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Where the money lives

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Even Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein was surprised to hear that her town’s 06883 ZIP code is the wealthiest in Southwestern Connecticut.

“I’m a little bit shocked that we came in the highest,” Weinstein said Tuesday. “When I drive around the community, I obviously know we have some wealthy people, but I think it appears more diverse than that.”

Weston’s 06883 ZIP code is home to the wealthiest households in Southwestern Connecticut, with a median household income of $205,563 — more than seven times the income in Bridgeport’s 06608 ZIP code, which has the lowest median income in the region: $27,546.

Across the area, the designation of wealthiest ZIP codes is claimed by the usual suspects: Southport’s 06890 is No. 2 with $197,656 a year; Darien’s 06820 is No. 3 with $193,896 a year; and New Canaan’s 06840 is No. 4 with $191,750 a year.

Old Greenwich’s 06870 has the distinction of top Greenwich ZIP code at No. 5 with $191,705 a year. In Greenwich’s battle for bragging rights, the town’s 06878 ZIP code followed in eighth place, with $155,813 a year; 06807 in 13th place, with $140,208 a year; 06831 in 15th place with $122,413 a year and 06830 in 19th place with $111,990 a year.

While Weinstein didn’t expect her town to soar to the top of the list, Bridgeport’s Director of the Office of Planning and Economic Development David Kooris could have guessed where his city landed in the lineup. Bridgeport’s wealthiest ZIP code, 06606, ranked at No. 47, seven from the bottom, followed by Danbury’s 06810 ZIP code at No. 48 and five other Bridgeport ZIP codes — 06610, 06605, 06604, 06607 and 06608 — filling out the bottom five from No. 49 through No. 53, respectively.

Nor was Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson surprised by the towns at the top of the list, many of which are home to a large number of workers who commute to New York City for high-paying jobs.

“We have what you would consider a pretty efficient commute to New York City,” Stevenson said. “And there’s no question we really are a bedroom community for New York and the businesses there, as evidenced by the number of people who live in Darien and work in the financial sector.”

Of all 53 ZIP codes in Southwestern Connecticut, Darien’s 06820, which encompasses the entire town, has the highest percentage of workers employed in finance and insurance or real estate, with 35.8 percent of the city’s workforce in those fields. Old Greenwich’s 06870 ZIP code has the second highest share, with 32.8 percent of workers in those industries.

In addition to a high proportion of workers commuting to New York City, the small towns took their places near the top for a variety of other reasons, including high property values, which can sift lower-earners out of the pool for potential residents and a lack of diversity, when compared with larger areas.

Small neighborhoods with big properties float to the top of the list, even over well-to-do communities, depending on where the ZIP code boundary is drawn. For instance, the 06902 ZIP code containing Stamford’s Shippan neighborhood, which is home to pricey real estate and views of the Long Island Sound, doesn’t crack the list until No. 41.

“In 06902, the subdistrict within Shippan is probably higher than we are,” said Thomas Lombardo, president of the North Stamford Association, a neighborhood association in the city’s 06903 ZIP code, which came in at No. 6 on the list with a median income of $167,817 — roughly three times as high as the income in 06902.

“But it’s not broken down that way. That ZIP code encompasses part of the city’s West Side and south side that are not wealthy,” Lombardo said.

There certainly is wealth in 06902, and there is poverty, according to census data. The top 20 percent of households in 06902 hold more than half of the ZIP code’s wealth, and 06902 is also home to a poverty rate of 14.8 percent. So while Shippan Point is known as an affluent enclave in Stamford, the ZIP code’s economic diversity — and disparity — lands 06902 near the bottom of the list.

Overall, more than seven in 10 of the area’s ZIP codes have a median income that exceeds “middle class.” In the state of Connecticut, middle class — households which earn more than the bottom 40 percent, but less than the top 40 percent — have a median household income between $62,725 and $77,748. The only Southwestern Connecticut neighborhoods to fall into that window are Norwalk’s 06855 ZIP code, Seymour’s 06483 ZIP code and Stratford’s 06614 ZIP code. A total of 37 ZIP codes had higher earnings, while 12 had lower earnings.

