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Census Update Extra: Postcensal and Intercensal Estimates

A few days ago I shared with you the July 2015 population estimates for Colorado counties from the US Census Bureau. In this post, I thought I’d provide an overview of the Census Bureau’s annual population estimates because sometimes it can get a bit confusing. What are these postcensal and intercensal estimates anyway? Let’s take a look.

Decennial Census
First, as I’m sure most everyone knows, the US Census Bureau produces an official count of the US population once every decade—otherwise known as the decennial census—on April 1 of a year ending in a zero, with the most recent decennial census occurring in 2010. There are many ways to obtain Census 2010 data but two good places to start are here and here. If you have questions about how the decennial census works, try this page.

Postcensal Estimates
In the years after a decennial census, the Census Bureau makes annual population estimates for states, metro areas, counties, and cities/towns. These are handled through the Bureau’s Population Estimates Program and are referred to as their postcensal population estimates. The postcensal population estimates are as of July 1 of each year—as opposed to April 1 for the decennial census. The annual postcensal estimates are released in stages, with the estimates for states coming out in December of the same year as the July in question, followed by metro area and county estimates in March of the following year, and then city/town estimates in May of the following year. The methodology for how the Census Bureau makes their annual population estimates can be found here.

Vintages
The Census Bureau labels these annual data series of estimates as vintages, with the vintage year referring to the July to which the estimates apply, not when the estimates were released to the public. For example, the state estimates released in December 2014, the metro area/county estimates released in March 2015, and the city/town estimates released in May 2015 are collectively known as the Vintage 2014 estimates, as they all pertain to the estimated population on July 1, 2014.

What’s important to know about these annual postcensal estimates is that each vintage is a complete re-estimation for all years since the last decennial census, not the addition of just the most recent year. When a new vintage is released, the previous vintage “expires” in a way, since the new vintage’s estimates are based on more recent and/or accurate data. Therefore, it’s usually best to use the estimates in the most recent vintage available.

(Note: There isn’t a “Vintage 2010” in the usual form since that’s the year of the decennial census; however, starting with the Vintage 2011 data series, July 2010 estimates are included in each vintage to allow for year-to-year comparisons to be made using July-to-July data.)

In the table below, I’ve compiled all of the postcensal estimates for Denver so far since the 2010 Census:

2016-03-26_postcensal_2010-2015

As you can see, the change in a particular year’s estimate from one vintage to the next is usually fairly minimal. For example, in the Vintage 2014 data, Denver’s population was estimated at 663,862. In the new Vintage 2015 data, that estimate has been revised up by 101 people to 663,963. In the Vintage 2013 data released two years ago, Denver’s population was estimated at 649,495. However, in the Vintage 2015 data, the 2013 estimate has been revised down by 1,084 people to 648,411, a slightly more significant adjustment.

Intercensal Estimates
Once the next decennial census rolls around and the final population counts are in, the Census Bureau makes one final re-estimation for the years in the just-completed decade, known as their intercensal population estimates. At that point, because the actual population counts for both the beginning and end of the decade are known, the Bureau recalculates all of the annual estimates for the years in between so that the estimates fit between the two census counts. The intercensal estimates ultimately supersede the postcensal estimates that were made along the way.

Here’s a table I’ve put together that looks at the relationship between the postcensal and intercensal estimates for the most recently completed decade: 2000-2010.

2016-03-26_intercensal_2000-2010

When the 2010 Census count was finalized, it became evident that the Bureau had slightly overestimated Denver’s population during the decade by about 10,000 (assuming, of course, that the 2010 Census hadn’t undercounted Denver’s population). Consequently, the 2000-2010 intercensal estimates, shown in the last row, adjusted the annual totals to distribute them between 554,636 and 600,158. Those are now the official estimates of Denver’s population for those intercensal years from the “aughts” decade.

So there you have it! We’ll have to wait until about 2022 when the 2010-2020 intercensal estimates are released to know what Denver’s population really is during these booming years; but even then, those estimates will still be just highly-educated guesses.


Denver Census Update 2016

Once again, it’s time for our annual review of US Census Bureau population estimates for Colorado counties.

