Colorado

Aug 14, 2014 8:21 PM by Kelsey Kennedy

Poverty Levels Growing Rapidly in Colorado Springs

A new national study says Colorado Springs has the fastest growing poverty rate in the nation. The study, however, has limitations. For example, it doesn't take into account that the cost of living in Colorado Springs is less than the national average. Both researchers and local economists agree that the trend is disturbing.

"There are two things at least questionable with the study," says UCCS Economist, Fred Crowley. "First is we went from being extremely low, so we had a very small base. If you go from one to two, you have a 100% increase."

In 2000, the poverty numbers were so low they barely registered, so the percentage increase is very significant. The study worked off of a national poverty line of just over $23,000 dollars of income per year for a family of four. It didn't take into account that the cost of living in Colorado Springs is well below the national average.

"The cost of living in Colorado Springs, in the metropolitan area, is five to ten percent below that national number," Crowley says. "So they are overstating the poverty level. But there is a poverty problem in the community."

The poor population increased by over 87.5%. There are over 76,000 people living in Colorado Springs that fall below the poverty line.

"But what's concerning is the rapid pace of increase in that population," says researcher Elizabeth Kneebone, a Fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program. "So Colorado Springs stands out because it registers the largest growth."

Kneebone says despite the upward trend, Colorado Springs still ranks below the national average when it comes to the number of poor living in high poverty areas. She estimates the study results in conservative numbers in terms of people who are still struggling, but make more than $23,000, so are not poor by national standards.

"In many communities, even people making twice that can be struggling to make ends meet," she says.

Crowley points to the loss of over half the region's manufacturing jobs in the past decade.

"We need to wake up," he says "We're moving in the wrong direction for household income and quality jobs."

The study showed a national trend of poverty moving to the suburbs, but here the Springs, the city also saw rapid increases, indicating a region-wide problem.

Read the study here:

http://www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/2014/concentrated-poverty#/M17820

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