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On March 17th, the Census Bureau released the 2016-2020 American Community Survey. This dataset contains population characteristics for smaller geographies up to state levels. An analysis of this data reveals new information about the impact of the pandemic on housing, income, employment, etc., and the impact of the pandemic on the data collection itself which was challenging due to many disruptions and higher levels of non-response.
It is important to note the ACS 5-year estimates are not designed to measure rapid change during short periods because the data come from a 5-year period. Although the most recent estimates contain data that include the economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic, they also contain data collected in the final years (2016–2019) of the longest expansion in the history of U.S. business cycles. These data only reflect a small part of the impact of the pandemic on social, economic and housing measures. The most appropriate comparison for the 2016-2020 ACS release is the 2011-2015 ACS or prior years as they do not include overlapping years.
Following pandemic-related data collection disruptions, the Census Bureau revised its methodology to reduce nonresponse bias in data collected in 2020. After evaluating the effectiveness of this methodology, the Census Bureau determined the standard, full suite of 2016–2020 ACS 5-year data are fit for public release, government and business uses. These statistics boost the understanding of the social and economic characteristics of the U.S. population.
The ACS 5-year data SHOULD NOT be used for total population estimates since it is based on 5 years of data. Please visit the State Demography Office for population estimates and forecasts.
There are over 1,200 tables released about the characteristics and conditions of the population ranging from place of birth, geographic mobility, transportation, commuting and educational attainment. To view the ACS list of tables and variables as well as several common tables collected by the Colorado State Demography Office please visit the State Demography Office ACS Page.
Below are a few of the initial findings:
Educational Attainment from the 2016-2020 ACS
For Colorado, the percentage of people reporting graduating from High School increased from 90.7% in 2011-2015 to 92.1% in 2016-2020. There was an increase in 53 of the 64 counties but the increase was only statistically significant in three counties, Denver, Adams, and Bent. For Colorado, the percentage of the population 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from 38.1% in 2011-2015 to 41.6% in 2016-2020. Colorado ranks second behind Massachusetts in this educational attainment. There was an increase in 56 of the 64 counties and the change was statistically significant in 25 of them. Four counties increased by over 10 percentage points the share of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher, Jackson, Lake, Gilpin, and Bent.
- The owner-occupied household rate for Colorado rose by nearly 2 percentage points from 64.3% in the 2011-2015 ACS to 66.2% in the 2016-2020 ACS and owner-occupied households increased by 115,000.
- The total number of renter-occupied households in Colorado was unchanged over the two periods at 722,000 but the share of renters declined by nearly 2 percentage points.
- The share of homeowners without a mortgage rose by 2.6 percentage points from 26.6% to 29.2%. There are now 67,000 more homeowners who own their homes free and clear or a total of 414K out of 1.415 million owner occupied homes.
The Census Bureau also posted an interactive map What Can You Learn About Counties From the American Community Survey? as well the ACS 2016-2020 Press Release.
Serving as the primary source for Colorado population and demographic information, the State Demography Office provides population estimates and forecasts for Colorado’s regions, counties, and municipalities developed by the State Demography Office and the U.S. Census Bureau.