Census shows graduation rates up slightly

Coloradans have lower real incomes, a higher percent are living in poverty and fewer own their own homes than the year before the recession began in 2007, according to an I-News analysis of new census figures released Wednesday night.

The analysis also found glimmers of good news: high school and college graduation rates among adults edged up, and the percent of Coloradans without health insurance is slowly declining.

The latest economic data came from the 2011 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau for every state and for cities and counties with 65,000 or more in population.

The survey found that median household incomes in the state had declined by about 7.5 percent to $55,387 between 2007 and 2011 when adjusted for inflation.

Census findings – education
  • In 2011, the survey found only two counties with 65,000 or more residents where more than half the adults aged 25 and over held college degrees – Boulder and Douglas.
  • Statewide in 2011, the survey found 37 percent of adults aged 25 and over held college degrees. In Denver, the figure was 43 percent.
  • Among cities with 65,000 or more residents, the survey found two where fewer than a quarter of the adults aged 25 and over held college degrees – Greeley and Pueblo.

Census findings – poverty

  • In 2011, the two counties with 65,000 or more residents reporting the highest child poverty rates were Denver and Pueblo.
  • That year, the two counties reporting the lowest child poverty rates were Boulder and Douglas.
  • Only two municipalities reported child poverty rates in the single digits in 2011 – Douglas County and Highlands Ranch, located within Dougco.

Census findings – income

  • In 2011, Highlands Ranch reported the highest median household income at more than $100,000 while Pueblo City reported the lowest at under $33,000.

Learn more

During the same time, the percent of the state’s residents living below the poverty level rose from 12 percent to 13.5 percent and the percent of children in poverty increased from 16.3 to 17.9.

State Demographer Elizabeth Garner said the figures reflect the fact that employment is not expected to return to 2007 levels until 2014 or 2015.

“We’re several hundred thousand more people than we were in 2007 and there are actually fewer jobs,” Garner said.

Home ownership rates continued to decline with 64.4 percent of Coloradoans owning their own homes last year compared to almost 69 percent in 2007, the year before the recession began.

Those same economic indicators showed little change between 2010 and 2011.

The percent of Coloradans without health insurance has declined over the past three years. The Census Bureau did not start including questions on health insurance in the survey until 2008.

Last year, 15.1 percent of the state’s residents said they were uninsured compared to 16.7 percent in 2008.

The drop among children was more dramatic, failing from 13.8 percent uninsured in 2008 to 9.4 percent in 2011.

Garners said part of the drop reflects more people qualifying for Medicaid.

“You get yourself so poor, you actually qualify for Medicaid,” she said.

In addition, more older children are now being covered under their parents’ policies, she said, because of health care reform.

High school and college degrees also have gone up slightly since 2007. The percent of adults 25 years and over with high school degrees rose from 88.9 to 90.2 and the percent with college degrees went from 35 to 36.7.

Garner said that also reflects a weak job market.

“If there is a silver lining, it’s if people are unable to get a job, they are going back to school or deciding to stay in school,” she said.

“If there is a silver lining, it’s if people are unable to get a job, they are going back to school or deciding to stay in school.”
– Demographer Elizabeth Garner

The census data also looked at martial status for Coloradans 15 years and older and found a continuing trend toward fewer married residents and more unmarried residents.

Married Coloradans now make up barely over half of state residents – 50.9 percent compared to 52 percent in 2007. Coloradans who reported they have never married now comprise 30.9 percent of those 15 years and older, up from 29.4 percent in 2007.

Census data on commuting patterns found little changes over the four years between 2007 and 2011. About 75 percent of Coloradans still drive alone to work, 10 percent carpool and 3 percent take public transportation.

  • In partnership: The I-News Network is a nonprofit newsroom collaborating with Colorado news organizations to cover important issues. Learn more.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”