Insight: Class & Education – St. Louis & Baltimore

This Insight is the fifth in the Martin Prosperity Institute’s continuing Geography of Class and Education Insight series. While the previous Insights in this series have examined the occupational and human class divide within large U.S. metros, and London (UK), this week’s focuses on the smaller metros of St. Louis and Baltimore. Large cities are often heralded for their abundance of talented individuals and ability to attract the Creative Class (CC), but it is also necessary to examine how medium and small sized metros are performing in today’s knowledge economy.

Exhibit 1: St. Louis: Share of population 25+ with a BA or above

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The results shown in Exhibit 1 indicate that the metropolitan St. Louis area differs from previous metros examined. The city of St. Louis in particular has a low share of residents with a BA or above, especially compared to the rest of the metro, as most of the census tracts within the city have low degree shares, which brings down the metro average to 27%. The neighbourhoods that surround Washington University are amongst the few other areas within the city of St. Louis with higher than average degree shares. While the city itself has a low degree share, there are some western suburban communities in which the degree shares and CC shares are very high.

Even in the most educated tracts the highest degree shares are found to be about 81%, with only 4 tracts having a degree share over 80%, which is lower than some of the larger metros analysed in previous Insights. The tracts with the lowest degree shares range from 2%–4%. Despite this, there are not as many tracts with a degree share under 5% as some of the other cities that we have examined, such as New York or Chicago. It seems as if there are fewer extremes in St. Louis as the most educated tracts are not as educated as in larger metros, while the least educated tracts do not have as low degree shares. It is also interesting to note that within the whole metro area, there are almost no primarily Working Class (WC) tracts.

Exhibit 2: Baltimore: Share of population 25+ with a BA or above

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The map of the Baltimore metro presents a similar educational divide to previously examined metros where different classes mix, but generally the neighbourhoods with similar degree shares cluster together. The Baltimore metro overall is more educated than St. Louis, with a total degree share of 33%. Like St. Louis though, there is a clear divide between the city of Baltimore and the suburban areas. Other than the neighbourhoods surrounding Johns Hopkins and a small section of the downtown, the majority of the City of Baltimore neighbourhoods have very low degree shares. The tracts in the metro with the lowest degree shares are found within the City of Baltimore, and despite a higher overall degree share than St. Louis, there are far more neighbourhoods in Baltimore with degree shares less than 5% and 10%.

When analysing the Baltimore metro, it is worth noting that some of the tracts with extremely high degree shares are located in areas that are closer to the city of Washington, DC than to Baltimore and that there is likely a spillover of people working in the Washington area, who live in the Baltimore metro. Washington could also be an influence on the relatively highly educated primarily working class tracts within the Baltimore metro, due to the military and defense industry within the greater Washington area. While there are not a large number of primarily WC tracts within the Baltimore area, the WC still accounts for about 18% of the labour force. Out of the tracts in which the majority of the residents work within WC occupations, the total degree share is about 16%, which is very high compared to other metros examined so far. The degree shares of the primarily WC tracts in Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles for example are 9%, 8%, and 6% respectively. The primarily WC census tract with the highest degree share in the U.S. is also found in the Baltimore metro, with a share of 70%. A substantial number of the occupations within this tract are in construction and maintenance, installation and repair, and management and science occupations most likely in conjunction with the U.S. naval academy. Similar to the impact that many universities have on the surrounding areas, it seems the U.S. naval academy is having a positive effect on the surrounding areas by helping to create the demand for highly educated Working Class occupations.

Education divide

Metros such as Los Angeles and Chicago presented geographic results in which the educated and uneducated communities are very segregated. While the disparity between the most and least educated tracts is greater in these larger cities than in St. Louis and Baltimore, a large educational divide does exist in these metros. The divide is slightly different as while within the least educated tracts in Chicago and LA the primary occupation is a combination of WC and Service Class (SC), in Baltimore and St. Louis, the least educated tracts that clump together are almost all primarily SC. This seems to create a geographical divide across education and occupation. This is especially apparent in the cities of Baltimore, St. Louis and East St. Louis, which are known as also having higher poverty and crime rates. These cities have very few tracts with higher degree shares as the cities themselves have extremely low degree shares and high SC shares, which is dis-similar from the overall metros.

This Insight has presented the class and education results for two de-industrialized metros with nearly no primarily WC tracts left. As with larger metros that we have looked at, in Baltimore and St. Louis, the most educated areas clump together, despite the dominant class. In St. Louis it was also found that the tracts with higher degree shares were almost exclusively primarily CC and the tracts with the lowest degree shares were primarily dominated by the SC. Baltimore as part of the Washington-Baltimore mega-region, benefits from a geographic spillover of highly educated individuals living in the broader region, which is a partial reason for its degree share being much higher than St. Louis. Overall though, these two metros have at present an occupational and educational geographical distribution in which the main cities within the metros have very low degree shares and where employment is not spread across numerous occupations, but is primarily focused in the SC.

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The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.