Kansas region of the metro out-measures performance on Missouri side

An analysis of Census data shows the Kansas City metro’s relatively strong economic performance is mostly due to the Kansas side, Kansas showing higher performance in a range of measures including population growth, jobs, GDP, income and educational attainment.

A deeper look into the economic performance of the bi-state region of Kansas City shows that currently, the strength of the city is largely due to the Kansas portion of the metro.

The heart of Kansas City sits on the Missouri side, while Kansas takes up a smaller portion of Kansas City ground, raising questions around reasons why data is showing a notably higher performance rate outside of the city’s primary territory.

An analysis of Census data conducted in a report by Aaron Renn for the Show-Me Institute shows that the Missouri side of Kansas City is falling behind in nearly every measure: per capita income, college degree attainment, population growth, job growth, and well as personal income and GDP growth.

“The Missouri portion of Kansas City, if considered on its own, would still qualify as a ‘major metropolitan area’ but would rank very poorly among its peers, particularly in the areas of per-capita personal income and the number of high-income households,” the report said.

Possible factors that have contributed to the differences in performance include the fact that the most affluent suburbs of the Kansas City region are in Kansas, the report notes.

Another is the lack of a solid major geographical barrier, as in St. Louis where the Mississippi River serves as a barrier between Missouri and Illinois.

“In the case of Kansas City, the Missouri River only serves as the state boundary in part of the metro area, with a simple meridian line separating the two states on dry land,” the report said. “Without a geographical barrier to make commuting more difficult, it has been relatively easy for suburbanization to cross the state boundary into Kansas.”

Census data also showed a disparity in education and degree attainment.

“In Johnson County suburbs, residents pay less in taxes and have higher-quality schools than in the city of Kansas City, while remaining immediately adjacent,” the report said. “As has happened elsewhere, once highly educated and higher-income residents chose to live in Johnson County, high-value economic activity followed.”