Bi-State Showdown in Kansas City


The Kansas City metro area is surely one of America’s most unusual. Among large metro areas spanning multiple states, it has the highest percentage of its population living in the state that does not contain its central city (apart from the perhaps even more anomalous case of Washington, DC). There are two municipalities called Kansas City, one in Missouri and one in Kansas, with the regional central city being the one in Missouri. And Kansas City is essentially the only large metro area in the country in which the “favored quarter” affluent suburbs are in a state that doesn’t contain the central city.

This raises some interesting questions. Kansas City usually shows up on my list of higher performing Midwest metro areas. But is this because of the Missouri portion of the metro or the Kansas portion? Or both?

I recently did a study for the Show-Me Institute in Missouri that looks at this very question. I look at the performance of the Missouri portion of the metro area vs. the Kansas portion across a number of economic and demographic factors: population, jobs, GDP, personal income, high and very high income households, educational attainment, etc.

In every case, the Kansas part of the metro area, with its affluent suburbs in Johnson County, outperforms the Missouri portion, sometimes significantly.

The Missouri side of the metro has a population of 1.3 million, similar to Louisville. That would make it a major metropolitan area in its own right. So I also looked at how just the Missouri side of the region would rank were it a standalone region. Its rankings would drop significantly in most cases, putting it in the bottom ten of all major metros in most categories.

While a concern about city-suburb splits in growth and wealth are common in the country, Kansas City has a unique spin on it because the central city and the most affluent suburbs are in different states. It surely makes for interesting regional dynamics.

Click over to read the full report.

This piece first appeared at

Aaron M. Renn is a contributing editor at City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations.

Photo credit: S300896 via Wikimedia under CC 4.0 License.