Panthers vs. Broncos – The Economics of the Two Cities

On February 7, Super Bowl 50 will feature the Panthers vs. Broncos. Without a doubt, most Coloradans think the outcome of the game is a foregone conclusion. Some fans have painted their houses and dyed their hair orange and blue because they know the Broncos will win.

One of the fun parts about the hype of Super Bowls is the statistics associated with the big game. For example, CBS Sports has reported that on Super Bowl Sunday fans will drink 325.5 million gallons of beer and eat 1.25 billion chicken wings. Really?

From an economic perspective how do the city of Charlotte and Denver match up?

The following table includes economic data from the Bureau of Census Quickfacts (2/14/2016) comparing the city of Denver and Charlotte.

Statistic Denver Charlotte Winner
Population estimates, July 1, 2014 663,862 809,958 Charlotte
Population, % change – 4/1/10 to 7/1/14 10.6% 10.1% Denver
Owner-occupied housing unit rate, 2010-2014 49.7% 55.4% Charlotte
Median value of owner-occupied housing, 2010-2014 $257,500 $170,200 Charlotte
Median selected monthly owner costs -with a mortgage, 2010-2014 $1,592 $1,416 Charlotte
Median gross rent, 2010-2014 $913 $902 Charlotte
Households, 2010-2014 271,054 298,815 Charlotte
High school graduate or higher, percent of persons age 25 years+, 2010-2014 85.6% 88.1% Charlotte
Bachelor's degree or higher, percent of persons age 25 years+, 2010-2014 43.7% 40.7% Denver
Persons without health insurance, under age 65 years, percent 17.6% 18.9% Denver
Mean travel time to work (minutes), workers age 16 years+, 2010-2014 24.5% 24.5% Tie
Median household income (in 2014 dollars), 2010-2014 51,800 53,274 Charlotte
Per capita income in past 12 months (in 2014 dollars), 2010-2014 34,423 31,844 Denver
Persons in poverty, percent 18.3% 17.3% Charlotte

Charlotte is the larger of the two cities, but recently Denver has grown at a slightly faster pace. Housing and rent are less expensive in Charlotte and the city has a higher owner-occupied housing rate. Charlotte has a higher percentage of high school degrees, but Denver wins the battle for bachelor’s degrees. Charlotte has a higher median household income, but Denver has a higher per capita income. Charlotte has a higher percentage of people without health insurance, but Denver has a higher rate of persons in poverty.

Both are prosperous cities. Panthers vs. Bronocs. Game on!

Boulder is #1 – Most Highly Educated and Greatest Number of Toilets

Rankings are fun… Whether it is being recognized as a party school,  highly educated, or fit, Boulder is #1. Recently, Boulder also laid claim to another title. Boulder is #1 for having the greatest number of toilets per capita.number one

To digress briefly…

Some economists and data geeks are obsessed with producing rankings. If you give them a data series, they will open their Excel spreadsheet, plug the data in, and sort it. In no time they will produce a new set of rankings.

Rankings have high entertainment value. They can be used for bragging rights and they can be used for creating taglines to promote a variety of causes, both good and bad. Some Coloradans use the tagline, “Colorado ranks ahead of only Mississippi in funding for education,” to solicit support for the increased funding. The tagline tugs at heartstrings or parents with young children, but it does not clearly represent reality.

Rankings are also useful for creating a feel-good/put-down statement. Consider the bumper sticker that states, “My dog is smarter than your honor student and my cat is smarter than my dog.” My cat is ranked #1, my dog is ranked #2, and your honor student is at the bottom of the pile. I can feel good about my cat and you should feel bad about your honor student. Take that!

Rankings of economic data have value if they are used for comparative or analytical purposes such as showing the strengths or weaknesses of a region as a means of addressing a challenge or opportunity. For example, if Colorado has a high concentration of companies that conduct research in lasers, a discussion about the competencies of these companies can be used to attract and retain photonics, aerospace, and bioscience companies in Colorado.

Back to the issue in the first paragraph…Boulder is #1!

Recently,, a real estate company, produced a report entitled “Tons of Toilets: Which City Sits atop the Throne?” Like many rankings, this one had high entertainment value.

At the top of the list is Boulder with 305,200 toilets or 1.02 toilets per person. Approximately 5.3 million gallons of water are flushed daily.

Second on the list is Washington, D.C. with almost 5.5 million toilets or .98 toilets per person. Approximately 95.6 million gallons of water are flushed daily.

Denver is ranked 6th on the list with almost 2.4 million toilets or .94 toilets per person. About 41.8 million gallons of water are flushed daily.

Shortly after the rankings were released my inbox filled up with e-mails from peers. They were quick to point out the correlation between the rankings of the education levels of these cities to their toilets per capita rankings. Don’t worry, their comments are not appropriate for this document and have been flushed down the toilet.

Like most other rankings, the listing of the race to the top of the throne was used to promote a cause. In this case, the rankings were intended to draw potential customers to the Redfin website – and it worked. I was quickly reminded that I cannot afford to live in Boulder.

This ranking was fun and it was harmless, but it provides a lesson. It is important to be vigilant when reading and using rankings. More often than not, they have limited value unless they are used with other data to make a valid and constructive point.



Denver Accounted for 70% of State’s Job Growth in 2013

In 2013, 68,100 jobs were added, an increase of 2.9% compared to 2012.  By comparison the annualized rate of the state’s job growth was 2.0% for 1990 to 2013.

Just over 70% of the jobs added were in the Denver MSA.

Between 1900 and 2013, Denver (1.8%) and Pueblo (1.3%) added jobs at annualized rates below the average for the state (2.0%). The other five MSAs added jobs at faster rates than the state:

  • Greeley, 2.9%.
  • Fort Collins, 2.6%.
  • Grand Junction, 2.4%.
  • Colorado Springs, 2.2%.
  • Boulder, 2.1%.

The Denver and Boulder MSAs had growth patterns similar to the state, while the growth patterns for the other 5 MSAs were different. For example, the Greeley and Mesa MSAs patterns were different because of oil and gas activity.

The recovery from the Great Recession was led by Fort Collins and Greeley, followed by Boulder and Denver – then Pueblo. Grand Junction and Colorado Springs have not returned to 2008 peak employment.


State's job growth for 2013 by MSA
Seventy percent of states’ job growth in Denver MSA.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

State’s Flagship University one of Nation’s Top Underperformers

Higher education is critical to the future of the U.S as a world leader. Our universities educate the future leaders, athletes, scientists, and bartenders. As well research in conducted that helps the country maintain its competitive advantage in innovation and global output.

On December 12, U.S. News and World Report released a report listing the country’s top higher education overperformers and underperformers. The over/under ratings compare the schools overall ranking and the peer assessment ranking. If the peer assessment ranking is higher than the overall ranking, then the school is an overperformer. If the peer assessment is lower, then the institution is an underperfomer. The authors stated that overperformers do better on a relative basis in the following key academic statistical indicators: admissions selectivity, financial and faculty resources, graduation and retention rates, alumni giving and graduation rate performance.

Most of the overperformers are small research universities which tend to be located in the Midwest or East Coast. On the other hand many of the underperformers are large public universities located in the Midwest or West Coast.

At the time the University of Colorado joined the PAC-12 Athletic Conference, CU President Benson got in hot water for discussing the academic strength of the PAC-12 and the academic weakness of certain schools in the Big 12. Ironically, there are only two schools from the former Big 12 Conference on the list of underperformers and they are five PAC-12 schools, including CU Boulder, on the list of underperformers. Hopefully, the mention of the two CU campuses on the underperformer list will be addressed.

There are a variety of reasons schools may be underperformers, some of those reasons relate to deficiencies in the universities, while others relate to idiosyncrasies in the ranking process. There are flaws in reports such as those produced by U.S. News just as there are flaws in the system used to determine the national collegiate football champion. Having said that, the rankings provide universities with a set of metrics for evaluating their systems and processes and improving services to their students.

The Overperformers


Overperformance Value

Maryville University of St. Louis


University of La Verne (CA)


St. John Fisher College (NY)


Andrews University (MI)


Biola University (CA)


Azusa Pacific University (CA)


Edgewood College (WI)


Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ)


University of St. Thomas (MN)


Yeshiva University (NY)


University of Tulsa (OK)


Immaculata University (PA)


Adelphi University (NY)


St. Mary’s University of Minnesota


Mississippi State University


Indiana University of Pennsylvania


University of Dayton (OH)


University of the Pacific (CA)


Widener University (PA)


SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry



The Underperformers


Underperformance Value

Arizona State University


University of Arizona


University of Montana


University of Colorado–Denver


Virginia Commonwealth University


University of North Carolina–Charlotte


University of New Mexico


University of Colorado–Boulder


University of Oregon


Oregon State University


University of Maryland–Baltimore County


George Mason University (VA)


University of Illinois–Chicago


University of Kansas


Indiana University–Bloomington


Montana State University


San Diego State University


University of Alabama–Birmingham


University of Missouri–Kansas City


Kansas State University


 Source: U.S. News Analysis Shows Universities Where Reputation, Rank Don’t Match

by Diane Tolis and Robert J. Morse December 12, 2013.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Metro Counties a Drag on Colorado Economy

Colorado added 6,200 net employees during the 10-year period (2001 to 2010). This is in sharp contrast to the previous 10 years (1991 to 2000) when the state gained almost 700,000 workers.

During the go-go 90s, payrolls in the Denver MSA increased by more than 355,000 followed by gains of about 95,000 in rural Colorado. Almost 93,000 jobs were added in El Paso County (Colorado Springs MSA) and another 57,000 in Boulder County (Boulder MSA).

At the risk of being repetitious… the state added only 6,200 workers between 2001 and 2010.

During this period the Denver MSA lost 20,000 workers, the Boulder MSA shed 4,900, and Colorado Springs payrolls decreased by 3,600. Employment in the state’s top three MSAs declined by 28,500 workers. The drop-off in Denver and Boulder began in 2002 and continued throughout the decade, whereas it started in 2007 for Colorado Springs. This was around the time Intel and other high-tech and semiconductor companies left the area.

At the risk of being repetitious… rural Colorado and the smaller MSAs were the only areas to add workers during the decade. Given the weakness in Colorado’s three major metro areas, it seems why the state is struggling to add jobs at a sustained level in 2011.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Money Museum to Open at Denver Fed

The Denver Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City recently announced that it will open a “Money Museum” and conference center in downtown Denver in early January. The museum will highlight exhibits discussing the responsibilities of the Federal Reserve. For example, information is provided about how the Fed establishes monetary policy with the intent of maintaining a stable economy.

In addition the museum will include displays that show how to detect counterfeit bills and the amount of space that is needed to store $30 million. Visitors may also receive samples of worn out or historical currency that has been shredded.

An important function of the museum is to provide education opportunities for K-12 students and teachers. The museum website indicates that class visits include a 30 minute presentation of personal finance concepts. More extensive sessions are available for K-12 teachers that demonstrate how to meaningfully incorporate economics and financial principles into the classroom.

The Denver Branch is located on the 16th Street Mall in Downtown Denver, between Arapahoe and Curtis streets.  Published hours for the museum are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays except bank holidays. Additional information can be obtained by visiting the Kansas City Fed website (


©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

RTD Makes the Rubber Meet the Road

As an infrequent rider on RTD buses, I recently experienced sticker shock when I boarded a bus from DIA to Boulder and was asked to pay $12 for a one-way ticket. Back in the day, the fares were $4.

My first thought was, “Well, I will show them for raising the fares. Next time I will drive.” So I quickly did the math to confirm my beliefs.

Total round-trip mileage from Boulder to DIA is roughly 90 miles. Assuming $.50 a mile for vehicle operating costs, the expense for me to drive would be about $45, not to mention parking fees and the hassle of dealing with traffic. It was clear that the round trip fee of $24 was the most cost effective way to travel, at least for one person.

After I sat down I noticed signage on the bus that encouraged visitors to go to its website for a free lesson in mass transit economics. When I got home, I visited and learned that fares account for about 30% of total revenues. Approximately 69% is derived from sales tax revenues and one percent comes from on-vehicle advertising and other sources. The economic lesson concluded with a statement that an $18 million deficit is projected for the 2011 budget.

To address this situation, RTD solicited feedback from its customer base over recent months. They asked about possible and preferred solutions that could be considered as part of a fiscal plan to address the projected shortfall. A short list of considerations include wage and hiring freezes, staff furloughs, service reduction and fare increases.

Many of the basic daily services that we take for granted during good economic times are facing challenges at least as severe as those faced by RTD. We can expect to face those challenges for awhile. Stay tuned to see how RTD makes the rubber meet the road.


©Copyright 2011 by CBER.