Historical Trends of the Foreign-Born Population in St. Louis

Community and Business leaders in the Saint Louis region have created an initiative to attract more immigrants to the region. This initiative is called the “St. Louis Mosaic Project.” The motivation for this post is to begin to share some preliminary research I have completed on the history of immigration to the St. Louis region.  Today I will present two figures. The first figure shows the historical numbers of the foreign-born population for St. Louis City and St. Louis County. The second figure shows the historical percent of the population that was foreign-born for St. Louis City and St. Louis County. I used 1880 as the starting point because of the great divorce between the city and county. However, data is available to track the foreign-born population before the split between the city and county. What I find remarkable about these data is that more than half of the population in 1850 and 1860 was foreign-born. Although the percent foreign born population declined in 1870, the number of foreign-born residents continued to increase. 

Table 1. Saint Louis City/County
  Foreign-Born Total Population Percent Foreign-Born
1850 52,969 104,978 50.5%
1860 96,086 190,524 50.4%
1870 124,378 351,189 35.4%




The table and two figures provide a context to understand how important immigrants were to the development of the region and how important future waves of  immigrants are to the future prosperity of the region. The good news is that there is a positive trend for immigrants to the region.  As of 2010, about 75% of the immigrants that reside in the St. Louis metro either live in St. Louis City (18%) or St. Louis County (56%).  As immigrants make Saint Louis their home, they will continue to contribute to the diverse cultural fabric of the Saint Louis region.


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