Every March, the US Census Bureau releases county population estimates for July 1 of the preceding year, known as their annual postcensal estimates. The population estimates released today by the Census Bureau are for July 1, 2015. Use these links for previous years’ posts: 20152014 | 2013 | 2010

For the seventh time in the past eight years, Denver County has led the state in numeric population growth. The Census Bureau’s 2015 population estimates show that Denver County (the City and County of Denver) had a population of 682,545 on July 1, 2015, an increase of 18,582 since the July 2014 estimate. Denver’s 2010 Census population count was 600,158.

2016-03-24_census-update

Here are two tables I’ve prepared showing the “Vintage 2015” postcensal estimates for the Top 10 Colorado counties in both numeric and percentage population gain between 2014 and 2015:

2016-03-24_top-10-counties-numeric-change_14-15

2016-03-24_top-10-counties-percent-change_14-15

Not only did Denver lead the state in numeric population gain from 2014-2015, but its one-year increase of 18,582 is higher than the previous three years, which averaged around 15,000 each. This indicates that Denver’s growth actually accelerated in 2014-2015 compared to the previous three years. With last year’s estimate, Denver regained the title of most populous county in the state from El Paso County. This year, Denver widened its lead over El Paso to a little over 8,000. Of course, in time, El Paso will permanently pass Denver as the most populous county given that El Paso has over 13 times the land area of Denver County. From a percent change perspective, Broomfield County grew the fastest from 2014-2015 with just over 5% growth.

Next, let’s look at the Top 10 Colorado counties in both numeric and percentage population gain between the 2010 Census and the new July 2015 estimates—the first half of the decade:

2016-03-24_top-10-counties-numeric-change_10-15

2016-03-24_top-10-counties-percent-change_10-15

Denver has gained 82,387 people since the 2010 Census. Is it any wonder that we are going through a development boom? That’s a 13.73% increase in the city’s population since 2010—good enough for second place in the state (after Broomfield’s 16.42%)—which is pretty remarkable considering Denver’s high base population from which the percent change is calculated. Denver remains on pace to be in the vicinity of 750,000 for the 2020 Census, but a lot can change between now and then to slow that pace down.

As I did last year, let’s focus on the just the seven-county Denver/Boulder metro area (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties). The first set of tables show the population counts and estimates from 2010 through 2015 for these seven metro counties, followed by a column-percentage table showing each county’s percent of the metro area total population for each of the six time periods:

2016-03-24_metro-comparison-1

The far right column in the percentage table shows each county’s variance (in absolute percentage points) of share of metro population between 2010 and 2015. Denver began the decade with a 21.56% share of the metro area population, and that has increased to 22.18% by 2015—a slight increase, but a continuation of the trend over the past few years that is counter to the historic trend since the 1930s of Denver losing ground to its suburban neighbors. On the other end, Jefferson County has seen a 0.82% percentage point decline in its metro-area share since 2010.

The second analysis compares each county’s percent of metro area population growth from 2014-2015 to its overall share of the metro area population. If growth were proportionally distributed across the metro area, each county’s percent share of growth from 2014 to 2015 (its “growth capture rate”) would be the same as its share of metro population. Let’s take a look:

2016-03-24_metro-comparison-2

The two columns on the left show the numeric population changes for the seven counties between 2014 and 2015 and the percent each county captured of the metro total increase of 62,929. The next column to the right shows each county’s overall share of the metro population at the beginning of this time period (July 2014). The rightmost column compares these two percentages by calculating the absolute variance in percentage points. Denver’s 29.53% share of 2014-2015 metro growth is 7.50 percentage points higher than its proportional share of the metro population, indicating that Denver substantially over-captured in population growth from 2014-2015 compared to its metro neighbors. Broomfield and Douglas counties also grew more than their relative shares by a few percentage points. Adams captured just about its exact proportional share, while Boulder, Arapahoe, and Jefferson counties significantly under-captured their proportional share of metro area growth.

With strong population increases and continued good news about job growth and the local economy, we will likely see the pace of infill development in Denver’s urban core remain steady in the near-term.


Denver Census Update 2015

It’s time for our annual look at population changes in Denver and other counties throughout Colorado. Use these links for previous years: 2014 | 2013 | 2010

For the sixth time in the past seven years, Denver County has led the state in numeric population growth, according to the US Census Bureau. The Census Bureau’s recently released 2014 population estimates show that Denver County (the City and County of Denver) had a population of 663,862 on July 1, 2014, an increase of 15,461 over their July 2013 estimate. Denver’s 2010 Census population count was 600,158.

