Colorado Child Poverty Down, But Progress Uneven Across Communities

Poverty rates in urban, rural areas remain high despite statewide improvements

Contact: Tara Manthey
Title: Communications Director
Phone: (720) 256-1312

Colorado Child Poverty Down, But Progress Uneven Across Communities

Poverty rates in urban, rural areas remain high despite statewide improvements


March 23rd, 2015

Denver, CO – Child poverty in Colorado has declined for the first time since 2008, but gains in child well-being vary greatly across the state, according to a report released today from the Colorado Children’s Campaign. The 2015 edition of KIDS COUNT in Colorado! shows that the economic recovery has been an uneven one, with many rural areas of the state still experiencing high levels of child poverty.

The annual report on child well-being showed that 23 percent of children in the state’s rural counties lived in poverty in 2013, up from 20 percent at the start of the recession in 2007 and higher than the statewide average of 17 percent. In comparison, 19 percent of children in urban counties, 16 percent of children in mixed rural counties and 12 percent of children in mixed urban counties lived in poverty in 2013.

“We are cautiously optimistic about the improved child poverty rate this year, but we know Colorado’s economic recovery isn’t reaching every child,” said Chris Watney, President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “In fact, in some of our cities and rural communities, child poverty is still high and growing, even while the economic situation of the average Colorado child is looking up. To ensure every chance for every child—no matter where they live—we need to tailor solutions community by community. ”

The KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report is part of the national KIDS COUNT initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This is the 22nd anniversary of the Colorado report. For the fourth year, the report includes a Child Well-being Index that compares how children are faring in Colorado’s largest 25 counties by using 12 indicators to assess children’s health, education and family and community support. The index shows that child well-being varies widely from community to community. Again this year, Douglas County topped the list of Colorado counties with the best child well-being outcomes, while Denver moved out of last place for the first time since the index was created. Montezuma County was 25th this year.

This year’s report, From Plains to Plateaus: Examining Child Well-Being Across Colorado Places, focused on the obstacles and opportunities facing child well-being by community type. The report examines a variety of indicators by dividing Colorado’s 64 counties in four categories: urban, mixed urban, mixed rural and rural.

“Children in different types of communities share many of the same hopes and dreams, but often face very different opportunities and obstacles to reaching their full potential. In an effort to better understand how these issues affect kids around the state, we examined difference in child well-being by community type. We hope looking at the data with this lens will provide insight into the nuances of child well-being that exist across Colorado,” Watney said. “We hope policymakers, advocates, parents and practitioners will have a better sense of not only their communities, but also what unique situations are facing children from the plains to the plateaus. Ensuring resources and policies are specific to the needs of different types of communities is critical to ensuring the economic recovery reaches every child.”

Other key findings in the 2015 KIDS COUNT report include:

  • Colorado continues to make progress on several indicators of child health. The teen birth rate continued its decline in 2013, reaching 22 births per 1,000 teen girls ages 15-19. The state’s teen birth rate has declined by more than half since 2000. The percent of children without health coverage also has declined significantly since 2008 and continued to decline slightly in 2013. More than 70,000 Colorado kids have gained coverage since 2008.
  • Maternal and infant health outcomes tended to be worse for children in Colorado’s rural counties. Compared to children in other county types, children in rural counties were less likely to be born to a mother who had early prenatal care and more likely to be born to a mother who smoked during pregnancy. Teen birth rates were also higher in Colorado’s rural communities.
  • In 2013, Colorado’s rural counties had the highest uninsured rate for children. Rural children were less likely than children in other county types to be covered by employer-sponsored coverage but more likely to be covered by a public health coverage program such as Medicaid or the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+).
  • Among Colorado children under 18, one in five has been exposed to at least two adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Among low-income children, that percentage rises to one in three. ACEs include experiences such as divorce, abuse, neglect, caregiver substance abuse, and exposure to domestic violence. Children who experience ACEs are at higher risk for physical and mental  health problems throughout their lives.
  • Child care continues to be a heavy burden for thousands of Colorado families, both in terms of affordability and availability. Colorado is the second-least affordable state in the country for center-based child care for infants and the sixth-least affordable for center-based care for 4-year-olds.
  • There continue to be stark disparities in child well-being based on race and ethnicity. Children of color are more likely to be living in poverty, less likely to be enrolled in preschool and less likely to graduate from high school on time than their non-Hispanic white peers.
  • The percent of Colorado kindergartners enrolled in a full-day program increased to 74 percent in the 2014-2015 school year, up from 40 percent in 2007-2008. Children in small rural school districts were most likely to be enrolled in a full-day kindergarten program.
  • Data from the 2013-2014 school year show significant disparities in suspension and expulsion rates based on race and ethnicity. In 2013-2014, the suspension and expulsion rate for black students was more than twice as high as the rate for white students. Hispanic and American Indian students were also suspended or expelled at higher rates than their white peers. Research shows students of color often receive harsher punishments than non-Hispanic white students for similar infractions.
  • The state’s on-time graduation rate improved modestly in 2014, with 77 percent of students graduating on time. Small rural school districts had the highest graduation rates in 2014.
  • Among 2012 Colorado high school graduates who attended an in-state, public college or university, 37 percent required remediation in at least one subject.

For more information or to download the full 2015 KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report, please visit


About Colorado Children's Campaign

The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization committed since 1985 to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We advocate for the development and implementation of data-driven public policies that improve child well-being in health, education and early childhood. We do this by providing Coloradans with trusted data and research on child well-being and organizing an extensive state-wide network of dedicated child advocates. For more information, please visit

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Tara Manthey at (720) 256-1312 or email Tara at