The United States is, as everyone knows, a country of extreme poverty and inequality amidst plenty. And Connecticut is a perfect example.
The State of Connecticut has one of the highest incomes per capita in the country ($67,034 in 2009, third behind Maryland and New Jersey) and yet, as Bloomberg Businessweek notes, it has the metropolitan area (Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk) with the highest level of inequality in the United States.
When I was growing up in Connecticut, the Gold Coast—Fairfield County, which encompasses the cities of Bridgeport, Stamford, and Norwalk—was a land apart. And it still is.
The designation of that metropolitan area as the most unequal in the entire United States comes from the Census Bureau’s report, U.S. Neighborhood Income Inequality in the 2005–2009 Period [pdf]. That same report concludes that Connecticut is one of only seven states (plus the nation’s capital) where income inequality is higher than in the country as a whole by all three standards (the Gini index, the ratio of household income at the 90th percentile to that at the 10th, and the ratio of household income at the 95th percentile to that at the 20th).
Much the same impression is left by ProPublica’s on-line calculator of inequality for the 818 largest counties in the United States. This is what Fairfield County looks like:
But anyone who is familiar with Connecticut knows the problem goes much deeper—and so does the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, whose report, A Tale of Disproportionate Burden: The Special Needs of Connecticut’s Poorer Cities [pdf], discusses in detail the problems of poverty and inequality in four of the state’s major cities: Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury. Here are some of the relevant facts:
- The poverty rates in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury are at least twice as high as the rate for the state as a whole.
- They have more than half of Connecticut’s homeless.
- These cities experience much higher unemployment rates (Hartford – 16.9%, Waterbury – 14.5%, Bridgeport – 14.0%, New Haven – 13.4%) than the state average (9.3%).
- While 30.3 percent of Connecticut’s K-12 students are eligible for free/reduced-price meals, over 90 percent are eligible in both Bridgeport and Hartford. In New Haven, 73.4 percent of students are eligible, and in Waterbury, 74.7 percent are eligible.
- The crime rate for the state as a whole is 2,981 per 100,000 residents. That figure is 10,114 in Hartford, 7,964 in New Haven, 6,379 in Waterbury, and 5,435 in Bridgeport.
Connecticut, like the United States as a whole, is based on obscene levels of poverty and inequality as both conditions and consequences of plenty for a tiny minority of the population.