New U. S. Census Bureau data couples highlights of Colorado Springs' recent gains with a firm reality check: the city remains near the bottom of the rankings in two key economic measures when compared to other large state municipalities.
From 2014 to 2015, more people were insured, incomes rose, and poverty rates dropped in both the city and El Paso County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey released Thursday.
But when compared to the 15 other most populous cities in the state, Colorado Springs ranks 14th in median household income and 13th in percentage of residents with healthcare, according to the 2015 survey.
"What this data does is put some numbers to what we have kind of intuitively understood to be the case," said local economist Tom Binnings, a senior partner at Summit Economics.
Local figures are consistent with nationwide numbers, which show rising incomes and falling poverty levels, according to the survey, which measures more than 40 social and economic indicators in communities nationwide.
Median household incomes in Colorado Springs increased by about 4 percent, from $53,915 in 2014 to $56,079 last year, but remained several thousand dollars shy of the $63,909 state average, according to the survey.
The city's poverty rate fell from 13.5 percent to 12.3 percent, the lowest it's been since 2009, but still nearly a percent above the 11.5 percent state average.
Binnings said the city's relatively low income figure and moderate poverty rate make Colorado Springs home to a fairly large population of people who are above the poverty line but still earning less than average - a segment of the population he calls the "working poor."
"We have great accessibility to the outdoors, and people will give up income to live here. So we have a disproportionate amount of people making below the median income, but they're not in poverty," Binnings said. "That's the good news."
The working poor are also the least likely to have healthcare, contributing to the city's relatively high percentage of uninsured residents, he said.
The survey shows that the percent of Colorado Springs residents with insurance inched upwards in 2015 by about 2 percent to 91.9 percent, matching the statewide average.
But the annual household income figure does not reflect the relatively low cost of living in Colorado Springs, which gives below-average salaries more purchasing power, Binnings said.
A study released over the summer by the Council for Community and Economic Research, a Virginia-based nonprofit research organization, showed the cost of living in Colorado Springs was 4.7 percent below the national average.
According to the American Communties Survey, changes at the county level between 2015 and 2016 were slightly less significant.
The American Community Survey shows median household incomes in the county saw a 1 percent uptick in 2015, reaching $60,109. The figure, which puts El Paso County in 9th place among the dozen most populous counties in the state, exceeds the Colorado Springs household median income by about $4,000.
"It's consistent across the country - you're going to find that wealthier households, on average, tend to live in suburbia outside of the older incorporated cities," Binnings said.
The county's poverty rate also fell from 12.1 percent to 10.8 percent, the 5th lowest in the state. Insured residents are up by a little more than 1.5 percent to 92.6 percent, ranking the state 8th among the 12 counties compared in the survey.
Data journalist Burt Hubbard contributed to this report.