DataHaven’s Community Wellbeing Index Highlights Connecticut’s Challenges and Opportunities
DataHaven, Fairfield County, Greater Hartford and Greater New Haven Community Foundations Release Landmark Reports on Connecticut’s quality of life, public health, economic development, and civic vitality.
In Connecticut and throughout the country, Black and Latino residents, as well as other communities of color, face persistent disparities which negatively impact health, wellbeing and wealth-building. These disparities did not happen by accident. They are the result of historical systemic barriers to opportunity and disinvestment in urban communities, many of which are still woven into the fabric of our institutions.
DataHaven, in collaboration with the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, hosted an event today at the Connecticut State Capitol to share highlights from DataHaven’s 2023 Community Wellbeing Index reports to promote dialogue on the challenges and opportunities we face.
Produced for Connecticut regions including Greater Hartford, Greater New Haven and Fairfield County, The Community Wellbeing Index reports contain more than 70 data graphics across eight chapters. It incorporates federal, state, and local data sources, including the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey, to describe quality life in towns across the state. DataHaven interviewed thousands of adults across Connecticut to gather information about issues such as public health, economic development, safety, and civic vitality. Results are used by more than 100 partners in state and local government, healthcare, academia, as well as the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.
“Public agencies and community organizations throughout Connecticut have eagerly awaited this latest Community Wellbeing Index, which is the fourth edition of the report since 2013. Because of its accessible graphics, unique research insights, and detailed disaggregation of data, it has become one of the principal documents that helps to guide efforts to boost quality of life of all residents. This work is especially important as policymakers and residents seek to ensure a strong, equitable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic,” said Mark Abraham, Executive Director of DataHaven.
Many of the topics included in the report involve issues that are not regularly measured by other public data sources like the Census. The ability to focus on individual towns and neighborhoods provides an invaluable tool for residents, organizations, and philanthropy to identify challenges and opportunities to affect positive change.
"This latest edition of the CWI illustrates that the disparities in our communities increased significantly during the pandemic. We can leverage the information in the 2023 CWI to enhance our understanding of how our systems and structures influence the wellbeing of residents of Connecticut and to take action to ensure all of us truly have an equitable opportunity to thrive,” said Mendi Blue Paca, President & CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.
“Addressing the challenges highlighted in the Wellbeing Index requires both public and private commitment,” said Hartford Foundation President and CEO Jay Williams. “In addition to state and philanthropic financial resources, Connecticut needs policies that remove systemic barriers that silence too many voices and impede too many resident’s ability to live in safe, affordable homes in high opportunity communities with access to good jobs, quality schools, healthy foods, and viable recreational spaces. Reliable data is crucial to that work. The more we understand, the more effectively we can address inequities, ensuring the benefits of recovery are felt by people with greatest need.”
“DataHaven’s 2023 Community Wellbeing Index is a call to action for those seeking a more equitable Connecticut,” said Will Ginsberg, CEO of The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. “This new report shows us not just disparities but demonstrates that our quality of life disparities are widening – whether between cities and suburbs, between neighborhoods within cities or between white communities and communities of color. These trends can only be understood with data presented at the level of cities, towns, and neighborhoods, which is why the Community Wellbeing Index is a uniquely valuable resource.”
Key findings include:
Demographics and Inequity
- Greater racial and ethnic diversity – Younger populations and immigrants tend to be more racially and ethnically diverse. In Greater Hartford, people of color constitute 19 percent of residents ages 65+, while 51 percent of residents under 18 are people of color. In Greater New Haven, 55 percent of residents under 18 are people of color.
- Disparities in Community Wellbeing – The Hartford, New Haven, and Fairfield County regions rank 29th, 41st, and 12th out of the 100 largest US metro areas in terms of community wellbeing; however, these regional scores hide local wellbeing disparities – by town and by demographics like race and ethnicity. For example, within Fairfield County, the six wealthiest towns score 991 on a scale from 0 to 1,000, while Bridgeport scores in the 400-599 range on the same scale. One of the scale’s components is the child poverty rate, which ranges from 3 percent in the six wealthiest towns to 38 percent in Bridgeport. Younger populations, including immigrants, tend to be more diverse: while people of color constitute 21 percent of residents ages 65 and over in Fairfield County, 47 percent of residents under 18 are people of color.
Mobility and Income
- Income inequality – Income inequality has increased since 1980. Inflation-adjusted median incomes grew by 60 percent in the six wealthiest towns of Fairfield County, by 36 percent in the outer suburbs of New Haven, and by 34 percent in the outer suburbs of Hartford. Over the same period, median incomes were stagnant in several cities and towns including Hartford, Bridgeport, East Hartford, and New Britain.
- Homeownership – In many areas of the state, the homeownership rate among white households was almost double that of Black households and more than double that of Latino households. In the Hartford, New Haven, and Fairfield County regions in 2021, Black and Latino mortgage applicants were more than twice as likely as white applicants to have their applications rejected on the basis of either credit score or debt-to-income ratio.
- Median household wealth of white households in Connecticut is about eight times greater than that of Black households and almost five times greater than that of Latino households.
