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Colorado Fertility Part Two: Expectations of Change

Jul 21, 2017 • Colorado State Demography Office

Between 2000 and 2007, Colorado and the US experienced a steep decline in fertility, both during and following the recession. But although the fertility rate is still declining, it’s declining at a slower rate. In part 1 of this series we looked at recent changes in fertility rates across our state by race and ethnicity, by age, and by region. Now let’s take a closer look at what we expect the future to bring, and what it means for Colorado.

Up, Down or Steady?

As mentioned in the first part of our series, Colorado reached a peak in the number of births in 2007 with 70,800. This was followed by a decline through the recession, bottoming out at 65,100 in 2012. Births have since climbed back to 66,600 in 2015.

Looking ahead, the State Demography Office forecasts the number of births in Colorado will continue to climb slowly and will exceed the 2007 level of births just before the year 2023. At the same time, as younger women complete their transition to much lower fertility rates, total fertility will continue to decline through 2025. After 2025 total fertility is expected to increase slightly due to the increased share of population within older childbearing years and an increase in diversity within females of childbearing age.

Northeastern Colorado currently has, and is expected to continue to have, the highest TFR, followed by the Southeastern Plains and the San Luis Valley. Boulder, Denver, and the Rural Resort Region are expected to continue to have the lowest within the state. The most significant change over the forecast period, 2015-2050 is a continued expected decline in the City and County of Denver from a TFR of 1.9 in 2010 to 1.5 by the year 2050. By 2040, only the North and Central Eastern Plains and Northwestern Colorado are expected to have total fertility rates remaining above replacement.

What It Means For Colorado

We’ve already talked about how important fertility measures are to understanding population growth and change in Colorado, but let’s put it in a little more perspective: In 2015, births made up 65% of the population change in Colorado.

Going forward, the declining births, combined with increasing deaths due to Colorado’s aging population are expected to eventually result in long term slowing in Colorado’s natural increase (births minus deaths). This decline in natural increase is expected to contribute significantly to Colorado’s slowing forecast of population growth.

In particular, the Southeastern Plains and Central Mountain Regions are expected to continue to experience natural decline. After 2040, Jefferson and Boulder counties are also expected to experience natural decline.

Total fertility rates by race and ethnicity will also determine a large share of the growth in the population by race and ethnicity. As mentioned before, within Colorado in 2015 38% of births were racial/ethnic minorities and by 2038, over half of births are expected to be racial/ethnic minorities. The United States population is currently forecast by the Census Bureau to be majority minority by the year 2044. Colorado’s total population does not become majority minority prior to the end of this forecast period, currently 2050. The most populous minority group will continue to be Hispanic and Colorado’s total population under age 25 is expected to become majority minority by the year 2040.

In addition to the impact it has on Colorado’s population, fertility will also affect the state’s dependency ratio and its future labor force. The dependency ratio is the share of the population under age 16 and over age 65 relative to the working age population 16-64. This ratio was historically low as recently as 2010, because of the large number of Baby Boomers still in the workforce. Since then, however, as the Baby Boomers have begun to reach retirement age, the ratio in Colorado has begun to increase and is expected to continue increasing through 2050 as a result of the larger share of the population in older age groups.

The share of children relative to the working age population is also expected to decline, which in turn means a smaller share aging into traditional working age groups. This will slow the growth of the labor force relative to the total population.

Final Thoughts

This series was meant to be a high level look at why fertility measures are an important aspect of understanding changes in population growth. In fact, forecasts of fertility, the dependency ratio, and labor force growth rates are important variables for public finance planning, workforce planning, school and park planning, as well as planning for supports for young families.

We used excerpts from Colorado Fertility: Recent Trends and Expectations of Change, written by Cindy DeGroen, our Senior Demographer. If you would like to read more about this topic, or to explore the methodology used, the full paper is available online.

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Data sources: US Census Bureau and State Demography Office

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