Here are two tables I’ve prepared showing the “Vintage 2014” postcensal estimates for the Top 10 Colorado counties in both numeric and percentage population gain between 2013 and 2014 (click to embiggen):

2015-03-29_2013-2014-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Numeric-Population-Change

2015-03-29_2013-2014-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Percent-Population-Change

As you can see, Denver led the state with a gain of 15,461 and was in the Top 10 by percentage change with a respectable 2.38% increase. Denver also regained the title of the most populous county in Colorado, passing up El Paso County by 343 people. El Paso overtook Denver in 2004 and held a 22,105 advantage in 2010. The first table also reveals another interesting fact: Douglas County just passed up Boulder County in population.

Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Colorado counties in both numeric and percentage population gain between the 2010 Census and the new July 2014 estimates:

2015-03-29_2010-2014-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Numeric-Population-Change

2015-03-29_2010-2014-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Percent-Population-Change

Denver’s gain of 63,704 people since the 2010 Census easily surpasses the city’s entire population increase of 45,522 between the 2000 (554,636) and 2010 (600,158) Census counts, with six more years still to go before the 2020 Census. At this pace, Denver is likely to easily pass the 700,000 mark and could close in on 750,000. The Colorado State Demographer’s October 2014 forecast for Denver’s population in 2020 is 732,085.

Here are two additional analyses I’d like to share with you that focus on just the seven-county Denver/Boulder metro area (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties). The first set of tables show the population counts and estimates from 2010 through 2014 for these seven metro counties, followed by a column percent-of-total table showing each county’s percent of the metro area total population for each of the five time periods:

2015-03-29_2010-2014-Metro-Denver-Counties-Percent-Share-of-Metro-Population

The far right column in the percentage table shows each county’s variance (in absolute percentage points) of share of metro population between 2010 and 2014. Denver began the decade with a 21.56% share, and that has increased by 2014 to 22.04%. While the increase is slight, it is notable considering that Denver’s share of the metro area population has been decreasing since the 1930s and this represents a reversal of that trend. Arapahoe’s percent share has stayed mostly flat, while Adams, Broomfield and Douglas counties have seen small increases. Boulder’s share has dropped slightly, with Jefferson County seeing the largest decrease of 0.66% percentage points. Also note that the total population for the seven Denver/Boulder metro area counties passed the 3 million mark for the first time.

The second analysis compares each county’s percent of metro area population growth from 2013-2014 to its share of the metro area population. If growth were proportionally distributed across the metro area, each county’s percent share of growth from 2013 to 2014 (its “growth capture rate”) would be the same as its share of metro population. Let’s take a look:

2015-03-29_2013-2014-County-Share-of-Growth-to-Share-of-Metro-Population-Comparison

The columns on the left show the numeric population changes for the seven counties between 2013 and 2014 and the percent each county captured of the metro total increase of 56,390. The next column to the right shows each county’s share of the metro population at the beginning of this time period (2013). The rightmost column compares these two percentages by calculating the absolute difference in percentage points. Denver’s 27.42% share of 2013-2014 metro growth is 5.48 percentage points higher than its proportional share of the metro population, indicating that Denver over-captured in population growth during the time period. Douglas, Adams, and Broomfield also grew more than their relative shares by a few percentage points. Arapahoe was down slightly, with Boulder and Jefferson counties significantly under-capturing their proportional share of metro area growth.

With landlocked Denver likely to continue to grow at a steady pace for the foreseeable future, infill development, higher-density development, transit-oriented development, and significant investment in bicycle, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure are absolutely critical to ensure we grow in a smart, sustainable manner.


Another way to see the US: Map of where nobody lives

There are more than 300 million people living in the United States today, but America is such a huge country that we still have staggeringly vast areas that are completely devoid of humans. This map illustrates those places. Everything colored green is a census block with zero population.


Map by Nik Freeman of mapsbynik.com.

The eastern US is pretty well populated except for a few spots in mountains and swamps. There’s plenty of rural land, plenty of forests, but you’re never far from a farm, if not a town.

The west is a completely a different story. It’s covered with enormous stretches of land that are simply empty of people. There are towns along major roads, rivers, and rail lines, but vast emptiness between.

And Alaska’s emptiness makes even the western contiguous states look densely populated. Those green areas near the Arctic Circle look bigger than entire states.


