[Excerpt of feature article by Nathalie Bussemaker, Yale Daily News, April 12, 2019]
Why are companies leaving Connecticut for high-tax cities? Many think the answer can be traced to the preferences of millennials.
“The trend of millennials — as well as certain retirees — has been to go toward urban areas,” said David Lehman, the recently confirmed state commissioner of economic and community development. “This trend toward urbanization has been happening for the last 15 to 20 years, and I expect it to continue.”
Whereas young people used to move back to the Connecticut suburbs from cities like New York in their 20s, millennials are staying single longer and postponing heading back to smaller cities and towns — if they move back at all, according to Mark Abraham ’04, the executive director of the New Haven-based data analysis nonprofit DataHaven.
As a result, companies are flocking in large numbers to where they can find the most millennial talent.
University of Connecticut political science professor Ronald Schurin said that addressing “deep structural problems” like demographic shifts and debt issues is no easy feat.
The growing gap between rich and poor is also visible in the state’s geography. According to a 2015 DataHaven report, the percentage of Connecticut residents who live in neighborhoods of concentrated wealth or poverty has grown by 30 percent since 1980. Meanwhile, the percentage of Connecticut residents living in middle-income neighborhoods has shrunk by seven percent.
The fastest rate of growth was among residents who are poor and live in an area of concentrated poverty — a phenomenon that DataHaven terms “double jeopardy” due to the difficulty of overcoming poverty under these circumstances. This group — which comprises people below the federal poverty line — grew 66 percent since 1980 to four percent of all Connecticut residents, which came about largely due to an influx of Hispanic immigrants to the Nutmeg State.
The gap between rich and poor in the state also intersects significantly with race. As the result of a long history of redlining — or refusing housing loans in predominantly black neighborhoods — and other racist housing practices in the 20th century, Connecticut cities still see extreme levels of housing segregation, according to 2018 DataHaven report.
The segregation between white and black neighborhood in the Milford-New Haven metro area was rated very high in 2015, while segregation between Hispanic and white neighborhoods was ranked in the worst 10 percent in the country.
Although the office also projected a deficit of $1.5 billion for the following fiscal year, Lamont has vowed to close the gap with his proposed budget. And in spite of concerning statistics regarding employment and population trends, Connecticut residents still have reason for hope in the current economy.
“When people say the economy is performing poorly, mainly they’re talking about job [growth] and productivity. Those indicators are the ones that don’t look good,” Abraham said. “If you look at average wages, how much people earn relative to the cost of living and all of that, Connecticut is up there as one of the strongest economies.”