Colorado’s middle class is shrinking, and the lifestyle long associated with it — homeownership, a car, college savings and occasional vacations — is getting harder to achieve.
That’s been the economic trend in the state, and across the country, for decades. But new research suggests Colorado’s public investments — or lack of them — could be better directed to help people climb out of poverty and into a true middle-income lifestyle.
The takeaway from the latest Bell Policy report: When Colorado invests in education or judicial system programs meant to keep people out of prison, people’s ability to buy a home increases. And when the state pours more money into prisons, it declines, at least among communities of color.
The report used 20 years of state budget numbers, U.S. Census data and a sample survey of Coloradans to model various public-funding and economic-mobility scenarios. Colorado State University economics professor Anita Alves Pena, one of the report’s authors, calls it a “thought experiment” because she plugged in various “what if” scenarios to find out how state funding relates to economic mobility.
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