Commentary: CT must invest in children to overcome wide economic disparities

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In Connecticut, not all boats are rising with the recovery’s tide. Though the state’s longstanding investments in high-quality public services, such as health care and education, contribute to overall levels of prosperity that compare well to the rest of the nation (the 10.8 percent poverty rate is third lowest and the child poverty rate of 14.4 percent is sixth lowest), the story ifs vastly different for many residents.

Connecticut is experiencing economic segregation that inhibits economic mobility – a detriment not only to the pursuit of equal opportunity for children in these communities, but to the state’s future workforce and economic success as well. In Connecticut, two children who live just a few miles away from one another often have widely divergent levels of opportunity. Educational resources and public services vary significantly. For many who struggle to make ends meet, economic segregation, high housing costs and a regressive property tax system are barriers. Strategic investments are needed in the health and education of children so that they are provided a fair shot, regardless of race or where they live.

We are fortunate that incomes in Connecticut are among the highest in the country, we have regained all the private sector jobs lost during the Great Recession, and the state’s labor force participation has rebounded faster than the nation. But poverty rates for black residents (20.8 percent) and Hispanic residents (26.5 percent) are three to four times that of white residents (6.1 percent), according to the most recent U.S. Census data. Among children, the disparity is even wider: 5.6 percent of white children live in poverty, and alarmingly, 30.5 percent of black children and 33.5 percent of Hispanic children live in poverty.

Our State of Working Connecticut report found that, despite a declining unemployment rate, the recovery is leaving many behind. Only one in two black residents over the age of 16 is employed, the lowest rate of employment on record. It also found that black and Hispanic workers make a median hourly wage that is, on average, $7.25 to $8 less than white workers (a gap that has widened since before the Great Recession).

Moreover, Connecticut’s income gap is the second largest in the nation just behind New York’s – the average income of the highest 1 percent of earners is 51 times greater than the average income of everyone else. Among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, the Brookings Institution found that Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk is first in the nation and New Haven-Milford is ninth in terms of income inequality.

To better gauge the economic disparities described above, our interactive Mapping Disparities by Race and Place maps allow users to compare the U.S. Census American Community Survey’s most recent five-year estimates on income, poverty, educational attainment, and housing characteristics of all 169 Connecticut towns. Along with the indicators, each table lists the margin of error (MOE).

The Disparity by Place maps below reflect the differences across town lines. In addition, when populations are large enough for accurate measures, differential poverty rates are shown by race and ethnicity, as in the chart above.


In Hartford, more than a third of all individuals and nearly half of the city’s children live in poverty. That is three times the state child poverty rate of 14.8 percent and 25 times more than some of the state’s wealthiest towns.


Illustrating the stark economic divide between two towns less than 30 miles apart, median household income in Darien is $199,144, nearly five times the income of Bridgeport. Connecticut’s median household income is $69,899.


Not surprisingly, the towns with high levels of poverty and higher rates of unemployment are the same as those falling behind in educational attainment. In New Haven, home to Yale University, the share of adults over 25 years of age that do not have a high-school diploma (18.8 percent) is double the sate rate of 9.9 percent.


The towns with the widest racial and ethnic differences in poverty rates are also among the state’s largest cities. The five towns with the greatest differences between black and white poverty rates are: West Hartford, Middletown, Stamford, Waterbury, and Meriden. Even adjusting for large margins of error in towns such as West Harford, for example, black poverty rates range from 18.4 to 37.8 percent and white poverty rates range from 4 to 5.6 percent – enormous disparities exist.

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Methodology Notes:
To obtain large enough samples to analyze small populations across the state, 5-year estimates are collected over 60 months, from January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2014. Data should be referred to as 2010-2014 data, not by release date, i.e., 2015 data. Statewide indicators rely on 1-year estimates. Maps will include margins of error (MOE) when applicable. Margins of error define the range of values in which the sample statistics differ from the actual population with a level of confidence of 90 percent (confidence interval). For example, we can say with 90 percent accuracy that a poverty rate of 10 percent with a margin of error of +/-2 falls between a confidence range of 8 and 12 percent. Confidence ranges are presented in the Disparity by Race maps.

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