We sought to get to the bottom of why people ask the "St. Louis question." Here's what we found when we asked the Missouri History Museum, which recently opened a new gallery exhibit about it, and our listeners.
  1. People ask because they want to know your socioeconomic background.
    Katie emailed: "The St. Louis Question -- where'd you go to high school? -- is so laden with socioeconomic and religious overtones that's it makes me bristle whenever I hear it. I try to dodge it whenever I'm asked, even though I grew up here. This question is code for: ‘Are you Catholic?’ ‘Are your parents rich? Blue collar? Poor?’ ‘Is your neighborhood "black"?’ Asking it is a cagey way of sussing out a person's level of privilege.”
  2. People ask because they want to make connections with people they don't know.
    Curator Emma Kuhn said: “A lot of times, the question is used as a way to make connections with people. People will ask the question and others will respond: ‘Do you know so-and-so?’”
  3. People ask because St. Louis is segregated.
    @braveravebook said: because of how highly segregated it is. You can know so much about a person just from where they grew up at.TRUTH"
  4. People ask because it is a way to stay connected with an important part of one's life.
    One Facebook commenter explained it in a similar way, saying that the question is asked “because we stay close with classmates as lifetime friends.”
  5. Why do you ask people where they went to high school?