St. Louis (/seɪnt ˈluːɪs/) is a major independent city and inland port in the U.S. state of Missouri. It is the second largest city in the state of Missouri behind Kansas City. It is situated along the western bank of the Mississippi River, which forms the state line between Illinois and Missouri. The Missouri River merges with the Mississippi River 15 river miles north of Downtown St. Louis, forming the fourth-longest river system in the world. The estimated 2018 population of the city proper was 302,838 and the bi-state metropolitan area was 2,804,724. Greater St. Louis is the largest metropolitan area in Missouri, second-largest in Illinois, 7th-largest in the Great Lakes Megalopolis, and the 20th-largest in the United States.
According to the United States Census Bureau, St. Louis has a total area of 66 square miles (170 km), of which 62 square miles (160 km) is land and 4.1 square miles (11 km) (6.2%) is water. The city is built primarily on bluffs and terraces that rise 100–200 feet above the western banks of the Mississippi River, in the Midwestern United States just south of the Missouri-Mississippi confluence. Much of the area is a fertile and gently rolling prairie that features low hills and broad, shallow valleys. Both the Mississippi River and the Missouri River have cut large valleys with wide flood plains.
Limestone and dolomite of the Mississippian epoch underlie the area, and parts of the city are karst in nature. This is particularly true of the area south of downtown, which has numerous sinkholes and caves. Most of the caves in the city have been sealed, but many springs are visible along the riverfront. Coal, brick clay, and millerite ore were once mined in the city. The predominant surface rock, known as St. Louis limestone, is used as dimension stone and rubble for construction.
Near the southern boundary of the city of St. Louis (separating it from St. Louis County) is the River des Peres, practically the only river or stream within the city limits that is not entirely underground. Most of River des Peres was confined to a channel or put underground in the 1920s and early 1930s. The lower section of the river was the site of some of the worst flooding of the Great Flood of 1993.
The city’s eastern boundary is the Mississippi River, which separates Missouri from Illinois. The Missouri River forms the northern line of St. Louis County, except for a few areas where the river has changed its course. The Meramec River forms most of its southern line.
St. Louis grew slowly until the American Civil War, when industrialization and immigration sparked a boom. Mid-19th century immigrants included many Irish and Germans; later there were immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. In the early 20th century, African American and white migrants came from the South; the former as part of the Great Migration out of rural areas of the Deep South. Many came from Mississippi and Arkansas.
After years of immigration, migration, and expansion, the city reached its peak population in 1950. That year, the Census Bureau reported St. Louis’s population as 82% White and 17.9% African American. After World War II, St. Louis began losing population to the suburbs, first because of increased demand for new housing, unhappiness with city services, ease of commuting by highways, and later, white flight. St. Louis’s population decline has resulted in a significant increase of abandoned residential housing units and vacant lots throughout the city proper; this blight has attracted much wildlife (such as deer and coyotes) to the many abandoned overgrown lots.
St. Louis has lost 64.0% of its population since the 1950 United States Census, the highest percent of any city that had a population of 100,000 or more at the time of the 1950 Census. Detroit, Michigan, and Youngstown, Ohio, are the only other cities that have had population declines of at least 60% in the same time frame. The population of the city of St. Louis has been in decline since the 1950 census; during this period the population of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area, which includes more than one county, has grown every year and continues to do so. A big factor in the decline has been the rapid increase in suburbanization.
According to the 2010 United States Census, St. Louis had 319,294 people living in 142,057 households, of which 67,488 households were families. The population density was 5,158.2 people per square mile (1,990.6/km²). About 24% of the population was 19 or younger, 9% were 20 to 24, 31% were 25 to 44, 25% were 45 to 64, and 11% were 65 or older. The median age was about 34 years.
The population was about 49.2% African American, 43.9% White (42.2% Non-Hispanic White), 2.9% Asian, 0.3% Native American/Alaska Native, and 2.4% reporting two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.5% of the population.
The African-American population is concentrated in the north side of the city (the area north of Delmar Boulevard is 94.0% black, compared with 35.0% in the central corridor and 26.0% in the south side of St. Louis). Among the Asian-American population in the city, the largest ethnic group is Vietnamese (0.9%), followed by Chinese (0.6%) and Indians (0.5%). The Vietnamese community has concentrated in the Dutchtown neighborhood of south St. Louis; Chinese are concentrated in the Central West End. People of Mexican descent are the largest Latino group, and make up 2.2% of St. Louis’s population. They have the highest concentration in the Dutchtown, Benton Park West (Cherokee Street), and Gravois Park neighborhoods. People of Italian descent are mainly concentrated in The Hill.
In 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $29,156, and the median income for a family was $32,585. Males had a median income of $31,106; females, $26,987. Per capita income was $18,108.
Some 19% of the city’s housing units were vacant, and slightly less than half of these were vacant structures not for sale or rent.
In 2010, St. Louis’s per-capita rates of online charitable donations and volunteerism were among the highest among major U.S. cities.
As of 2010, 91.05% (270,934) of St. Louis city residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a primary language, while 2.86% (8,516) spoke Spanish, 0.91% (2,713) Serbo-Croat, 0.74% (2,200) Vietnamese, 0.50% (1,495) African languages, 0.50% (1,481) Chinese, and French was spoken as a main language by 0.45% (1,341) of the population over the age of five. In total, 8.95% (26,628) of St. Louis’s population age 5 and older spoke a mother language other than English.
About 15 families from Bosnia settled in St. Louis between 1960 and 1970. After the Bosnian War started in 1992, more Bosnian refugees began arriving and by 2000, tens of thousands of Bosnian refugees settled in St. Louis with the help of Catholic aid societies. Many of them were professionals and skilled workers who had to take any job opportunity to be able to support their families. Most Bosnian refugees are Muslim, ethnically Bosniaks (87%); they have settled primarily in south St. Louis and South County. Bosnian-Americans are well integrated into the city, developing many businesses and ethnic/cultural organizations.
An estimated 70,000 Bosnians live in the metro area, the largest population of Bosnians in the United States and the largest Bosnian population outside their homeland. The highest concentration of Bosnians is in the neighborhood of Bevo Mill and in Affton, Mehlville, and Oakville of south St. Louis County.