Map by Nik Freeman of mapsbynik.com.


Denver Census Update 2014

In the years following a decennial census, the US Census Bureau releases in March its county population estimates for July 1 of the preceding year. This is known as their annual postcensal estimates. A few days ago, the bureau’s July 1, 2013 population estimates were released. In this post, we will take a look at Denver’s and other Colorado counties’ population estimates. You can read last year’s post on this topic by clicking here.

For the fifth time in the past six years, Denver County has led the state in numeric population growth according to the US Census Bureau. The Census Bureau’s recently released 2013 population estimates show that Denver County (the City and County of Denver) had a population of 649,495 on July 1, 2013, an increase of 14,953 over their July 2012 estimate of 634,542. Denver’s 2010 Census population count was 600,158.

Here are two tables I’ve prepared showing the “Vintage 2013” postcensal estimates for the Top 10 Colorado counties in both numeric and percentage population gain between the 2012 and 2013 (click to embiggen):

2014-04-05_2012-2013-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Numeric-Population-Change

2014-04-05_2012-2013-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Percent-Population-Change

Next, let’s take a look at the Top 10 Colorado counties in both numeric and percentage population gain between the 2010 Census and the new July 2013 estimates:

2014-04-05_2010-2013-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Numeric-Population-Change

2014-04-05_2010-2013-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Percent-Population-Change

The Census Bureau’s July 2013 population estimate for Colorado was 5,268,367, an increase of 78,909 from the July 2012 estimate, and an increase of 239,171 from the state’s 2010 Census count of 5,029,196.


Gentrification in Denver

The concept of gentrification is relatively new in the urban planning lexicon only appearing in print in 1964 and generally defined as “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.” Whether or not a racial component of displacement is integral to this definition is still up for debate. With Spike Lee’s recent rant on this very subject as Brooklyn continues to gentrify, I decided to look at some Denver examples of gentrification to see how we compare.

The Whittier neighborhood, located north of 23rd Avenue and east of Downing (east of Five Points), has been closely associated with Denver’s black community since at least 1930. This was solidified by the 1950s as the so-called “color line” located near High Street in Whittier was broken as new housing opportunities were sought due to explosive growth in Denver’s black population following World War II. The white majorities along Race, Vine and Gaylord streets quickly vanished. A neighborhood that had once been nearly 100% white in 1890 had become 75% black by 1990. The process of this mid-century demographic shift has nearly been lost to history as the general perception has been that Five Points and Whittier have always been the heart of black culture in Denver. Whittier School did in fact become Denver’s first majority black school by the early 1930s as the population was increasingly segregated in this part of Denver especially following the Ku KIux Klan’s political grip on Denver and Colorado during the 1920s. But prior to this time, Denver’s black population was never large enough to dominate a majority of slots in any Denver school.

The Civil Rights Movement and fair housing laws eventually created more opportunities for housing choice, especially after 1970, and evidence of this is very apparent in Whittier. Between 2000 and 2010, there was a 43% drop in the black population of Whittier and an 89% increase in the white population (Whittier is coterminous with census tract 23). The neighborhood’s demographic breakdown now consists of a 29% black/42% white percentage, also indicating that there is a sizable Hispanic population in the area that was not in place in 1990 or 2000. Meanwhile, the black population has spread out into other areas of east Denver and into Aurora, no longer being forced into a few census tracts.

Whittier is not alone in this demographic shift that also coincides with a great influx of new residential construction (scrapes), home remodels and other major home improvements in most old Denver neighborhoods featuring historic homes with brick construction. We can quickly compare Whittier to Highland. I am referring only to the census tract located around 29th and Zuni, that includes “LoHi,” the area near Little Man Ice Cream. In 1990, this census tract (4.02) contained 5,986 people and was 65% Hispanic. Today (2010 census), the population stands at 5,314 people and is 35% Hispanic. Since 2000, the white population of the census tract has increased 32% and the Hispanic population has decreased 57%.

