St. Louis has a relatively high number of municipal governments, but that alone cannot explain the region’s lower-than-predicted population growth, said Regional Economist Charles Gascon.
At a recent Dialogue with the Fed event, Gascon walked through multiple variables that might influence a given U.S. metro area’s population growth.
He explored economic models and considered governmental variables, too—including tax rates, the number of political jurisdictions and the share of population living in the central city.
Still, when it comes to the St. Louis area’s lagging growth over nearly the past two decades, “[T]here's still something under the hood that we haven't been able to measure to get a model to predict why the region would be growing at 5% over this period in time instead of 12%,” he said.
What could make an impact in St. Louis?
“Reducing the number [of municipal governments] is really difficult, as we seeing this year, and it's unlikely to have an impact,” Gascon said.
“What would have an impact, which is probably even harder, is kind of finding ways to reduce dissimilarity. And by doing that, you actually create a demand for fewer governments and create incentives for more cooperation—and that alone could have a positive impact on the region.”