Routt County’s population is growing and changing |

Routt County’s population is growing and changing

Traffic makes its way through the streets of downtown Steamboat Springs on Saturday, May 4. Census data shows Routt County’s population is growing, and more older people are moving to the area.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County’s population is growing, and more older people are moving here.

Since 2012, the county’s population has been on the up, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Population increases in two ways. Natural growth occurs when more people are born than dying, and migration occurs when people move to the county, local economist Scott Ford explained.

In Routt County, growth is most often due to migration. This was the case from 2017 to 2018, when Routt County saw 73% of its growth coming from people moving to the area. IRS data shows that most of those people moved to Routt County from another state.

“A trend that we have been seeing is that, to a certain degree, you’re having, what I would call, an older segment move. One of the trends that we’re seeing — and it’s true of a lot of mountain communities that are beautiful places —  is that it’s an older group moving in, and it’s people that are going to be in their late 50s, 60-ish range, and they’re coming here often times for, essentially, retirement,” Ford said.  

In 2010, 16.6% of Routt County residents were over the age of 55, according to census data. In 2017, 19.7% of the county was over 55.

Over the same time, 35 to 54-year-olds in the county made up the largest percent decrease in age demographics. In 2010, this group made up 34% of the county’s population, but by 2017, it was down to 28.7%. This isn’t just residents getting older — data shows more older people are moving to the county.

“We are drifting — it’s not a gigantic magnitude trend — but it’s drifting to what I’d call older, richer (people) and we’re accelerating with that. Some of that is just that we’re experiencing locally what the whole baby boom thing is,” Ford said. Ford’s a boomer himself. “There’s just a lot of us in the pipeline, and we’re aging.”

Even with a slight increase in a population of retirement age, Ford said most residents are getting income from work, which is labor-source income, versus the investment or pension income, which is considered non-labor source income.

“We’re seeing a little growth in our non-labor source as a source of income for our households, but we’re still a community that works. We’re still a community that, by and large, most of us are working.”

Data from the IRS also shows where these people moved to Routt County from, and where Routt County ex-pats departed to. The most recent data reflects tax returns from 2015 to 2016.

“On average, the folks moving into Routt County were more affluent than the folks moving out by about $20,000 per household,” Ford wrote in an email to Steamboat Pilot & Today.

This data shows that 60% of Routt County’s 1,734 new residents who moved here in 2016 relocated from another state and about 40% moved from within Colorado. Those that left the county headed out of state for the most part — about 55% — with about 44% moving elsewhere in Colorado.

Ford said the border between Moffat and Routt counties is a bit of a revolving door.

“What we’ve seen over time is that there is a lot of movement back and forth between Moffat and Routt counties, but at the end, it kind of nets itself out,” he said.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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