After a variety of delays at the federal level due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colorado State Demography Office recently released the state’s in-depth 2020 Census results to the public.

The office’s data offerings include a series of fascinating visuals and maps, most of which can be manipulated to fit a viewer’s specific interests. To view the census results, visit www.demography.dola.colorado.gov.

The 2020 Census counted 7,436 people residing in Lake County, with 2,633 of those living in the City of Leadville. From 2010 to 2020, the county’s population grew by 1.7 percent and the city’s population grew by 1.2 percent, adding 126 and 31 residents respectively.

Though Lake County and Leadville experienced modest population growth in the last decade, the county and city are yet to return to the size of their 2000 populations. From 2000 to 2020, Lake County’s population declined by 6.4 percent and the city’s by 7.8 percent.

Lake County experienced a slower growth rate than the Central Mountains region as a whole (Lake, Chaffee, Custer and Fremont counties), which grew by 5.7 percent in the last decade. The Northern Front Range (Larimer and Weld counties) experienced the largest regional population increase in the state at 24.5 percent, while the Southern Eastern Plains (Baca, Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Otero and Prowers counties) experienced the largest regional population decrease in the state at -3.4 percent.

About 79 percent of Lake County’s population and 84 percent of Leadville’s population reported being over 18 years of age in 2020.

About 58 percent of Lake County’s population identified as white, 36 percent as Latinx and four percent as two or more races. One percent or less of Lake County’s population identified as American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander, or Black. From 2010 to 2020, Lake County’s Latinx population decreased by about seven percent.

Folks that identify as white and Latinx made up the majority of Leadville’s population in 2020 at 68 and 25 percent respectively. In the last decade, Leadville’s Latinx population decreased by about 12 percent.

It is important to note that undercount rates for children, immigrants and people of color in the 2020 Census are expected to be higher than in past years due to challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, amidst other concerns.

According to the census, 28.5 percent of housing in Lake County and 26 percent of housing in Leadville was vacant in 2020. The U.S. Census Bureau defines vacant housing as a residence that was not occupied by a full-time resident at the time of the count. Though local vacancy rates are higher than the average statewide rate of 9 percent, they are substantially lower than in neighboring communities such as Summit County (59 percent) and Vail (67 percent).

In the mountains of Colorado, high vacancy rates don’t equate to abandoned or empty homes. Instead, such numbers usually reflect a large amount of vacation rentals and part-time residents with second homes.

Somewhat counter intuitively given the region’s short-term rental boom, Lake County’s vacancy rate actually decreased by about three percent from 2010 to 2020. Maybe some of the Denverites who bought houses in Leadville the early 2000s moved here full time. Maybe the numbers are off. It’s hard to say.

Regardless, the modest population growth and high vacancy rates reported for Lake County and Leadville in the 2020 Census confirm that our housing crisis is not due to a booming population, but to those who have bought up secondary and tertiary properties.

Rachel Woolworth

Herald Editor

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