People and Culture
The Kansas City area not only boasts a low cost of living but also one of the fastest-growing job markets in the region. Modest home prices that rank below Albuquerque, Richmond, Tampa, and Denver make Kansas City an attractive choice for first-time homeowners, and a high concentration of colleges and universities in and around Kansas City has resulted in an increasingly large population of young professionals eager for the amenities of a large city but without the high costs generally associated with sizable metropolitan areas.
Kansas City’s population of two million people is comprised of a variety of ethnic groups that each contribute to the city’s rich heritage. African, Irish, Italian, and Croatian immigrants provided the majority of the manpower and labor that built Kansas City from two small trading posts to a sprawling metropolis. The city still clings tightly to its ethnic roots with annual celebrations like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Irish Fest, Festa Italiana, and Rhythm and Ribs, each designed to pay homage to the tastes, sounds, and cultures of some of the city’s significant populations.
Thanks to large Irish and Italian populations, Kansas City is a predominantly Catholic city, with ornate churches a common sight throughout most neighborhoods and districts. The Kansas City Star’s Saturday Faith section is a great resource for places of worship and faith-based stories.
The city’s largest minority group is African-American, comprising 31.2 percent of the population according to 2000 U.S. census data. Although cultural divides aren’t as apparent as they are in larger cities, Kansas City is home to several neighborhoods built around a certain ethnicity or heritage. Downtown’s Columbus Park is predominantly Italian, but also hosts a growing number of Vietnamese and Asian specialty stores.
The Westside neighborhood, as well as Kansas City’s across-the-river neighbor, Kansas City, Kansas, are home to a flourishing Latino population, in addition to young professionals eager to be near downtown Kansas City while enjoying lower home prices often found in both areas. They’re sometimes criticized for a lack of diversity, but Kansas City’s suburbs retain a mostly Caucasian population that dates back to the white flight of the 1950s. Other cultures are slowly carving a niche for themselves, especially in Johnson County, which hosts sizable Jewish and Indian populations.
Kansas City boasts a productive, educated population that earns an annual average per-household income of $53,500. Nearly 91 percent of Kansas City residents have a high school education, and nearly 32 percent hold a college degree.
© Katy Ryan from Moon Kansas City, 1st Edition