Remote work and older people moving in helped drive population growth in San Luis Valley and Eastern Plains

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Del Norte in the San Luis Valley on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021.

The number of people living in the San Luis Valley and Eastern Plains grew slightly last year, according to the state demography office. This trend was driven by people who were able to work from home and older people moving away from urban areas. 

Younger people leaving, birth rates dropping and few people moving in - that’s what had been happening in many rural southern and eastern Colorado counties. But Cindy DeGroen of the State Demography Office said that long-term trend changed between the summers of 2020 and 2021.

“We saw a really different number in terms of migration to the region last year,” she said. “That was likely associated with telework.”

She said population growth in the region is due to new residents arriving and not an increase in births.

“When we think about it in terms of migration though,” she said, “we do want to think about those who could move anywhere and still keep their job.”

The migration trend for 20- to 30-year-olds in the rural areas of southern and eastern Colorado is usually opposite that of the Front Range, according to DeGroen. Typically, younger adults leave counties in the Eastern Plains and southern Colorado at a higher rate than other age groups, while older people are typically the cohort moving there. That translates into low birth rates and higher death rates in the region.

In the Eastern Plains' 16-county region the population grew 0.4 percent last year. The 1,027 people who moved in offset a natural decrease. The six counties in the San Luis Valley experienced a 1 percent increase with 466 people becoming residents and a natural decrease of 26. 

Overall the entire state grew by 0.5 percent in the same time period.