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Does the Number Matter? On Governments and Regional Economic Growth

Keynote Presentation by Charles S. Gascon

St. Louis Fed Regional Economist Charles S. Gascon explores how the number of governments in a particular metropolitan statistical area (MSA) might affect regional economic performance, as measured by population growth. MSAs are economic units that include major cities and that span multiple counties.

Gascon starts off with key questions and issues to be addressed. These include: What factors determine how many local (i.e., municipal and township) governments an area will have? Is there is an ideal range for the number of governments? Why do regions grow at different rates?

  • Factors that determine the number of local governments include geography and population. (Start at 3:41)
  • Income and racial differences also have an effect on the number of governments, with racial dissimilarities playing a bigger role. (Start at 7:54)
  • Migration within the U.S. is a key factor in population growth. Gascon shows historic movement and outlines features that have attracted people, such as climate, industries and access to rivers/oceans. (Start at 18:08)
  • Gascon shows how a model accounting for government variables predicted levels of growth for different MSAs, and how the metro areas’ populations grew compared with the forecast. St. Louis’ growth is slower than expected. (Start at 29:11)

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Welcoming Remarks by Karen Branding

Karen Branding, senior vice president of Public Affairs, introduces Gascon and invites people to explore the St. Louis Fed’s publicly available resources. These include previous Dialogue with the Fed discussions and the Economy Museum.

Audience Q&A

After the keynote, Branding moderates a panel discussion featuring Gascon; E. Terrence “Terry” Jones, a professor emeritus of political science and public policy administration and dean emeritus of arts and sciences at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; and Yvonne Sparks, an assistant vice president in the St. Louis Fed’s Community Development Department.

The panelists field questions including: What does research tell us about social mobility? What does political research reveal as to why the St. Louis area has so many governments? What challenges and opportunities does a large number of governments create for community development organizations operating in the region? Could it be that the number of governments and school districts drives segregation, rather than the other way around?