A recent analysis looks at a decade of data to determine which major cities have gone through massive transformations, and which are standing still.
The consumer financial site MagnifyMoney looked at nine metrics of local change from 2006-2016 among the 50 largest metro areas in the United States, including Missouri’s St. Louis and Kansas City.
Factors such as commute times, income, house prices, crime rates and building permits were used to create a “Change Score” within a scale of 0-to-100. A presentation for the study notes that change isn’t necessarily good or bad, and can actually be both.
For example, big growth in commute times and rents can be negative, but can also reflect positive developments such as job and income growth.
St. Louis and Kansas City both place relatively low out of the 50 metro areas for change. St. Louis is 33rd while Kansas City ranks 38th. St. Louis had a “change score” of 70.4 while Kansas City scored 68.4. For comparison sake, Austin, the number one change city, had a score of 90.4.
The highest placement for the St. Louis area in any category was age, where it came in at number 13. Magnify Money’s Brian Karimzad says the ranking doesn’t mean St. Louis is aging much faster than other metro areas.
“In terms of the age difference, actually St. Louis is up about two years in the last ten years, and that’s about the same as Austin and Dallas,” said Karimzad. “It doesn’t look like there’s a real smoking gun on demographic from that standpoint.” Kansas City ranks 39th in age change over the last 10 years.
Kansas City’s highest placement was in the category of building permits, where it came in at number 8, which is a reflection of how construction is expanding.
Kansas City came in almost dead last in housing prices at number 49, while St. Louis was 40th. Karimzad says homes in both cities, on average, have actually lost a little value.
“In some of the more desirable neighborhoods where there’s a good school district, you’re going to see more pronounced increases in house prices. But we wanted to look at communities as a whole.”
According to Karimzad, a category where Missouri’s two largest urban areas lag noticeably behind higher ranking cities on the change list is employment.
“Employment growth since 2006 is up only 3% in St. Louis, and up 7% in Kansas City. And just to give you to a sense of the folks toward the top, in Austin, Texas, employment growth is (up) 40% versus 2006. And in Raleigh, North Carolina it’s up over 30%.”
A bright spot in the analysis for St. Louis and Kansas City may be that they could prove to be attractive alternatives for businesses in high cost cities looking to expand or relocate.
“They certainly have good infrastructure for transportation and airports to get around,” Karimzad said. “The cost of living, while not everyone might agree it’s low, it’s certainly low compared to some of the other places where there are high paying jobs. And there’s a good workforce. There are good universities in both cities that help support the development of new companies and growth.”
According to Karimzad, it’s up to the Missouri cities to make themselves more appealing to companies that might be looking to grow their operations. He also points out that businesses will continue to look elsewhere as locations with vast upward change over the past 10 years develop baggage that makes them less appealing.
“With more and more work being done remotely, and more technology that lets you work in places that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to before, it’s an opportunity for cities like St. Louis and Kansas City to take advantage of the infrastructure they have, and be open to more jobs and more companies relocating.”
Another optimistic sign for the Show-Me State’s two big urban center is, despite a lack of employment growth, working people enjoyed a healthy increase in wages. “The good part of growth, in both Kansas City and St. Louis, the median income is up about 20% from 10 years ago,” said Karimzad.
He also noted the cities each saw a decline in crime of 30% over the years surveyed, although he noted murder rates were not singled out for analysis. Both Kansas City and St. Louis have experienced a large number of violent crimes in recent years.
Magnify Money constructed its analysis through data it obtained in August and September of this year from the U.S. Census Bureau, the F.B.I. and the Federal Housing Administration.
Karimzad said Magnify Money chose to make comparisons over a 10-year period because 2006 represents a similar point in an economic up cycle as 2016.
He said doing a five-year comparison could also be insightful because the economy was still emerging from the great recession in 2011, and other cities may have shown greater change than Austin and the other metro areas that top the list.
MagnifyMoney is a division of LendingTree, the online lending exchange. LendingTree acquired MagnifyMoney in June. LendingTree connects consumers with multiple lenders, banks, and credit partners who compete for business.