So ultimately I wonder if gentrification is only perceived as “bad” if it displaces minority residents. I know that for black homeowners in Whittier, many have suddenly lived the American Dream by selling their $39,000 home in 1989 dollars for $339,000 in 2014 dollars. While the faces in the neighborhood have changed, Whittier continues to be one of Denver’s most diverse areas. The influx of energy and money ensures that Denver’s central neighborhoods remain viable places to live over the long-term and are a welcome alternative when considering the urban decay and blight that a place such as Detroit is currently suffering. When you take any racial changes out of the equation however, gentrification’s foes are more quiet if we look at anecdotal evidence. One only needs to read the Denver Post over the past month about the booming Highlands neighborhood (west of Federal) pricing out even more people in the real estate market who are now looking at places such as Edgewater and Wheat Ridge where one can buy the same housing types as found in the 32nd and Lowell or 44th and Tennyson area for $100,000+ cheaper. These areas are being “rediscovered” and, although they have been historically “white” in character, they are no less deserving of the new investment.

Ultimately, cities are changing and dynamic places, if they are lucky. Otherwise, they can stagnate and decline. While it is painful sometimes to see places you grew up knowing in one capacity, there is a whole new generation of folks moving to Denver from across the country who have no preconceived notions of what an area is or is not supposed to be. So whether it’s Harvey Park in southwest Denver that has greatly increased its share of the Hispanic population (while it was nearly 100% white in 1960) or Whittier and Highland who have greatly increased their share of white population, the Denver area continues to grow and change—just as it has always done since 1858.


What are America’s densest neighborhoods?

Last week’s post about Colorado’s densest neighborhoods showed where density is clustered in Denver and other Front Range cities. Now let’s look at the densest spots in the core areas of other large cities around the US.

This post shows the census tract density of the central county (only) in each of America’s 20 largest Urban areas, in both 2000 and 2010. The list is in order of size, so New York is first, LA second, and Denver 18th.

Note that the scale on these maps is different than on the Colorado ones from last week, since the scale of density in cities nationwide is more broad than just within Colorado. All the maps in this thread do show the same scale compared to each other.

1. New York:
America’s biggest city breaks the scale. While others on this list might have a few neighborhoods in the top density category, which on these maps is 40,000 ppsm and higher, New York is covered end to end. It’s one of only 4 cities with any tracts above 100,000 ppsm. Its peak is 200,000 ppsm.
2000
2010
 
2. Los Angeles:
Despite its reputation for sprawl, LA compares favorably to the densest cities after New York. Its peak density of 94,000 ppsm is 4 times denser than Denver’s peak of 23,000 ppsm.
2000
2010
 
3. Chicago:
Home to probably the single-densest census tract in America, a 508,000 ppsm anomaly that’s just a single high rise, and is so small it’s not visible at normal scale. Besides that tract, Chicago tops around at about the same level as LA.
2000
2010
 
4. Miami:
Thanks to more narrowly-drawn census tracts along its high-rise coast, Miami’s peak density shot up from 38,000 ppsm in 2000 to 77,000 ppsm in 2010, but the actual change wasn’t as significant on the ground.
2000
2010
 
5. Philadelphia:
Philadelphia’s peak rose from 54,000 ppsm in 2000 to 64,000 in 2010.
2000
2010
 
6. Dallas:
Despite a lot of regional growth, Dallas’ density dropped significantly. It has fewer dense tracts in 2010 than in 2000, and its peak is down to 44,000 ppsm from 57,000 ppsm.
2000
2010
 
7. Houston:
Unlike Dallas, Houston appears to be densifying. Oddly, its densest area, with 55,000 ppsm, is not the core.
2000
2010
 
8. Washington (with Arlington & Alexandria):
Washington’s peak density increased from 57,000 ppsm to 66,000 ppsm. Note that this map includes 2 jurisdictions in addition to the central county, unlike all others on this list.
2000
2010
 
9. Atlanta:
Not only is Atlanta shockingly sparse, its densest tract fell from 41,000 ppsm in 2000 to just 21,000 ppsm in 2010. The explanation? A downtown public housing complex was demolished, erasing the population of the densest 2000 tract.
2000
2010
 
10. Boston:
One of only 4 cities with a tract above 100,000, Boston has a single tract that reaches 110,000 ppsm.
2000
2010
 
11. Detroit:
Detroit’s peak density of 18,000 ppsm is about the same as in 2000, but the number of mid-density tracts above 10,000 ppsm declined significantly as the city continued to empty.
2000
2010
 
12. Phoenix:
Phoenix tops out at 23,000 ppsm, the same as central Denver. But unlike Denver, Phoenix is strongly de-centralized. It has no visible downtown core, and its 23,000 ppsm tract is in the suburbs.
2000
2010
 
