Data Sense: What is the real population?

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Kate Nowak

By the numbers

• 2010 U.S. Census Bureau population

Routt County

Hayden 1,810

Oak Creek 884

Steamboat Springs 12,088

Yampa 429

Moffat County

Dinosaur 339

Craig 9,464

Maybell

• 2010 census county divisions population

Routt County 23,509

Hayden 2,648

Oak Creek 3,244

Steamboat Springs 16,818

Yampa 799

Moffat County 13,795

Dinosaur 471

Craig 13,002

Maybell 322

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

— What is the real population of our town? Well, that depends. If you look up the 2010 census population numbers for each town in Routt and Moffat counties, you will get exact population numbers for people living in the town limits. However, if a business wanted to open, its owner would want to know the local area draw of customers. In other words, how many customers live in the nearby area that shop, eat and work inside the town?

Fortunately, the U.S. Census Bureau tracks population centers in rural areas. The population units are called census county divisions, which is a subdivision of a county that is a relatively permanent statistical area established cooperatively by the Census Bureau as well as state and local government authorities. The division numbers are used for presenting decennial census statistics in those states that do not have well-defined and stable minor civil divisions that serve as local governments. The divisions are made up of census blocks that are defined geographically.

Routt County has four divisions: Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa. The divisions include the actual town’s population plus the population of unincorporated areas that are geographically close. Moffat County has three divisions: Craig, Maybell and Dinosaur.

A couple of examples of divisions are in Steamboat Springs. There are developments such as Steamboat II, Silver Spur and Heritage Park that are considered in Routt County but not in the city limits. Folks who live in these developments most likely eat, shop and work in Steamboat Springs. Likewise in Craig, folks who live in Shadow Mountain are not considered in the city limits but often those folks eat, shop and work inside Craig city limits.

Economic development and chamber websites often carry division population numbers to help businesses understand their potential customer base. By getting inside the numbers, we can better understand how many people are in our rural population centers.

Kate Nowak is executive director of Yampa Valley Data Partners, a nonprofit organization serving Routt and Moffat counties.

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year ago

The limitations of this method can be seen in the Oak Creek numbers. Stagecoach is considered a suburb of Oak Creek, but is actually larger than Oak Creek. It is far more of a SB worker community with far more residents employed in SB than Oak Creek. Nor is it all that close to OC and OC is certainly not the primary shopping area for Stagecoach residents.

And somehow, Stagecoach which is larger than Oak Creek is lumped with Oak Creek, while smaller Yampa is counted as it's own geographical area.

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