Colorado’s varied economy, demography may dampen hard-line politics


Why is Colorado politically purple, instead of right-red or left-blue? Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a crossroads home to so many of the “Twelve States of America” mapped by economics-demographers Dante Chinni and James Gimpel. Colorado’s economy is like its landscape: High and low and multicolored. And what’s missing in Colorado may be as important as what’s here. It may surprise some residents to learn that, as a matter of general categories, Colorado is not only low on African Americans but also low on empty nest white folks and evangelical voters.

The American immigration "state"

Patchwork Nation” authors Chinni and Gimpel have put together an interactive map of the various economic-labor classes in the United States that underlines the grave income disparities shaping– or as they put it “fracturing”– our culture and politics. Their map has been getting traction since the Atlantic published it this month.

The map suggests why Colorado is unlike the rest of the West and why Republican state lawmakers, for example, have gained lukewarm support for the Arizona-style immigration laws they have introduced this session.

Whereas enormous swaths of the economies of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, for example, are defined by the low-income high-poverty immigrant sector, Colorado’s immigrant economy is balanced more evenly with more profitable sectors the authors call “monied burbs” and “boom town” and “tractor country.”

It would appear that the state’s mixed demography and economy translate to cultural and political compromise. Hard-line politicians on the left and right won’t rise in Colorado.

As Campaign and Elections magazine points out today, “Colorado has always prided itself on voting for the person before the party” voting in Republican lawmakers and Democratic governors and flipping the delegation in Washington over the last decade.