Our Growing Economic Divide
While Colorado’s economy has grown substantially in recent decades, the benefits of that growth have not been broadly shared. Income gains have disproportionately flowed to families at the top of the income distribution. Wages for workers in the top 20 percent of earners are up nearly 9 percent since 2000 while earnings for the bottom 20 percent are down nearly 2 percent.
Colorado also has a persistent wage gap by race and ethnicity. Regardless of the economic climate, Latino and Black workers tend to experience higher rates of unemployment, higher poverty and lower wages compared to their White counterparts. Median income for Latino and Black workers is 65 percent of income for White workers.
The Great Recession and the uneven recovery have only widened these income gaps. Wages have been stagnant for the majority of workers while statewide productivity has continued to increase. As a result, the income distribution in the state is more unequal today than the 1920s.
Income affects life expectancy: the richest people in America live 10 to 15 years longer than the poorest Americans. This same trend is true in Colorado. Wealthier Coloradans live 6 to 10 years longer than people at the other end of the income spectrum. Shared prosperity is essential to a sustainable state economy and the health and wellbeing of all Coloradans.
Fig. 2. Gap between high and lower wage groups continues to expand
Hourly wages by income group, 2000 and 2015 (2015$)
Source: U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey
Fig 3. Median income substantially lower for Black and Latino households
Median household income by race and ethnicity, 2015
Source: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey