Remote work and the arrival of older people have contributed to the population growth of the San Luis Valley and the Eastern Plains

The number of people living in the San Luis Valley and the Eastern Plains increased slightly last year, according to the state demographics office. This trend has been spurred by people able to work from home and older people moving out of urban areas.

Younger starts, falling birth rates and fewer people moving in – that’s what’s been happening in many rural southern and eastern Colorado counties. But Cindy DeGroen of the State Demography Office said the 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. “It was probably associated with telecommuting.”

She said population growth in the area was due to the arrival of new residents, not an increase in births.

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

The migration pattern of 20- to 30-year-olds in rural southern and eastern Colorado is generally opposite to that of the Front Range, according to DeGroen. Typically, young adults leave Colorado’s Eastern Plains and Southern counties at a higher rate than other age groups, while older adults are typically the cohort moving there. This results in low birth rates and higher death rates in the region.

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

Overall, the state as a whole rose 0.5% over the same period.