Colorado households’ buying power drops 9% over decade

(This report report provided by Burt Hubbard of I-News Network, a nonprofit news collaborative.)
Coloradans who felt their paychecks weren’t going as far this past decade were right.

The state saw a 9% decline in household buying power since 2000, according to an I-News analysis of newly released U.S. Census Bureau survey data.

The hit was widespread – felt in two of every three counties. One of the state’s richest counties – Pitkin County, which is home to Aspen – led the loss with a 17% drop in household buying power since 2000.

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At the same time, poverty rates rose in every county, with children being especially hard hit. Overall, one in six Colorado kids lives in poverty. But in a third of the state’s counties, child poverty rates are so high that now more than one in five kids is living in poverty.

The survey also showed that education levels edged up during the decade and the portion of foreign-born residents remained relatively flat.

The data are the result of a five-year survey of demographics from income to education, conducted between 2006 and 2010. It provides information on all of Colorado cities, places and counties. I-News compared the data to demographic information from the 2000 Census.

The analysis found:

  • Overall declines in median household income during the decade. About 64% of the state’s cities and places – 221 of 344 – showed drops after adjusting for inflation. Two thirds of the state’s counties posted drops in buying power led by Pitkin County, with a 17% decline. Most of the counties that saw real gains in income were in oil and gas counties on the Western Slope. Weld County was the only county along the Front Range to show a gain in incomes, but it was less than half a percent.
  • Overall poverty rates rose in all the state’s 63 counties (Broomfield was not a county in 2000) and in about two thirds of the cities and places. As a result, about one third of the state’s cities, places and counties had 20% or more of their children living in poverty at the end of the decade. That was up from about one fourth in 2000.
  • Education levels rose across the board during the decade. About two thirds of the cities and places and 90% of the counties saw the percent of high school and college graduates rise over the decade. As a result the number of cities and counties where at least half the adults have college degrees rose from 44 in 2000 to 55 in the later part of the decade. The highest rate was in Cherry Hills Village at 81%. Among counties, Pitkin had the largest percent of college graduates – 60 percent – and Crowley County had the lowest – 12 percent.
  • There are more native Coloradans. More than half of the state’s cities, places and counties saw an increase in the number of residents born and raised in the state since 2000. Among Front Range counties, Weld County had the highest percentage of natives – 52%. Pitkin County had the lowest – 22 percent.
  • The percentage of foreign-born residents remained steady during the decade with about half of the cities, counties and places showing increases since 2000 and half showing declines the percent of foreign born. The highest percentage of foreign-born residents were found on the Western Slope. Eagle County led the state with 20 percent and Avon led among cities with 43 percent. Among metro area counties, Denver was the only one showing a decline in the percent of foreign born, dropping slightly to 17 percent.

Marriage Rates Decline The percent of people age 15 and over who are married declined almost across the board with 53 of 63 counties showing drops. There’s a corresponding increase in the percent of people never married – 44 of 63 counties showed increases. Divorce percents went up slightly.Jackson and Douglas counties had highest married rates, 70% and 69%, respectively. Denver had the lowest marriage percent 40%. (San Juan had the overall lowest, 31%, but the margin of error is huge – almost 14 percentage points. So it’s possible San Juan is actually higher than Denver. We do not recommend saying San Juan is the lowest. We recommend saying something like: Denver was at the bottom of counties for marriage. Tiny San Juan County also had a low marriage rate, but the Census Bureau’s survey could not determine reliable numbers for such a small population.)

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