13. San Francisco:
San Francisco has more tracts above 100,000 ppsm than any city except New York. It tops out at 161,000 ppsm.
2000
2010
 
14. Seattle:
With a peak of 51,000 ppsm and a small but significant core, Seattle is smaller than the other big coastal cities on this list, but still strongly centralized and quite dense.
2000
2010
 
15. San Diego:
While downtown San Diego densified compared to 2000, and its 50,000 ppsm peak is higher, some of its other denser neighborhoods are sparser in 2010. The densest area is Mission Valley instead of the core.
2000
2010
 
16. Minneapolis:
Of all the cities on this list, Minneapolis looks the most similar to Denver. Its distinct core of moderate density neighborhoods topped out at 25,000 ppsm in both 2000 and 2010.
2000
2010
 
17. Tampa:
By far the sparsest city on this list, Tampa’s peak of 13,000 ppsm means it has no tracts in the 3rd or 4th categories, and precious few crack even into the 2nd. Boulder and Aurora are denser, Lakewood is about the same.
2000
2010
 
18. Denver:
Denver is like a hybrid of sparse sunbelt cities and dense coastal ones. Like coastal cities, Denver has a noticeable core of dense neighborhoods near downtown. But like the sunbelt ones, Denver’s densest spot is in a suburban area, a 31,000 ppsm tract in Glendale. Denver’s urban peak of 23,000 ppsm is slightly lower than it was in 2000, when Capitol Hill was 26,000 ppsm. The drop is most likely due to demographic changes, as more singles but fewer families live in the same places. Densities increased in downtown and LoDo, but not yet enough to be visible at this scale.
2000
2010
 
19. Baltimore:
Baltimore’s lone tract in the densest category is an impressive 86,000 ppsm, but that tract is down from a whopping 176,000 ppsm in 2000. Why such variation, and why 1 tract so much denser than all the others? That one extreme tract is a prison.
2000
2010
 
20. Saint Louis:
Saint Louis’ losses have been less drastic than Detroit’s, but they still hurt. Its peak is down to a Tampa-like 13,000 ppsm, from 15,000 ppsm in 2000.
2000
2010

Want to see more? You can make maps like these for any county in the United States, using census.gov. Here are instructions.


Denver County Remains Population Growth Leader in Colorado

For the fourth time in the past five years, Denver County has led the state in population growth according to the US Census Bureau. The Census Bureau’s recently released 2012 population estimates show that Denver County (the City and County of Denver) had a population of 634,265 on July 1, 2012, an increase of 14,980 over their July 2011 estimate of 619,285. Denver’s 2010 Census population count was 600,158.

Every year following a decennial census, the US Census Bureau releases its county population estimates for July 1 of the preceding year, known as their annual postcensal estimates. This process continues annually until the next decennial census occurs, after which the Census Bureau then prepares what they call their intercensal estimates for the just-completed decade. This involves recalculating all of the annual postcensal estimates for that decade so that those estimates fit between the two decennial census counts in a relatively smooth and logically distributed manner. Here are two tables I’ve prepared showing the “Vintage 2012” postcensal estimates for the Top 10 Colorado counties in both numeric and percentage population gain between the 2011 and 2012 (click to embiggen):

Denver led the state in both numeric and percent gain for 2011-2012. The fact that Denver led the state in numeric population gain this past year isn’t particularly surprising statistically, considering the size of Denver’s population relative to other Colorado counties, but it is rather impressive that Denver led the state in percent population gain from 2011-2012, given the high population baseline from which Denver starts. But Denver’s population growth is particularly notable historically, considering the extent of suburbanization over the past half century and that Denver lost population in the 1970s and 1980s.

Denver’s gain in population is due primarily to several factors: the ongoing development of large infill sites like Stapleton and Lowry, the buildout of the city’s few remaining greenfield communities like Green Valley Ranch and Gateway, and the substantial densification and infill developments occurring with the city’s urban core. As noted in my recent post on Downtown Denver’s multifamily housing boom, over 6,000 residential units within the Downtown Denver area have been completed or are under construction since 2012, and over 10,000 residential units were completed in the Downtown area during the 2000s.