Higher Opportunity Neighborhoods
- Racial and ethnic inequality in higher income neighborhoods – Neighborhoods with average incomes of $155,500 or higher are disproportionately white. In Greater Hartford, 21 percent of white residents live in higher income neighborhoods, compared to four percent of Black residents and five percent of Latino residents. In Fairfield County, 58 percent of white residents live in a higher income neighborhoods, compared to eight percent of Black residents and 16 percent of Latino residents.
- Differences in municipal resources – Wealthier towns have a larger tax base and more resources. Per capita library spending varies widely in Greater Hartford, from about $18 per person in Vernon to $122 per person in Avon. Eighty-one percent of Greater Hartford residents say they have well-maintained parks in their community, but only 47percent of Hartford residents do.
Disparities across all basic needs persist and have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
- Increased food insecurity - In 2022, a higher share of Connecticut residents reported experiencing food insecurity—not having enough money to buy food for themselves or their families—compared to 2021. The uptick reflects diminishing pandemic relief programs. Food insecurity rates also vary by race and ethnicity; in Greater New Haven, 34 percent of Latino adults and 25 percent of Black adults report being food insecure, as compared to 11 percent of white adults.
- Increased housing costs - Home prices, rents, and evictions have all spiked, following national trends. The cost to rent an apartment or house in Hartford County increased 20 percent from June 2020 to June 2022. Over the same period, rent in New Haven County increased 21 percent. Half of renters across Connecticut are cost burdened.
- Fairfield County Black and Latino Fairfield households are significantly more cost burdened. 52 percent of renters in Fairfield County are cost-burdened, meaning they put more than 30 percent of their monthly income toward housing costs. While half of Black and Latino households in Fairfield County are cost-burdened, only a third of white households in the region are.
- Significant disparity in Fairfield County’s municipal poverty rates - The poverty rate in Fairfield County’s six wealthiest towns is three percent. Bridgeport’s poverty rate is over 23 percent. Poverty rates are higher for households with children, single-parent households, and female-led households. Single-parent households led by women under 25 have the highest poverty rates.
Employment and Education
- Wage gaps based on race, ethnicity, and gender persist, with white men continuing to outpace women and people of color. As of 2020, white men had median earnings of $75,000, compared to $60,000 for white women. Income differences by race and ethnicity were even larger in Greater Hartford. The median income was $49,000 among Black men and $41,000 among Latino men.
- Racial/ethnic and income disparities in graduation rates still exist but are closing in Greater Hartford: High school graduation rates in Greater Hartford have remained high: 90 percent of the class of 2021 graduated within four years of starting high school. While graduation rates are still lower for Black and Latino students and students eligible for free or reduced-price meals (FRPM), those gaps are diminishing.
- Disparity in college and career readiness participation in Fairfield County: Across the six wealthiest towns in Fairfield County, (Darien, New Canaan, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, Wilton) there is 93 percent college and career readiness (CCR) participation. The Fairfield County average is 87percent; in Bridgeport, it’s 59 percent.
- Disparity in Fairfield County students earning college degrees. Six years after graduating high school, only 59 percent of the class of 2014 had earned a postsecondary degree. This percentage varies widely from town to town. 20 percent of graduating high school students in Bridgeport and 40 percent in Danbury earned a college degree within 6 years, compared with 82 percent of students in districts representing the 6 wealthiest towns.
- Significant disparities in college graduation rates in Greater New Haven - While high school graduation rates have been rising, college persistence varies by town. Only 28 percent of graduating high school students in New Haven and 34 percent in West Haven earned a college degree within six years, compared with 65 percent of students in districts representing the outer ring suburbs.
Civic Life and Engagement
- Trust in local government varies among Fairfield County residents based on education, age, and race - In total, 77 percent of adults in Fairfield County had a great or fair amount of trust in their local governments. Adults with college degrees were 1.3 times as likely as adults with a high school diploma or less to say they could influence their local governments. Adults ages 65+ were 1.4 times as likely as adults ages 18 to 34 to say their local government was responsive, and 1.5 times as many white adults as Black adults approved of their local police.
- Trust in neighbors varies across towns in Greater Hartford – The majority of Greater Hartford adults (88 percent) say that they trust their neighbors; however, this is not a universal experience across towns – only 58 percent of those living in Hartford say they do.
- Perception of influencing local government differs between groups in Greater Hartford – The majority of Greater Hartford adults felt they could affect local government; however, disparities exist between demographic groups. For example, adults with college degrees were more likely than those with a high school diploma or less to say they could influence their local governments.
- High level of trust in Government and satisfaction with communities in Greater New Haven. Seventy eight percent of adults in Greater New Haven have a high level of trust in institutions and their local government and 88 percent are satisfied with the communities in which they live.
The Community Wellbeing Index 2023 reports, DataHaven survey results, and related resources can be found at ctdatahaven.org/reports/
The full Greater Hartford Community Wellbeing Index, and a summary, can be found on our Publications page.
The full Greater Fairfield Community Wellbeing Index 2023 report can be found at fccfoundation.org/research-publications/cwi2023/
The full Greater Hartford Community Wellbeing Index 2023 report can be found at hfpg.org/GHCWI2023
The full Greater New Haven Community Wellbeing Index 2023 report can be found at cfgnh.org/articles/greater-new-haven-community-index-202