Why is East St Louis So Bad?

June 14, 2023

The crime rate in the eastern St. Louis city has plunged. Homicides dropped from 37 per year to 24 this year, and the number of nonfatal shootings dropped by a third. The news comes as residents and officials celebrate a partnership between the city, police and community groups that includes state police aiding city officers with homicide investigations.

But there is a lot more work to do, and the question of why is east st louis so bad persists. The answer is complex and involves the effects of deindustrialization, depopulation and white flight in the postwar era.

For decades, the city struggled with a decline in industry (the population fell by three-fifths from 1950 to 2000), a loss of middle-class jobs and a migration of people who could afford to leave for places where they could find work and a decent quality of life. Without the tax revenue, city services deteriorated.

In the last few years, residents have stepped up to help solve the problems in their neighborhoods. Several nonprofits have helped to bring in private business, and the city has launched public service initiatives such as a youth sports league.

The problem, according to local leaders, is that the city cannot shift resources from more affluent areas to poorer ones. While many American cities can do this, the News-Democrat reported in January, East St. Louis has such a large, concentrated poverty base and a woefully inadequate tax base that it is extremely difficult to shift resources.


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