St. Louis Fed: White working class still largest demographic across Eighth District, rest of nation moving toward ‘majority-minority’

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 506 views 

Unlike other U.S. regions that are trending toward “majority-minority” demographics, the expansive Eighth Federal Reserve District that includes Arkansas is still “whiter” and less educated than other parts of the country, according to a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

In the report titled “A Checkerboard, Not a Melting Pot: Racial and Educational Diversity in the Eighth District,” the St. Louis Fed authors show that the U.S. is going through a demographic change as census projections forecast the nation will become “minority white” by 2045.

According to the study, over a quarter century period from 1989-2016, white non-graduates across the U.S. lost ground in terms of both financial and non-financial indicators of well-being. “Importantly, their share of all families fell from a numerical majority (55%) to a plurality (42%),” the report notes. “Thus, while the white working class still makes up the largest share of families, it is no longer the majority.”

However in the St. Louis-based Eighth District of the Federal Reserve, which is composed of 339 counties in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi, and all of Arkansas, the largest racial group in the vast majority (316) of those counties is non-Hispanic whites. In the remaining 23 counties, the largest racial group is non-Hispanic black.

Overall, the Eighth District is less diverse than the U.S. at 61.5% white, as three in four people across the seven-state region are white. However, nearly half (164) of the counties are over 90% white, illustrating geographical racial stratification. For example, nine out of the 10 most diverse counties are located in the Mississippi Delta region.

The Eighth District is also less educated than the country as a whole, the report states. Among those aged 25 or older:

  • 24.2% are four-year college grads;
  • 30.2% have some college experience, but not a four-year degree;
  • 32.6% are high school graduates or have a GED; and
  • 13% have less than a high school education

The counties with the largest percentages of college graduates are home to universities, such as Boone County, Mo., with the University of Missouri, at 45.9% grads; Oktibbeha County, Miss., with Mississippi State University, at 42.65; and Lafayette County, Miss., with the University of Mississippi, at 41.95%. The communities are also suburbs of larger cities, the report notes.

Overall, the report concludes that the Eighth District is both whiter and less educated than the U.S. with a larger percentage of the population identified as white working class at 58.7%, compared to 43.2% for the rest of the nation. The rest of the Eighth District is split roughly evenly between white grads at 20.2% and other racial groups at 21.1%.

The white working class is also a larger share of the population than that of the U.S. in over 90% of the counties in the Eighth District. In 295 of the 339 counties across the district, the white working class forms a numerical majority of the residents.

To view the St. Louis Fed report, click here.