Wednesday was Census Day, the reference date we’re supposed to use when filling out U.S. Census surveys about how many people live in our households. For instance, if you had six people living in your house earlier this year, but a couple of them moved out last week, then “four” would be the correct answer to put on your census response. Even if you are expecting a couple more people to move in next week or next month or whenever.
As we’ve said before, it’s important for people to provide the information the census bureau is requesting. The federal and state governments use that information to make decisions about weighty issues such as political representation and financial assistance levels for population-based programs and services. So the numbers need to be as accurate as possible.
It only takes a couple of minutes to complete the census survey online and, let’s face it, some of us have a lot more free time right now than we’re used to having. So there’s really no good excuse not to do it.
Not that all the news available through studying census data is good. For example, the census bureau has released an updated population report for Colorado and its counties through July 1 of last year. According to that data, Pueblo County grew almost 6 percent from 2010 to 2019.
That sounds pretty good, until you put it into perspective. Colorado’s overall growth rate during that time period was 14 percent. While some of the state’s more rural areas actually lost population over the last decade, Pueblo County is lagging behind our neighbors along the Front Range in terms of population growth.
According to the census, Colorado has 15 counties with populations of 50,000 or more. The combined growth rate of those counties, including ours, was about 16 percent.
Denver County grew by 21 percent from 2010 to 2019. That’s a net population gain of more than 127,000 people, which is more than the city of Pueblo’s total population.
El Paso County grew almost 16 percent. Weld, Broomfield and Douglas counties grew by 28 percent, 26 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
In terms of growth percentage, Pueblo County’s rate was comparable with Eagle County, the Western Slope resort area with a 5.6 percent rate.
Maybe those numbers don’t bother you. Maybe you’d be happy if Pueblo never got any bigger than it is right now.
But if that’s your position, don’t complain about Pueblo’s gas prices being higher than other surrounding communities. The prices are higher here in part due to the lack of competition, which is tied to an area’s population.
Don’t complain about why Colorado Springs has so many shops and restaurants that don’t have locations in Pueblo. That, too, is a function of our population size and market demographics.
And don’t complain about the city not having enough money to fix up roads or provide other basic services because government funding comes primarily from taxes, which depend in large part on the size of the tax base.
When this crisis ends and life returns to normal again, our community leaders should take steps to increase our population and, by extension, our economic prosperity.
Bigger isn’t always necessarily better. We don’t want Pueblo to become so big that we have the traffic-clogged streets and sky-high housing costs you can find in some of our neighbors to the north. But we’re a long way from that extreme.
In the short term, please fill out your census survey so our population doesn’t get under-reported in the federal statistics. In the longer term, let’s figure out how to make those numbers much higher by the time the 2030 census rolls around.