New Report Underscores Racial Inequities in St. Louis Region

By Leiser, Ken | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 25, 2014 | Go to article overview

New Report Underscores Racial Inequities in St. Louis Region


Leiser, Ken, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


ST. LOUIS * Too often in the St. Louis region, owning a home, holding a job or even living beyond your first year of life depends upon your race, according to a new study that details an old problem.

The report's authors at the East-West Gateway Council of Governments emphasized Wednesday that research on segregation and disparity was underway well before rioting in Ferguson put the region's race relations under a national spotlight.

Findings of a divide in prosperity, health and education touched off a frank discussion among elected leaders on the Gateway board regarding the role of race in the local job market and governance.

"There is a boil-over situation that just takes place when people are not working," said East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks. "I'm frustrated and I see you're living the good life. Or you're living a good life and I'm living a bad life, and I feel as if I should have the same opportunity to live the American dream that you're living."

Jobs should be more accessible to people of color, he said.

The "Where We Stand" report compares the St. Louis region with 34 other metropolitan statistical areas. It found this to be the sixth most segregated, "and tends to have a wider gap between whites and blacks than many of the peer regions on a range of social, economic and health indicators."

Among the findings, based on 2012 measures:

* The median household income was $59,041 for whites, $30,479 for blacks.

* The percent of white families living in poverty was 9.2 percent, of black families 30.6 percent.

* A black infant was 3.6 times more likely than a white one to die in the first year of life.

* Blacks were more than twice as likely than whites to have no health care coverage.

East-West Gateway has been publishing the "Where We Stand" editions since 1992. Periodically, the agency provides updates on specific topic areas, including racial segregation and disparity.

"The story has not changed much over the past 20 years," said Mary Rocchio, lead author of the report and manager of policy research at East-West Gateway. "Consistently, we have seen that there are differences between the opportunities and outcomes between the ways blacks and whites experience life in our region as well as in the United States as a whole."

Still, Rocchio said she was surprised by the size of the gaps between blacks and whites on some measures.

The Gateway council comprises regional leaders from Missouri and Illinois. During a meeting downtown on Wednesday, board members agreed that the findings on race are timely, given last month's events in Ferguson. …

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