[Excerpt - Please see article for full text]

By Chris Bosak

With new data shining a light on systemic inequalities in Fairfield County... what can be done to address the issues? That was a major theme of a conversation regarding the results of the Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2016 presented Tuesday evening by Fairfield County's Community Foundation at Danbury Library....

“It makes me think: How can we do better?” Allison Carballo said after viewing the posters that highlighted the index’s findings. “If we don’t know what’s going on, we can’t fix it. Getting the data is not easy to do, but it is important to have.” Carballo, the development director at Danbury-based Family & Children’s Aid, said many of the results came as a surprise, especially the data from Bridgeport and Danbury.

FCCF and DataHaven produced the Community Wellbeing Index to put numbers to issues such as quality of life, health, economic competitiveness and education in Fairfield County. The index includes data for the county as a whole and each municipality within Fairfield County.....

The index shows that Danbury schools have a low chronic absence rate, but also a low graduation rate of 78 percent, compared to other districts in the county. Only 24 percent of Danbury eighth-graders are proficient in math, according to the index. Also, 22 percent of Danbury students are English Language Learners, by far the highest percentage in the county.

The index shows data for several economic indicators. The share of total industry payroll in the county showed steep increases from 2000 to 2014 in finance and insurance and steep declines in manufacturing and retail. The median household income in Fairfield County in 2014 was $83,183, the index showed. The top 20 percent of earners averaged $184,000, while the bottom 20 percent averaged $31,000. 

Nancy von Euler, vice president of programs at FCCF, led the discussion in Danbury and said public input is important for the organization’s strategic planning process. “Hearing how people relate the data to their own community is helpful,” [she] said. “It’s important to hear what people are most concerned about because we use that input to decide what our priorities will be. Every group we do this with sees things a little differently.”

The next public discussion of the Wellbeing Index will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26, at Fairfield Public Library at 1080 Old Post Road.