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Though Improving, Colorado’s Child Poverty Rate Is Still Defined By Urban-Rural Divide

Kids Count Report 2016
Colorado Children's Campaign
The child poverty rate has declined to pre-recession level of 15 percent but experts consider that an underestimate of the problem.

Colorado’s uneven economic recovery has exacerbated the differences between rural and urban counties - especially for children. Data shows a child’s overall well-being in Colorado is now more than ever linked to where they live.

The annual Kids Count Report by the Colorado Children’s Campaign analyzed data from 2014, the most recent year available. Among the report’s many high points: The child poverty rate has declined to pre-recession level of 15 percent, and more parents are employed.

“But statewide 190,000 children are living in families that are struggling and one in four Colorado children lives in a household in which no parent has secure full-time employment,” said research director Sarah Hughes.

“Finding affordable housing is a huge issue, and that’s definitely being exacerbated by the number of people moving to the area. Home prices increase and rent increases, and that can have a really negative impact on low income families in particular who are being pushed out of those communities.”

The report ranks overall child well-being in the top 25 counties by population in the state. Each county is ranked based on 11 indicators like the poverty rate, the percentage of children without health insurance, and the high school dropout rate.

Credit Kids Count Report 2016 / Colorado Children's Campaign
Colorado Children's Campaign
Only Colorado's top 25 counties by population are ranked on child well-being overall due to data availability.

About 100,000 more kids have health insurance now than in 2008, and fewer families are reporting cost as a barrier to accessing prescriptions, dental care and specialist care for their children.

“Routt County is one of the communities where they are experiencing a pretty high uninsured rate for kids,” Hughes said. “When we break uninsured rates down by county, and that’s because the premiums are among some of the highest in the country, even though there are subsidies to help people afford coverage often times the coverage is still so expensive people can’t take advantage of that in Routt County.”

Poverty is defined as an annual income of less than $23,850 for a family of four, an amount many individuals would struggle living on in Colorado. Hughes said that because the federal government uses such a conservative measure of what it means to be poor, it makes the 15 percent of children living in poverty is an underestimate of the number of children in the state that are struggling.

Credit Kids Count Report 2016 / Colorado Children's Campaign
Colorado Children's Campaign


Although the poverty rate for children has declined overall, there are still significant disparities based on race and ethnicity. While 8 percent of white children lived in poverty, the rate was 27 percent for Latino children and 31 percent for black children.

“Every year we try to show how geography can influence how kids are doing… in other areas of the state we still have one in three kids living in poverty with families who feel like they are right in the middle of the recession,” Hughes said.  

Additional Findings Of the 2016 Kids Count:

  • As of 2014, the lowest child poverty rate was in Douglas County, with 4 percent of children living below the federal poverty line. The highest rate, 40 percent, was in Saguache County.
  • Homelessness in several urban school districts has skyrocketed as housing costs have increased. In Denver County, the number of homeless students increased by 41 percent between the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years. Mesa County experienced a 68 percent increase during the same time period.
  • Colorado’s uninsured rate for children under 18 dropped to 5.6 percent in 2014, a record low.
  • Colorado’s on-time high school graduation rate plateaued at 77.3 percent in 2015, after four years of consecutive increases.