Cole County is part of the Jefferson City, Missouri Metropolitan Statistical Area. From Jefferson City east to parts of St. Charles County is one of the state's most important wine-producing areas. With vineyards on both sides of the Missouri River, the area is called the Missouri Rhineland. It includes Augusta and Hermann, two of the earliest designated American Viticultural Areas in the nation.
As of the census of 2000, there were 71,397 people, 27,040 households, and 17,927 families residing in the county. The population density was 182 people per square mile (70/km²). There were 28,915 housing units at an average density of 74 per square mile (29/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 87.06% White, 9.92% Black or African American, 0.33% Native American, 0.88% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.54% from other races, and 1.23% from two or more races. 1.28% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 40.1% were of German, 13.6% American, 7.8% English and 6.9% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 27,040 households out of which 33.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.00% were married couples living together, 10.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.70% were non-families. 28.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.30% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the county the population was spread out with 24.20% under the age of 18, 9.80% from 18 to 24, 32.30% from 25 to 44, 22.40% from 45 to 64, and 11.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 105.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 106.50 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $42,924, and the median income for a family was $53,416. Males had a median income of $33,769 versus $25,189 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,739. About 5.80% of families and 8.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.50% of those under age 18 and 7.30% of those age 65 or over.