While suburban neighborhoods took the top spots in the ZIP code rankings, the area’s urban hubs found themselves at the very bottom.

The income disparity between the area’s suburban spots and urban centers is staggering. In Weston, the lowest-earning quintile of the town’s population topped out at $85,513, which is higher than the top limit for wages among the lowest earning 80 percent of Bridgeport’s households, according to census data. Across Fairfield County, the top 5 percent of households earned 28.16 percent of the county’s wealth, meaning that elite bunch earned more than twice as much as the bottom 60 percent during the five-year period analyzed.

And just as the presence of workers in the financial sector in some of smaller, more affluent communities helped to guide them to the top of the list, much of the reason behind Bridgeport’s position at the bottom is due to workforce characteristics, according to Bridgeport’s Director of the Office of Planning and Economic Development David Kooris.

Decades ago, the 06608 ZIP code, which is the poorest in the area, was home to what Kooris called “an industrial corridor that contained 20,000 jobs, all within walking distance of the housing stock.” But as office buildings around the area left their urban centers for more suburban locations, Bridgeport’s jobs had to escape the city boundary.

“If we compare, for example, Stamford to Bridgeport, Bridgeport has 16 square miles; Stamford has at least twice that. So when in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as offices were leaving the traditional downtowns for suburban office parks, in Stamford when they moved to High Ridge Road and Long Ridge Road, they were all still in the city limits, so the downtown still benefitted from the fact that the city as a whole had the revenue,” Kooris said. “But in Bridgeport, when retail and offices left for the suburbs and the high-paying residential homeowners left, all that crossed city lines and went into Trumbull and Fairfield, which is a distinct difference.”

The result is that the blue-collar population that resided in the 06608 ZIP code a half-century ago had to find jobs elsewhere. That pattern has held steady over the last several decades, creating the need to “own two cars in your household and be able to drive to comparable paying jobs 10 miles away in Trumbull or Shelton, which is something the community is not able to do.”

Now 06608 is home to the highest poverty rate in Southwestern Connecticut, with 35.4 percent of the ZIP codes’ residents living below the poverty line, including 49.4 percent of the area’s children. It also has the second-highest unemployment rate in the area at 11.3 percent, behind neighboring ZIP code 06607, which has an unemployment rate of 14.9 percent.

Kooris is hopeful that the new Field Point redevelopment planned for a 50-acre lot within 06608 will help spur the neighborhood’s economy with millions of square feet of mixed-used development, including retail opportunities and other potential jobs created.

“We’re looking for good blue-collar employment opportunities within the city,” Kooris said. “We’re hoping that can help bring us back.”

maggie.gordon@scni.com; 203-964-2229; http://twitter.com/MagEGordon; http://www.facebook.com/TrendingWithMaggieGordon

Maggie Gordon

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16 Responses

  1. Jenn Caprica says:

    I find it hard to believe that Danbury’s 06810 is more wealthy than 06811. This just simply can’t be possible.

  2. Carolyn Askew says:

    Bridgeport does rank the highest in TAXES. But where does the money go? We have had garbage on the streets no picked up since the storm! No snow removal equipment or workers if they had the equipment. Now we may get another storm this weekend. Our politicians are crooks and the city is being run by outsiders. Pitiful.

  3. DT says:

    Considering the population of Weston is 10k compared to Greenwich’s 65k+… I would say you need to take these median incomes with a grain of salt. All things considered, Greenwich is still the wealthiest town in Connecticut.

  4. Cherry says:

    Although a great story, a picture is worth a thousand words. Very wordy & didn’t draw me in.

  5. Marlene says:

    Bridgeport ranks in the lowest categories as far as household income is concerned, but ranks highest IN THE NATION as far as taxes…Way to go Finch, Molloy!

