Eagle County Census data shows growth and down migration
Eagle County officials are analyzing raw county data from the 2020 U.S. Census and will report their findings to county staff and commissioners soon. Here’s what we know so far.
The county’s overall population increased by 3,534 or 6.8% from 2010 figures to a total of 55,731, said Amy Keeley, who manages Eagle County’s Geographic Information Systems Department. .
The new total is only slightly higher than the county’s population estimate for 2019, and the county’s growth rate is comparable to the rest of the region, according to data released by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. . The Northern Front Range region has seen the greatest growth with a 24.5% population increase reported for Larimer and Weld counties.
Most of Eagle County’s growth has been in the valley, while towns in the east end of the county have reported reductions in population size, Keeley said. Eagle and Gypsum populations increased by 15.4% and 24.1%.
“Eagle and Gypsum just grew up,” she said. “There have been developments since 2010, new neighborhoods.
Overall, census results showed 4,835 residents in Vail, 257 in Red Cliff, 1,033 in Minturn, and 6,072 in Avon. Downvalley, Eagle now reports a population of 7,511 and Gypsum is at a whopping 8,040, according to data provided by Keeley.
The part of the town of Basalt located in Eagle County had a population of 2,917.
Census data for local unincorporated areas like EagleVail and Edwards is not yet available, Keeley said.
The city of Vail saw the largest reduction in population, an 8.9% decrease, but Avon also reported a 5.8% decrease.
Part of that decrease could be because the census count began early in the COVID-19 pandemic when Vail Resorts and other tourism-focused businesses were closing and laying off or laying off employees, Keeley said.
“We had a lot of Vail Resorts employees leaving the county, especially in the Avon and Vail area,” she said.
Vail and Avon also have more second home owners and short-term rentals and less affordable housing, she said. It is likely that the cost of living in the Upper Valley has continued to drive residents farther west in search of affordable housing.
So far, the Keeley Department has only analyzed total census population data. Soon they will have more data to dig deeper into demographic information and population changes in specific neighborhoods, she said.
“We are beginning to review the Commissioners District boundaries as they are 100% dependent on 2020 census demographics,” Keeley said.
Impact of the pandemic
Eagle County experienced a decrease in its census response rate from 40.9% in 2010 to 38.6% in 2020.
That drop of about 2% represents only the response rate among residents who took the online census of their own accord, said Abby Dallmann, county special projects manager. It does not take into account those who responded to the census by the visit of an enumerator.
Either way, there’s definitely been a drop in responses as the 2020 census wasn’t without its challenges, Dallmann said.
The most obvious of those challenges was the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the United States just as census efforts were beginning in mid-March, she said. Census Day, the national form-filling holiday, is April 1, but Dallmann said the county’s census effort didn’t really begin until June.
“It definitely didn’t go the way we had hoped,” Dallmann said.
The county is still awaiting the U.S. Census Bureau’s post-count survey, which measures “census coverage and accuracy by independently surveying a sample of the population,” according to a written statement from the Census Bureau.
“The survey is used to estimate the proportion of people and housing units that were missed or erroneously counted in the census, and for various demographic subgroups and census operations,” said media scientist Valerie Colapret in the press release.
The Census Bureau’s quality assessment tools showed that “the completeness and accuracy of the 2020 Census’ early results are comparable to recent censuses,” despite challenges related to COVID-19, the release said.
“We really tried,” she said. “The myriad of factors that all converged at the start of 2020 certainly didn’t help, but I think we did our best given the circumstances in which we were treated.”
Dallmann oversaw Eagle County’s “Complete Count Committee,” which identified particularly difficult-to-count population groups and proposed strategies for engaging those groups, she said.
Based on 2010 census data, those groups are low-income residents, Latino residents, seniors and people with low internet access, she said.
These historically undercounted groups are the same ones who are hardest hit if they do not receive their fair share of federal funding allocated based on census counts. Federal programs like SNAP and WIC use census figures to calculate fund allocations to different areas. Low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to have to rely on these programs for help.
The importance of being seen
Communities of color have been disproportionately undercounted compared to the rest of the population in every U.S. census, said Alex Sánchez, executive director of Voces Unidas de las Montañas.
Latino residents are driving population growth in the Eagle County area and across the country, but census numbers don’t completely and accurately reflect that trend, Sánchez said.
Much of the $40,000 allocated to fund the Eagle County Full Count Committee went toward outreach to local Latino communities, Dallmann said. Latino residents make up one-third of the county’s population and more than half of school-aged children, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Eagle County Schools.
“Our Latinx population was definitely on top,” she said.
The committee partnered with local organizations such as Neighborhood Navigators, The Community Market, and MIRA Bus to disseminate information using trusted sources that had preexisting connections within Latin American communities.
There are limits to this type of approach when local government agencies are not designed for effective and culturally competent outreach, Sánchez said. In the 2020 census, this was compounded by a president who sought to intimidate Latino and immigrant populations by pushing for a citizenship question to be added to the official census form, he said. declared.
“We haven’t yet figured out how to do effective, culturally competent and linguistically competent outreach so that we have a strong relationship with our communities, all communities,” Sánchez said. “If the Eagle County government, if all the cities had spent the last decades building strong, healthy, proactive engagement and relationships with our community, the effects of this political rhetoric at the national level would have less impact. …”
“So we can’t just blame Donald Trump,” he said. “We can’t just blame national figures for all this anti-immigrant rhetoric.”
An undercount of Latino communities, or any community for that matter, hurts those residents in many ways, Sánchez said. There is the tangible damage of inadequate political representation and funding, and then there is the less tangible, but equally damaging, element of simply not being seen.
“The mere fact that you are considered a contributing member of society and that you are a community that reflects the reality of our size and our contributions, that in itself the symbolic nature of having a genuine, honest, fair and representative account,” he said.
Ensuring that Latinos have appropriate political power and representation in our community is integral to meeting the needs of this population because “they know how to solve their own problems,” Sánchez said.
The U.S. census is a crucial process on which many of our sociopolitical systems depend, but Dallmann said his observations last year highlight the flawed nature of relying on a population count every ten years.
Eagle County’s population appears to have changed significantly even since last summer’s count, she said. Anecdotal evidence and county housing department reports indicate a growing number of residents are selling their homes and moving elsewhere, she said.
“Maybe the census data is already outdated,” she said. “They do population estimates on an annual basis, so it will be interesting to see once those population estimates are released, what do they say for Eagle County?”
Email Kelli Duncan at [email protected]