The official poverty rate in Colorado dropped in 2022 – but the end of pandemic-era protections is affecting Colorado families’ financial stability
The official poverty rate in Colorado declined in 2022, according to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. But many Colorado kids and families are experiencing financial hardship due to the end of pandemic-era programs like stimulus payments and expanded tax credits and the rapidly-increasing cost of living.
The overall poverty rate in Colorado for families with children under 17 years old decreased from 16.4% in 2021 to 15.0% in 2022. Among Colorado children under the age of 18, the poverty rate fell from 11.8% to 11.1%, which translates to 144,882 children in 2021 and 133,463 children experiencing poverty in 2022.
However, Black, Latine, and American Indian/Alaska Native Coloradans are still significantly more likely to experience poverty due to past and current policies that create more barriers to financial prosperity for families of color.
In 2022 in Colorado, 27.9% of Native American families had incomes below the poverty line. Nearly one in five Black families had incomes below the poverty line (17.8%), as did one in eight Latine families (13.1%). In contrast, 8.0% of white families and 9.0% of Asian families experienced poverty in 2022. These disparities reflect the impact of policies that have created and maintained barriers to opportunity for people of color across every system in our society—the labor market, the housing market, the education system, and the criminal justice system, among others—and that have led to unacceptable inequities in the economic well-being of Colorado families.
The drop in the state's child overall poverty rate primarily reflects the positive impact of an improving economy between 2021 and 2022. But nationally, the real median household income experienced a 2.3% decline in that time, shifting from $76,330 in 2021 to $74,580 in 2022. These income estimates are adjusted to real or 2022 dollars to account for changes in the cost of living. Between 2021 and 2022, inflation surged by 7.8%, marking the most substantial annual increase in the cost-of-living adjustment since 1981.
That mirrors trends in Colorado, where the cost of living is on the rise, incomes are not keeping pace, and many families are still struggling to pay for necessities even if they are above the official federal poverty line.
The good news is that economic opportunity is shaped by policy choices, and we can invest in public programs proven to improve families’ financial security—and in turn, their overall well-being.
Anti-poverty programs, which collectively benefit hundreds of thousands of Colorado children, are not factored into a family's income calculations for the official federal poverty level. But tax credits and other programs designed to promote economic security, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), are highly effective at keeping children out of poverty. Data from the 2021 Census indicate that millions of children nationwide were kept out of poverty by these programs.
Unfortunately, many of the supports that had such a significant positive impact on child poverty, including the expanded Child Tax Credit and stimulus payments, have expired. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that nationally, the supplemental poverty measure, which includes the impact of such programs, increased to 12.4% in 2022 from 7.8% in 2021. The Children’s Campaign will continue to advocate for programs and investments that support kids’ well-being, with a goal of creating a state where all kids can thrive.
Author: Dr. Tracie Trinidad