What Happened to Colorado’s Middle Class?

For many families, the income traditionally associated with Colorado’s middle class lifestyle is no longer sufficient. A recent study by Joseph Zimmerman at University of Colorado at Denver done for the Bell Policy Center shows this isn’t just a feeling — for many Colorado families, this squeeze is backed up by data. In fact, middle-income families are falling behind or just breaking even.

Related: Guide to Economic Mobility in Colorado

Looking at urban, rural, and resort counties in Colorado, Zimmerman put a hypothesis to the test: A median income in Colorado simply doesn’t go as far as it used to. Going back to 2001, Zimmerman examined the median income for different counties, and then comparing that to the most common costs for families across Colorado. What he found is alarming: “Traditional success is unobtainable for families earning the median income, regardless of county, age of children, or year studied.” 

It’s incumbent on our leaders and policymakers to understand the causes squeezing Colorado families and work together to address them, or a middle class lifestyle will go the way of the typewriter and the rotary phone — seen only in museums and movies.

Related: Forget “Middle Class” — $63,000 for a Denver Family to Just Subsist

We’ve summarized Zimmerman’s findings, but this research is a precursor to a larger body of work commissioned by the Bell Policy Center to examine the state of Colorado’s middle class. To keep up with the release of that study, be sure to follow us on social media and join our email list for the latest updates.

Related: Stop Digging: Colorado Needs Strong Public Investments