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POVERTY INCREASE IN CONNECTICUT WAS LARGEST IN NATION, CENSUS DATA SHOW

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New Census data from the American Community Survey reveal that the economic recession has hit Connecticut families hard, as the percentage of people in poverty in Connecticut in 2008 increased over 2007 levels by the largest margin of any state in the country. In 2008, 9.3% of Connecticut residents (314,806) had incomes under the Federal Poverty Level, up from 7.9% in 2007. Among Connecticut children under age 18, 12.5% (99,580 children) lived in families with incomes under the Federal Poverty Level in 2008, up from 11.1% in 2007. These increases in poverty for all people and for children in poverty were the largest estimated increases of any state in the country that experienced a statistically significant increase in poverty rates. (For a two-parent household with two children, the poverty level was $21,200 in 2008.) Despite Connecticut’s official goal of cutting the child poverty rate in half by the year 2014, the state is losing ground in the fight to reduce poverty.

Poverty rates for residents of the cities of New Haven, Norwalk, and Stamford increased significantly between 2007 and 2008. The estimate of child poverty also increased in Norwalk. Poverty increased significantly for residents of Fairfield, New Haven, and Windham counties, as well as for children in Windham county.

The 2008 estimates measure poverty only during the first half of Connecticut’s recession, which began in March 2008. The organization suggested that the poverty rate may become worse in 2009, given that the state experienced its worst unemployment levels since 1977 this year. Connecticut’s unemployment rate rose from 6.1% in August 2008 to a peak of 8.1% in August 2009.

Estimates of poverty rates varied significantly across Connecticut’s cities: Bridgeport (21.6%), Danbury (9.9%), Hartford (33.5%), New Britain (18.2%), New Haven (27.3%), Norwalk (9.6%), Stamford (12.3%), and Waterbury (19.6%). Note: click on city names for more extensive data.

The percentage of children under 18 in poverty in Connecticut cities was also reported for Bridgeport (28.0%), Danbury (13.7%), Hartford (46.1%), New Britain (30.0%), New Haven (34.1%), Norwalk (16.9%), Stamford (14.3%), and Waterbury (30.7%). Poverty estimates are only available for cities with populations over 65,000. The American Community Survey also provided poverty estimates for Connecticut’s counties and Congressional districts:

Fairfield County

4th Congressional District (Representative Himes)

With the establishment of the Child Poverty Council in 2004, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to set a goal of reducing child poverty — by half by 2014. In 2003 (the baseline year for the Council), 10.8% of Connecticut’s children in families (“related children”) had incomes below the poverty line. The state set a goal of reducing the poverty rate to only 5% of children in 2014. Connecticut’s 2008 poverty rate for children in families (12.1%) has worsened over the last several years (indeed, the 2001 rate was 9.7%). To meet the goal of reducing child poverty by half, Connecticut must reverse course dramatically, according to Connecticut Voices. (“Related children,” who might also be considered “children in families,” are those related to the head of household. Because data collection methods for “all children” in poverty changed in 2006 for the American Community Survey, comparisons for all children in poverty should not be made between estimates after 2005 and earlier figures.)

The Federal Poverty Level is an inadequate measure of what families actually need to meet the cost of living in Connecticut, according to Connecticut Voices. Census data indicate that one in four children (25.6%) in the state lived in families with income under 200% of the Federal Poverty Level in 2008, which roughly corresponds to Connecticut’s Self-Sufficiency Standard, an official state measure of the income necessary for a family to meet basic needs. (This measure was established by Connecticut law.)

Nationwide, the American Community Survey estimated that 13.2% of all Americans (39.1 million) live in poverty, while 18.2% of children (13.2 million) live in poverty. There was a statistically significant increase in poverty among all Americans – from 13% in 2007 to 13.2% in 2008.

Categories: General

2 Responses

  1. kantrowitz says:

    You have a good point and perhaps we are using the term “roughly” a little too loosely (or roughly?). 200% of the federal poverty threshold really touches the low end of regional SSS, and so our characterization that the two are equivalent is highly conservative to say the least. The point we want to draw attention to is that by looking at the percentage of children and families below 200% of the federal poverty threshold, one gets closer to an accurate picture of what proportion of Connecticut residents are struggling to make ends meet—but it’s still not a very good estimate.

    You make a compelling case, and perhaps it is time for us to re-evaluate what we say approximates the SSS (unfortunately the latest SSS numbers are still from 2005, so the only way to get up-to-date numbers is to adjust for inflation)

    I can’t stress my agreement with the commenter enough: The federal poverty measure is simplistic, outdated, and greatly understates the true extent of financial stress in Connecticut. One only need to consider the high cost of living in Connecticut compared with other states to realize how distorted the poverty measure can be. In fact, Connecticut Voices makes a strong case for the inadequacy of poverty in our yearly State of Working Connecticut reports (see: http://www.ctkidslink.org/publications/econ09sowctfull.pdf page IV – 12). The self-sufficiency standard is an excellent effort to paint a more accurate picture of family financial stress though the various regions and family configurations of the state and it’s a shame that it isn’t given more attention.

  2. LVTfan says:

    I take issue with your statement that 200% of the Federal Poverty Level roughly corresponds to the Connecticut Self-Sufficiency Standard.

    I’m looking at the 2005 “Overlooked and Undercounted” Study, Table 1, and in the LEAST expensive cities, the SSS runs 183% (in Windham) to 298% of the FPL (in Windham), and in the MOST expensive cities listed (“Upper Fairfield County” — Norwalk to Greenwich isn’t on the list), the SSS runs from 290% to 457% of the FPL, depending on the configuration of the family.

    Table 2 says that 19% of CT’s working-age households had incomes below their local SSS’s.

    And from Table 7 of that document, I calculated that 38% of Connecticut’s children lived below the SSS for their particular configuration of family in their area. That’s a lot more than the 25.6% you cite as living below 200% of the FPL.

    Even among married childless couples of working age, 10% of households had less than the income the SSS considers minimally adequate. 19% of married households with children were below the SSS level.

    The study is at http://www.cga.ct.gov/PCSW/Publication%20PDFs/2007/WCS%20Full%20Report.pdf

    The FPL is a largely meaningless yardstick. Even the Census Bureau freely acknowledges that it has no relation to the cost of living. (My sense is that most of the other measures proposed to replace it are little better. The SSS, however, has a great deal to recommend it. A separate but related methodology has been developed for measuring the localized cost of living for seniors; I’ve read such a study for Pennsylvania.