Colorado Prices in the 21st Century
February 2023 

The chart below, inspired by the American Enterprise Institute’s “Chart of the Century,” displays 20 years of changes in wages, inflation, and the prices of consumer goods and services in Colorado since the beginning of the 21st century. As real wages have risen locally, most durable and nondurable goods have remained more affordable; conversely, the rising costs of housing, health care, and higher education have increasingly crowded out more and more of every dollar of spending.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces a historical price index for select metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). They currently do not produce a statewide price index. Therefore, this chart includes three items which are representative of a statewide average and not just the MSA. Similarly, the price changes reported at the Denver MSA level may not be fully representative of actual price changes in regions across Colorado that are outside of the MSA.

While this chart offers no explanation of the reasons behind the variations in price growth between items, we hope it serves as a common starting point and inspires discussion and more informed questions.

Key Insights and Changes from 2022 Release

  • For the first time in our captured time frame (’02 – ’22), the real price of all items included in the chart increased.
  • Gasoline prices experienced the most rapid growth in the past year, increasing 46%.
  • The price of 4-year tuition at a public university has increased 290% since 2002. Over this time its price has increased 112 percentage points more than the next closest item, gasoline.
  • Household furnishings, which has the lowest total price increase of any item since 2002, saw its largest price increase over our captured time frame this past year, increasing 6.98%.
  • After increasing just 9.81% between 2018 and 2021, the average rent increased 14.66% in just the last year.
  • Aside from gas prices, only the price of tuition for 4-year higher education institutions, housing and healthcare outpaced the growth in the average weekly wage.

Table of Sources