Finally, let’s take a look at the ten central/northern Front Range counties (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, and Weld), which account for the vast majority of the numeric population growth annually statewide over the past twelve years. In the chart below, I’ve tracked these ten counties based on their Top 10 statewide ranking by annual numeric population gain. Population figures used for 1990, 2000, and 2010 are the actual decennial census counts. All other years represents the US Census Bureau’s intercensal estimates, except for 2011 and 2012, which are from the just-released 2012 postcensal estimates. The missing values reflect annual ranking positions where Eagle, Fremont, Garfield, Mesa, and/or Pueblo counties entered the Top 10. If a county’s colored marker disappeared, that means it wasn’t in the Top 10 statewide for that year (click to embiggen):

A few trends are evident:

Douglas County ascended as the county with the highest population growth in the state from the mid-1990s through the mid-2000s. However, since the 2008 recession, the county’s growth has noticeably slowed.

Adams, Arapahoe, and El Paso counties have generally maintained a steady presence at or near the top of the chart, with some periodic ups-and-downs, over the past 12 years.

Weld County, which didn’t become a significant growth leader until the early 2000s, has also experienced a growth slowdown like Douglas County since the 2008 recession.

Boulder and Larimer counties show steady growth, but consistently in the bottom half of the Top 10.

Jefferson County saw a dramatic slowing of growth in the 1990s and early 2000s, but is making a bit of a comeback of late.

The Denver metro area generally slowed in growth during the “dot com” mini-recession of the early 2000s, during which some of the non-Front Range Counties occupied slots within the Top 10.

Denver County saw erratic but generally strong growth during the 1990s as the city’s renaissance started taking hold, but then disappeared from the Top 10 for several years during the “dot com” bust days, only to reappear and occupy the top slot statewide for four of the past five years.

In conclusion, Colorado’s Front Range continues to show steady growth in the post-recession era, with the most urban counties showing the strongest population growth.


What are Colorado’s densest neighborhoods?

Density is a good thing for urbanism. More density means more shops and amenities nearby, better transit service, and shorter walks. When communities are built around transit, walking, and biking instead of automobiles, more density actually makes them function better, not worse.

But what qualifies as dense? Overall city density figures are often reported, but they can be skewed by weird geographic features such as bodies of water, mountains, or giant airports inside the city limits. And even if they’re not skewed, every city has lots of variation between its neighborhoods.

A more telling statistic is the density of individual neighborhoods. Luckily, the US Census Bureau publishes density statistics for “census tracts,” which are neighborhood-sized geographic units.

Using census.gov, it’s possible to generate maps illustrating the density of census tracts in any county in the United States. This post will explore some of Colorado’s most populated areas. If you want to make more maps of your own, here are instructions explaining how to do so.

Denver:
Residential density in Denver is centered in Capitol Hill, which contains Denver’s 3 densest census tracts. The densest one has over 23,000 people per square mile (ppsm). While that beats every other central city in Colorado, Arapahoe County has one tract that’s denser.

Arapahoe County:
Who’d have thought Colorado’s densest place wouldn’t be central Denver, but southern Glendale? At a little over 31,000 ppsm, the section of Glendale south of Cherry Creek and east of Cherry Street tops the state.

Adams County:
With 2 tracts in the 15,000 ppsm range along Colfax in Aurora, Adams’ peak is half that of Arapahoe, but still high.

Jefferson County:
Belmar is beginning to look like a true downtown. At 13,000 ppsm it’s JeffCo’s densest tract.

Boulder – Boulder County:
Although it can’t match Denver’s density, Boulder’s 3 tracts above 10,000 ppsm and peak above 15,000 ppsm is very respectable. It’s about the same as Colfax Avenue in old Aurora.

Colorado Springs – El Paso County:
With a peak density of just 9,000 ppsm, the Springs doesn’t have any neighborhoods that even come close to approaching Boulder, much less Denver. Oddly, the core urban neighborhoods don’t appear to be any denser than the outer suburban ones.

Fort Collins – Larimer County:
Fort Collins has one neighborhood that just barely squeaks above 10,000 ppsm.

Pueblo – Pueblo County:
Like the Springs, Pueblo’s core neighborhoods are about the same density as its outer ones; in fact, the densest tract is the one at the very north end of the city, with just under 8,000 ppsm.

In a future post, we’ll look at the neighborhood density of large cities around the country, including New York and Los Angeles.