than most others in attracting in-migration by immigrants and helping them thrive despite challenging circumstances overall – owe their success in part to intentional, comprehensive efforts in each of these areas,” the study said.

However, the St. Louis metro area ranked 48th in percentage growth of its foreign-born population from 2010 to 2020, at 18.1%. By numerical growth, the metro area ranked 41st, with an increase of 20,732 foreign-born residents. The report refers to the St. Louis metro area in its entirety as "slow-growing."

The report, “Immigrants and Opportunity in America’s Cities,” found the St. Louis metro ranked third for foreign-born living standards, fifth for foreign-born adult populations with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 17th for foreign-born median household income.

St. Louis County ranked ninth among 106 selected counties where immigrants are thriving the best, with a median household income of $79,949. The city of St. Louis was 77th, with immigrants earning a median household income of $45,825.

The 132-page report added that several metros, including St. Louis, “punch above their weight" in attracting immigrants. It also cited the St. Louis Mosaic Project, which connects foreign-born newcomers with resources including job openings, as an example of “intentional welcoming strategies that have likely helped immigrants become more productive and earn more than immigrants with similar education” in other regions.

More work needs to be done, said Betsy Cohen, the group's executive director. Read more here.