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Colorado population growth slows
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By James Mejía

Just like Denver, Colorado Springs has become one of the country’s hottest housing markets. As housing becomes more expensive and more scarce, those employed in Denver have lengthened their commutes, some coming from as far away as Colorado Springs and Pueblo, while others have found more reasonable housing costs on the Eastern Plains. Average commute times continue to grow and currently stand at 25 minutes each way. Despite the demographic boom of the last decade, it does not represent the state’s largest population growth of the last few decades, and while thousands come into the state, thousands are also starting to leave every year.

In 2017, 220,000 people came to Colorado and 193,000 left, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The net migration of 27,000 residents is one of the slowest growth rates in a decade and the first time in a decade that the growth percentage hasn’t been larger than the previous year. Otherwise stated, 2016 represented the first drop in new arrivals in a decade.

The percentage growth rate in the state is also starting to slow, both a reflection of a larger starting population base and the number of people leaving the state. Since 2001, the growth rate has been under 2 percent per year. This compares with 1992, 1993, and 1994 when the state witnessed growth rates higher than 3 percent every year. Comparing the last decade to the 1990’s, Colorado has grown at half the rate more recently.

Though the state unemployment rate is at record lows, the cost of housing is at record highs and other parts of the state and other parts of the country are starting to represent more viable opportunities for the state’s young and educated millennials. Sixty-four percent of Colorado residents own their homes with a median value across the state of $265K. In Denver, the median value tops half a million. For those that rent, the median rent cost is just over $1,000 per year.

Current Demographics

According to the U.S. Census, there are approximately 5.6 million people residing in the state in over 2 million separate households. The average household size is 2.5 people. The state’s total population represents a growth rate of nearly 12 percent from the baseline of 2010, when the last comprehensive Census survey was taken. Over half of that population resides in the Denver metropolitan area.

Twenty-three percent of the population is under the age of 18 with the highest growth rates in this bracket represented by the state’s Latino community. The state’s senior population outside the Denver metro area continues to take up a higher percentage and now is 14 percent. Sixty-eight percent of the state is white, 4.5 percent is African American, 1 and a half percent are American Indians, almost 3 and a half percent are Asian.

Twenty-one and one half percent of Coloradans are Latino – this represents over 1 million Latinos statewide. There are nearly 220,000 Latinos registered to vote in Colorado, under one-fourth of the total state population of Latinos, which is both a reflection of a young population under the age of 18, but also low active voting rates. Nearly 13.5 percent of Latinos in the state are eligible to vote but not registered.

Over 90 percent of Colorado residents over the age of 25 hold high school degrees and just under 40 percent hold bachelor’s degrees. Colorado is home to nearly 400,000 military veterans. Nearly 10 percent of the state is foreign born and 17 percent speak a language other than English in their homes.

In the state’s capital city of Denver, the population is whiter and younger than the rest of the state. According to the U.S. Census, 77 percent of residents are white, 31 percent are Latino, 11 percent are African American, 2.3 percent are American Indian, and nearly 5 percent are Asian. The total for each category make up more than 100 percent because many residents answer demographic surveys claiming more than one race and/or ethnicity.

Politics of Demographics

A 2014 MIT study ranked the political nature of the country’s largest cities. Colorado Springs ranked as the country’s 4th most conservative city, Aurora was listed at 10th while Denver made the list as the 10th most liberal city in the country. An estimated 50 percent of active Denver voters are registered as Democrats, 13 percent are registered Republicans, and 36 percent are Unaffiliated.

In just months, the 10-year census will commence. Given federal allocations including members of Congress and an equitable federal aid allocation to cities and states that are based on the count, one Denver-based group is ensuring Coloradans answer the U.S. Census survey.

Former City Councilwoman and former Denver Clerk and Recorder, Rosemary Rodriguez is heading the efforts of Together We Count, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that is focusing on 2020 Census engagement. According to Rodriguez, “Our sole concern is to educate communities about the importance and benefits of census participation while respecting their concerns about privacy and apprehensions about government.  We have received funding to develop a statewide plan and will be concentrating our efforts on communities that are hard-to-count because of citizenship status, broadband access, age, and isolation as a result of being geographically remote.”

Rodriguez and her team will be traversing the state to ensure residents answer the Census survey. She says, “Our goals are to create a statewide census engagement project based on research conducted in hard-to-count communities. To do this we will establish a network of community based organizations and community leaders to support complete count and Get Out the Count efforts, wherever possible. And finally we will develop a system to ensure institutional memory of decennial census and create a plan of action as a resource for the next census, for funders and communities.”

Colorado Refugees

Three Colorado non-profits are responsible for helping refugees settle in Colorado. Lutheran Family Services, the African Community Center and International Rescue Committee will have brought in an estimated 1,000 refugees from around the world in 2017. The influx is reflective of global strife – the majority of recent refugees from the Middle East and Africa more recently. This compares to the tens of thousands who came to the state in the 80’s and 90’s from Vietnam after the war.





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