By the Numbers: Colorado Workers in Low-Wage Jobs

In recent years, more than 40 cities and counties have set higher local minimum wages to better help those working low-wage jobs get ahead economically. Right now, the Colorado General Assembly is considering a bill (HB19-1210) to repeal the current law prohibiting local governments from setting a minimum wage higher than the state minimum wage. Bell research shows what this would mean for Colorado workers in low-wage jobs:

  • A higher local minimum wage would likely help 524,998 Colorado workers
  • Over half of these workers live in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area
  • These workers are more likely to be women, people of color (specifically Hispanic/Latino), younger, and less educated than workers in jobs with higher wages and a broad measure of Colorado workers overall
  • A greater portion of these workers lack health insurance of any kind, or receive their coverage through Medicaid and live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) than do workers in higher-paying jobs or Colorado workers overall

Related: The Irony of Middle Class Wages in Colorado


To better understand the types of Colorado workers who would most likely be affected by changes in local minimum wages, we analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). In our latest brief, this analysis shows the number of workers affected, where they are located within Colorado, and their demographic background.

Related: Is Middle Class Entry Possible Without a College Degree?

To conduct our analysis, we used three measures of workers — those in low-wage jobs, those in higher wage jobs, and a broad measure of workers in Colorado. In defining these measures, we focused on workers in their prime working years — aged 18 to 64 — who are working at least 20 hours each week and who have positive earnings. We divided them into categories based on their hourly earnings:

  • Workers in low-wage jobs, earning between $9.31 and $15.00 per hour
  • Those working jobs with higher wages earn at least $15.01 per hour and above
  • Workers overall, earning any amount per hour

Click here to read our brief, Colorado Workers in Low-Wage Jobs, to see our findings.