Colorado Government

Denver Has a Shrinkage Problem — and It's Not Alone

Denver Has a Shrinkage Problem — and It's Not Alone
Fox31 via YouTube
Colorado is no longer experiencing a population boom, as new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

According to the latest Census data, Denver County lost thousands of residents from 2020 to 2021, after the population had grown from 600,158 in 2010 to 715,522 in 2020. At least seven other Colorado counties also experienced population dips, including three more in the metro area. And while none of the seven largest metropolitan statistical areas in the state suffered similar shrinkage, their population gains were modest, owing in part to fallout from COVID-19. Evidence suggests that many Colorado women delayed getting pregnant in the pandemic's first year, for example, and while the birth rate tended to pick up in year two, much of the increase in newborns was offset by a spike in deaths.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Vintage 2021 survey was released on March 24, and in its announcement, the agency contextualized some of the major takeaways. The stats showed that from 2020 to 2021, a stunning 73 percent of counties in the country experienced a natural population decrease, in which deaths exceeded births, compared to 45.5 percent in 2019 and 55.5 percent in 2020. The factors for this drop cited by the bureau include "fewer births, an aging population and increased mortality, intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Vintage 2021 included information on nineteen of Colorado's 64 counties. The number that saw natural population declines was smaller than the 73 percent registered nationally, but in eight of the nineteen counties, the population fell, with the largest slumps registered by Denver, Jefferson, Boulder and Arapahoe. Here's the rundown, ranked from the largest to smallest decrease:
Denver County: -6,167
Jefferson County: -3,347
Boulder County: -1,268
Arapahoe County: -212
Moffat County: -82
Morgan County: -57
Summit County: -30
Logan County: -8
Denver's metropolitan statistical area, or MSA, combines stats from Lakewood and Aurora — and overall, it grew by 3,277 from 2020 to 2021. However, that's down from the 5,468 person bump from 2019 to 2020.

During 2020, the Denver-Lakewood-Aurora MSA registered 8,054 births and 5,732 deaths. The next year, both figures went up by a multiple of around four, with births hitting 32,211 and deaths listed at 23,680. The result was a natural increase of 8,531 — but this gain was dampened to some degree by the effects of the pandemic on migration. In 2020, the international migration total rose by just 67, and it actually fell by 41 the next year. As for domestic migration, it was lower by 6,507 in 2020, and a rebound of 3,010 in 2021 didn't make up for the shortfall.

The trends were similar in regard to the six other MSAs for which the Census Bureau issued comparisons between 2020 and 2021: Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Greeley, Pueblo, Grand Junction and Durango. Below are details about each, including population estimates and changes, natural changes related to births and deaths, sums related to international and domestic migration, as well as the residual category, which the agency defines as "change in the population that cannot be attributed to any specific demographic component of population change."

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood Metropolitan Statistical Area

Estimate base, 2020: 2,963,821
Population estimate, 2020: 2,969,289
Population estimate, 2021: 2,972,566
Population change, 2020: 5,468
Population change, 2021: 3,277
Births, 2020: 8,054
Births, 2021: 32,211
Deaths, 2020: 5,732
Deaths, 2021: 23,680
Natural change, 2020: 2,322
Natural change, 2021: 8,531
International migration, 2020: 67
International migration, 2021: -41
Domestic migration, 2020: -6,507
Domestic migration, 2021: 3,010
Net migration 2020: -5,448
Net migration, 2021: 3,249
Residual, 2020: 136
Residual, 2021: 194

Colorado Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area

Estimate base, 2020: 755,105
Population estimate, 2020: 756,573
Population estimate, 2021: 762,793
Population change, 2020: 1,468
Population change, 2021: 6,220
Births, 2020: 2,238
Births, 2021: 8,997
Deaths, 2020: 1,611
Deaths, 2021: 6,143
Natural change, 2020: 627
Natural change, 2021: 2,584
International migration, 2020: -33
International migration, 2021: -41
Domestic migration, 2020: 839
Domestic migration, 2021: 3,290
Net migration 2020: 806
Net migration, 2021: 3,249
Residual, 2020: 35
Residual, 2021: 117

Fort Collins Metropolitan Statistical Area

Estimate base, 2020: 359,066
Population estimate, 2020: 359,686
Population estimate, 2021: 362,533
Population change, 2020: 620
Population change, 2021: 2,847
Births, 2020: 731
Births, 2021: 2,960
Deaths, 2020: 695
Deaths, 2021: 2,759
Natural change, 2020: 36
Natural change, 2021: 201
International migration, 2020: 2
International migration, 2021: 94
Domestic migration, 2020: 581
Domestic migration, 2021: 2,508
Net migration 2020: 583
Net migration, 2021: 2,602
Residual, 2020: 1
Residual, 2021: 44

Greeley Metropolitan Statistical Area

Estimate base, 2020: 328,981
Population estimate, 2020: 331,358
Population estimate, 2021: 340,036
Population change, 2020: 2,377
Population change, 2021: 8,678
Births, 2020: 1,134
Births, 2021: 4,333
Deaths, 2020: 558
Deaths, 2021: 2,340
Natural change, 2020: 576
Natural change, 2021: 1,993
International migration, 2020: -2
International migration, 2021: 99
Domestic migration, 2020: 1,775
Domestic migration, 2021: 6,631
Net migration 2020: 1,773
Net migration, 2021: 6,730
Residual, 2020: 28
Residual, 2021: -45

Pueblo Metropolitan Statistical Area

Estimate base, 2020: 168,162
Population estimate, 2020: 168,467
Population estimate, 2021: 169,622
Population change, 2020: 305
Population change, 2021: 1,155
Births, 2020: 431
Births, 2021: 1,723
Deaths, 2020: 590
Deaths, 2021: 2,283
Natural change, 2020: -159
Natural change, 2021: -560
International migration, 2020: 0
International migration, 2021: 13
Domestic migration, 2020: 470
Domestic migration, 2021: 1,699
Net migration 2020: 470
Net migration, 2021: 1,712
Residual, 2020: -6
Residual, 2021: 3

Grand Junction Metropolitan Statistical Area

Estimate base, 2020: 155,703
Population estimate, 2020: 155,939
Population estimate, 2021: 157,335
Population change, 2020: 236
Population change, 2021: 1,396
Births, 2020: 382
Births, 2021: 1,529
Deaths, 2020: 421
Deaths, 2021: 1,877
Natural change, 2020: -39
Natural change, 2021: -348
International migration, 2020: -1
International migration, 2021: 4
Domestic migration, 2020: 282
Domestic migration, 2021: 1,734
Net migration 2020: 281
Net migration, 2021: 1,738
Residual, 2020: -6
Residual, 2021: 6

Durango Metropolitan Statistical Area

Estimate base, 2020: 55,638
Population estimate, 2020: 55,642
Population estimate, 2021: 56,250
Population change, 2020: 4
Population change, 2021: 608
Births, 2020: 98
Births, 2021: 462
Deaths, 2020: 98
Deaths, 2021: 477
Natural change, 2020: 0
Natural change, 2021: -15
International migration, 2020: 0
International migration, 2021: 2
Domestic migration, 2020: 7
Domestic migration, 2021: 621
Net migration 2020: 7
Net migration, 2021: 623
Residual, 2020: -3
Residual, 2021: 0

Click to read our three-part series on Colorado growth: "Almost Everything You Think You Know About Colorado Growth Is Wrong," "Surprising Reasons Why Colorado's Growth Is Slowing," and "Why Denver Could Face a Slowing Growth Crisis This Decade."
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