New poverty and income estimates show hardship touches many corners of Colorado
New data released from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey provide an in-depth look at poverty across the state. Though the Great Recession officially ended in 2009, the data show how the effects of the economic downturn have left challenges for people across the state, with particular groups and geographic area struggling more.
- The overall poverty rate in the state increased from 12.9 percent in 2009 to 13.4 percent in 2010. Though this change is not statistically significant, it amounts to about 659,786 Coloradans in poverty.
- The percentage of families living in poverty also increased to 9.4 percent in 2010. In 2008 only 7.9 percent of families lived in poverty.
- The percentage of children living in poverty remained at 17.4 percent, though due to population increases, the number of children in poverty increased to about 210,532.
- Colorado experienced a statistically significant rise in deep poverty or the percentage of people living below half the official poverty threshold since the start of the recession, from 5.5 percent in 2007 to 6.0 percent in 2010.
Across the state
Statewide median household income went down from $56,366 in 2009 to $54,046 in 2010, a 4.2 percent decrease. Below is a snapshot of four counties across the state, showing how poverty and income varies with geography.
In Denver County, the poverty rate rose sharply to 21.6 percent in 2010, much higher than the statewide 13.4 percent. Median household income in Denver also decreased to $45,074 in 2010, from $47,422 in 2009.
The challenges are similar in Mesa County on Colorado’s Western Slope, where the poverty rate increased to 16.4 percent in 2010 from 12.3 percent in 2009. Median household income decreased to $46,231 in 2010 from $53,297 in 2009.
El Paso County
In El Paso County, the state’s largest county by population, the poverty rate increased to 13.5 percent in 2010 from 11.5 percent in 2009. Median household income decreased substantially to $51,458 for 2010, from $56,816 in 2009.
In Weld County the poverty rate decreased to 14.9 percent in 2010 from 16.3 percent in 2009, a difference calculated to be not statistically significant, in part due to a simultaneous decrease in the county’s total population. The county’s Median household income decreased to $51,956 for 2010, from $55,519 in 2009.
The divide between men and women continued through 2010 in median earning and consequently poverty rate. Single-women families have been hit especially hard in the recession. Mothers with children younger than five reached a 50 percent poverty rate, demonstrating the lack of child care services and their necessity in allowing single mother’s to provide for their family.
Level of education continues to be a large determinant of poverty level. People who did not graduate high school have a poverty rate almost five times that of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Moreover, the poverty rate for women is higher than men even with the same education level.
Data show that long prevalent racial disparities in poverty and income continue to exist in 2010. Blacks and Latinos have the higher rates of poverty and lower median incomes than all other groups. Whites and Blacks experienced statistically significant changes in poverty since the beginning of the recession (up 1.4 percent and down 4.5 percent, respectively), while American Indians, Hispanics and Asians saw no statistically significant change in overall poverty rates. Whites, Blacks and American Indians all experienced statistically significant decreases in income (down $3,968, $4,783, and $7,975 respectively) from 2007. The change in income for Hispanics and Asians were not statistically significant.i
The distribution of income across class remains uneven. While the bottom quintile of earners comprises only 3.4 percent of total income in Colorado, the highest quintile earns almost 50 percent.
As people across the state continue to recover from the recession, Congress must be careful not to pursue policies that could worsen poverty and undermine the current recovery. Critical support systems are designed to protect our families and communities during hard times like these. As we face tight budget constraints and pursue appropriate policy options, it must be underscored that cuts to vital services such as Medicaid, food assistance, and earned income tax credits would unduly affect the most vulnerable.
Contact: Ben Felson
303-573-5669, ext. 316
Released Sept. 23, 2011
i A lack of a statistically significant change may result from either a small change in estimate or small sample size.