Colorado Middle Class Families: Characteristics & Cost Pressures

A new study highlights a scary truth for Colorado middle class families: Fully achieving a middle class lifestyle is impossible for most Coloradans with actual middle-income levels.

As one of the country’s only state-specific studies on middle class makeup and health, “Colorado’s Middle Class Families: Characteristics and Cost Pressures” shows the share of families classified as middle income has declined since 2000 and at a rate higher than the majority of the country. 

Related: What Does it Take to Live a Middle Class Life? In Colorado, It’s More Than You Think

Using hypothetical budgets with “aspirational” costs (including homeownership or rental housing, health care, automobile ownership, retirement savings, college savings, and vacation), the report shows living a middle class lifestyle may not be as simple as earning a middle income. In fact, the middle class shrinks substantially when defined by being able to afford these “aspirational” costs — costs that were once mainstays of a middle class life.

These dynamics are playing out across the country, but what’s happening in Colorado is a unique cautionary tale for our entire nation. Here, we see a befuddling contrast of a top economy with a shrinking middle class. This report gives us the facts to address that disparity and ensure economic mobility for every Coloradan.

Read the full report below (refresh your browser if it doesn’t appear) or click here to open the report in a new tab. Read the full findings to learn what’s holding Colorado middle class families back from living a middle class lifestyle.

The study was commissioned by the Bell Policy Center with support from The Colorado Trust and prepared by University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs.