Aurora, Colorado is a mid-sized city only 15 miles from Denver. Though it spans a similar sized geography as Denver, Aurora’s steadily growing population is about half that of Denver with approximately 325,000 residents. Colorado’s third largest city after Denver and Colorado Springs, Aurora is also the most diverse. More than 28 percent of residents are Latino, 44 percent are white, 6.5 percent are Asian and 16.5 percent are Black. About 20 percent of residents were born somewhere outside the United States, most of whom hail from Mexico and Ethiopia, and a third of the population speaks a language other than English at home. Though Aurora is diverse and integrated within its boundaries, its demographics differ greatly from its surrounding metro region, making Aurora a diverse enclave segregated from the larger Denver metro area.
When compared to other municipalities, Aurora’s population is relatively new. Though Aurora was first incorporated in 1891, it was a small town for much of its life. While other cities, including Denver, were already plagued with housing shortages and racist housing policies in the mid-twentieth century, Aurora was a homogenous suburb of only 11,421 people in 1950. Its population grew near-exponentially in the 1960s and more than doubled between 1970 and 1980 alone. At that time, Aurora was the fastest growing city in the US. This timeline coincides with the enforcement of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, federal legislation that prohibited housing discrimination as a part of the Civil Rights Act.
That may have added to Aurora’s appeal for Black residents of Denver looking to move out of the city’s Black enclaves. Historically Black neighborhoods in Denver such as Five Points have been subjected to a familiar fate: disinvestment from neighborhood schools and housing policy that made homeownership difficult to attain have also made these neighborhoods vulnerable to displacement. While Denver’s overall population grew between 2000 and 2010, Black residents were the only racial or ethnic group to decline. In that same decade Aurora gained almost 14,000 Black residents, making Aurora’s population significantly less white than its metro region.
Additionally, Aurora is home to the Buckley Air Force Base. Like other US cities with long military histories, Aurora has benefited from integrated housing on base, secure employment, and private housing incentives. Military perquisites may undermine the persistent discrimination seen across the US in housing and employment, and in Aurora, the influence is significant. Almost 10 percent of Aurora’s population are military veterans.
Aurora is welcoming the growth: city officials have created a “10-year Immigrant Integration Plan” to promote an integrated society, independent of Denver’s shadow. Top priorities include the promotion of small businesses and improving housing. But local governments are also working with nonprofits to build community advocacy, aid pathways to citizenship and curate an integrated culture. “Aurora just has that feel,” Omar Montogmery, an Aurora resident, told the Denver Post. “It’s culturally diverse; there are large groups of people from all over the world that call this city home. It’s a great place because it’s still trying to define itself, and it’s still growing.”