Report shows which Coloradans getting hit hardest by inflation |

Report shows which Coloradans getting hit hardest by inflation

Shelter and grocery costs spiked at higher rates for lower-earning residents

Seth Klamann
The Denver Post
Summit County officials use the area median income to determine qualifications for workforce housing like the Village at Wintergreen Apartments, pictured here in Keystone.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News

Inflation has disproportionately affected lower-income Coloradans, increasing their spending on essential services at rates far higher than wealthier residents, according to a new analysis by two University of Colorado Denver professors.

The review of inflation and spending data, commissioned by the Bell Policy Center and released last week,  shows how lower-income earners have weathered rising costs over the past two years with less flexibility to adjust their spending or lean on other forms of income to offset it. Simultaneously, essential spending on items like shelter or groceries has increased at higher rates for those Coloradans than their wealthier peers.

The report comes as state economic forecasters told legislators last month that they expect inflation to continue rising, constraining the state’s budget and raising the specter of a recession as federal regulators attempt to slow spending. While policymakers in Colorado and elsewhere haven’t had to address such significant inflationary pressures for decades, the report’s authors argue, the disproportionate impact of rising costs call for a targeted and nuanced approach that acknowledges that unequal burden.

“How households deal with inflation is all about tradeoffs, and the reality is that the tradeoffs are easier when you have more money, more income, more wealth,” said Todd Ely, the report’s co-author and the director of the Center for Local Government at CU Denver. “And so those tradeoffs for categories like groceries, utilities, housing — those are difficult tradeoffs to make just because there just aren’t ready substitutes. Gotta eat, gotta have shelter, health care. They’re not discretionary.”

While higher earners are spending more than lower-income Coloradans in real dollars, the impact on their overall income is less. Since September 2020, spending has increased 8.9% for lower-income Coloradans, defined by the report as those making 66% or below of local median income. Nearly half of that 8.9% increase is due to rising housing and grocery costs. Much of the rest is in other essential spending, like medical care and utilities.


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