  6. mc says:

    To Phineas Taylor… Why should Bridgeport be better than Weston? That is a very awkward statement. I think Bridgeport should be an awesome smaller city and it probably will be. They still have a lot of their historic brick buildings and history which will make for a beautiful downtown someday. Something Stamford is lacking. The location is great. Has a lot going for it. But what is with the attack on Weston? Ugly, abandoned farmland? Yikes. Lots of people like farmland and don’t refer to it as ugly. I don’t love Weston, but I will say, it is beautiful. Rolling hills, old stone walls, rivers, winding roads and a reservoir (owned by Bridgeport Hydraulic) with rocky cliffs for jumping and swimming (illegally) by the waterfall. There is also a wonderful nature preserve called Devils Den. You sound bitter, closed minded, angry and misinformed.

  7. mc says:

    I was raised in Weston. A very down to earth town considering the wealth. When I was at Syracuse I met a friend of a friend who was from Greenwich. I said “Oh, I am from Weston” thinking we were neighbors. He had a whatever look. Someone else said is Weston near Greenwich and I said about 15-20 minutes on the Merritt. He looked at me with a ridiculous look and said “yeah right” like no way is Weston that close to my awesome wealthy town. I said my fathers company is in Greenwich and he goes there every day. It is close. He said no, it isn’t. Shrugging as though I was trying to make my town closer to Greenwich than it actually is. Greenwich may have more super rich billionaires, and definitely more egos, but overall, 5th on the zip code list. They are by far number 1 on the list of the cockiest and snootiest and most full of dookie.

  8. Phineas Taylor says:

    Everyone still refuses to face the facts. Bridgeport should be a better place to live than Weston. Weston is ugly abandoned farmland and swamps with no beaches, good restaurants, transport, martini bars, concert halls etc. The only reason to live in Weston is to get away from the hideous crime, high taxes, bad schools and political corruption of Bridgeport. People pay $1MM for a house in Weston for these reasons. It is sickening that we continue to allow our cities to languish and be taken over by criminals. A century ago rich Americans lived down the street from poor Americans, the crime rate was lower and the schools were much better. What has happened that changed this?

  9. Garrett says:

    What’s next, a street by street listing? Why not just ask for W-2′s? Is anything in this article news to anyone and what constitutes a “trending” topic? Wasn’t last week the average age of people getting married?

  10. Also, if you didn’t get the print edition, and want to know the full rankings, you can just click through the slideshow up top. It has the ZIPs listed in order from 1 to 53, with median income and other data. Hope that helps!

  11. @Mike, we ran a full chart in the paper, spelling out the ranks of all 53 ZIP codes analyzed, as well as their median income. You can find it on the second page in the Post, fourth page in the Advocate and sixth page in the Greenwich Time and News-Times.

  12. Mike says:

    Really, you do a story like this without a table showing the ranking of all 53 zip codes? Unless you live in one of the few mentioned it’s a totally worthless read. Shock, there’s money in Weston. Bigger shock, there is no money in Bridgeport. Huge shock, many people in Darien work in the Financial Industry (something that was made clear years ago)

  13. KJ says:

    This is largely a product of the zoning of a town. Weston I believe has 2 acre zoning and no apartments so this is really no surprise.

  14. Lavender says:

    Is it true that Ansonia (06401, rank 46) has a 44.6% poverty rate? That seems excessively high, especially considering the lowest ranked zip code, in Bridgeport, has only a 35.4% rate and has a median income half of what Ansonia has.

  15. Frank says:

    Short version is report on the zip plus 4 code which is the sub division in most all populated areas. Quickly the economic demo’s
    will appear. As to Bridgeport’s defense that their suburban sprawl
    was limited by land boundary unlike Stamford which built near the Merritt Pkwy, are we forgetting the once industrial downtown and areas to Long Island Sound are now or still being developed as a corporate mecca? Similar like property in Bridgeport is still a hope and dream which has lost luster for confidence. Overnight in 1956-1957 a forgotton neighborhood, Hunktown, in the west end was demolished for I-95, nice residential with some mom and pop stores were all demolished. What is there now 50 or so years later? What is happening to the revised Steel Pointe? And, we are to wait and see how the imagined new Field Point is going to prosper economic development? Bring back P.T. Barnum!

  16. Lauren says:

    I just threw up a little in my mouth, excuse me.