Excerpt from article by Kelly Kultz, The Hour (Norwalk)
While Fairfield County as a whole often fares better than the state and nation when it comes to quality of life, educational achievements and levels of income are not broken down as evenly. That’s one of the main findings from the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Index 2019 [...].
“By focusing on the interrelationship between quality of life, health and the economic competitiveness of Fairfield County, one can better appreciate successes, acknowledge challenges, and craft a strategic plan for a brighter future,” Juanita James, president and CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, said in a statement.
[....] Low-income rates are also rising, particularly among children, from 20 percent who were low income in 2000 up to 26 percent in 2017. Those rates are higher in all the cities, with Bridgeport going from 51 percent to 64 percent, Danbury from 26 percent to 39 percent, Norwalk from 26 percent to 36 percent and Stamford from 26 percent to 31 percent.
Black and Latino residents also have higher rates of poverty and unemployment, along with lower numbers of high school graduates and lower median household income, according to the report, when compared to white and Asian residents. About 5 percent of the county’s white population lives in poverty; 95 percent are high-school graduates; an unemployment rate of 6 percent; and a median household income of about $108,000. The county’s Asian population has about 8 percent living in poverty, 91 have graduated high school; their unemployment rate is 8 percent and their average median household income is $116,000. About 17 percent of the county’s black population lives in poverty, along with 18 percent of its Latino population. Just 68 percent of the Latino population graduated high school, while 85 percent of the black population earned a diploma. Unemployment is 14 percent for the black population and 10 percent for the Latino population. Their median household incomes are at $49,000 for black residents and $51,000 for Latino residents.
Another large area of disparity the report found was in the average life expectancy. While the county average was 81.6 years, but varied widely based on where people lived. Life expectancy is Central Bridgeport is just 70.4 years, about 19 years lower than nearby Westport, which had the highest life expectancy at 89.1 years.
While the county’s median household income of $90,000 was higher than the state average at $74,000 and the national average at $58,000, pockets were doing much better than others. The six wealthiest towns in Fairfield County — Darien, New Canaan, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton — had a median household income of $181,000. Bridgeport was at about $45,000.
From 2000 to 2017, the county saw average incomes rise across only its wealthiest towns, including the six wealthiest, which went from $157,000 to $181,000 and Greenwich, which went from $119,000 to $138,000. The county as a whole saw its average income dip from $91,000 to $90,000 over those years and its biggest cities all saw declines. Stamford’s average incomes went from $91,000 to $85,000, Norwalk’s went from $88,000 to $82,000, Danbury’s dropped from $80,000 to $68,000 and Bridgeport went from $52,000 to $45,000.
James said in a statement that her organization was hoping to put this data to work to “close the opportunity gap” in the county. “We know that achieving this ambitious goal will take a long-term, focused commitment and willingness to adapt our tactics along the journey based on progress,” she said. “Data derived from these studies is key to measuring our progress, as are the kinds of conversations we’ve had today.”