Mar 23, 2022 - News

Meet the new Colorado: Smarter, younger and wealthier, census shows

Percentage change in median household income in Colorado
Data: American Community Survey; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

Colorado boasts the second most educated population in the U.S., an exclusive Axios Denver analysis of new census figures shows.

  • An estimated 42% of the state's residents had a bachelor's degree, or higher, during the survey period of 2016-2020, up from 38% the five years prior.
  • Only Massachusetts ranks higher at 45%; the U.S. as a whole stands at 33%.

Why it matters: The new five-year American Community Survey figures released last week cover a significant period of growth for Colorado, one that reshaped the state's population and politics.

The big picture: The data puts numbers to the anecdotal trends we've all experienced and indicates the state's economic situation improved, according to our analysis of the 2016-20 figures compared with 2011-15.

  • Median income increased 8% in the state to roughly $75,000, essentially on par with national trends, and family median income jumped 12% to $81,628.
  • The poverty rate decreased to 6.1% from 8.5%.
  • Housing and rental availability declined and the mean value of owner-occupied homes increased to $369,000 from $247,800.

What they're saying: "If we think back to those years … those are some big expansion years for Colorado. So where we are seeing improvements in educational attainment in incomes, it all fits to what we saw," state demographer Elizabeth Garner said in an interview.

Between the lines: The American Community Survey is separate from the once-a-decade U.S. Census and adds new details to what we learned from the numbers released last year.

  • Because it only includes 2020 in a five-year sample, it's not a great data source for how the pandemic changed the state.

Zoom in: Compared to the nation as a whole, Colorado is:

  • Younger with a median age of 36.9 compared to 38.2 for the U.S.
  • More mobile with 4% moving from a different state in the prior year.
  • Better connected with 95% of households having a computer and 90% with broadband internet.
  • Greater in terms of percentage of veterans at 8.4%.
  • More wealthy with a higher median income and lower poverty rates.

The intrigue: Even before the pandemic, the proportion of people working from home increased and jobs in health care, social services and education expanded, the data shows.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard. Subscribe here.


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