NORWALK, CT -- Examining regional demographics, economic opportunity, education, health, quality of life, and happiness, Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2016 was released by DataHaven, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and a team of leaders from regional hospitals, foundations, government agencies, and community organizations.
The Community Wellbeing Index studied the communities, populations, and neighborhoods of Fairfield County, as well as the opportunities available and the issues facing the area. Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, a major funder of the report, partnered with DataHaven, area hospitals, and government agencies to help launch a more robust and comprehensive resource that could serve as a part of the hospitals’ and health departments’ Community Health Needs Assessments as well as a broader county-wide indicators program.
“Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is committed to addressing the most pressing issues facing Fairfield County, but to do that we first need to be able to identify and understand those issues,” stated Nancy M. von Euler, Vice President, Programs, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. She continues, “The data in the Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2016 will help us to develop priorities for collective action to build a stronger, healthier Fairfield County where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of their zip code.”
The Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2016 is based on a variety of federal and statewide data sources, including the 2015 DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey, which conducted live interviews with 16,219 randomly-selected adults throughout Connecticut, including 4,962 in Fairfield County in the past year. The survey created extensive information that previously had not been available at a local level, on issues such as happiness, health, the effectiveness of local government, financial security, access to resources and basic needs, transportation, and other social and economic issues.
“The process of developing this report allowed local partners and community members to identify links between the well-being of residents and the places where they live. Looking beyond typical measures like income levels or unemployment rates, the Community Wellbeing Index reveals a much more uneven distribution of opportunities in areas such as neighborhood walkability, economic development, public health, and education. The impact that these barriers to opportunity have on overall well-being and happiness will serve as a call to action for many groups working to improve Fairfield County’s diverse neighborhoods and towns,” stated Mark Abraham, Executive Director of DataHaven and a lead author of the report.
Insights from the Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2016 include:
- Between 2014 and 2025, adults ages 65 and over are Fairfield County’s only age group projected to grow significantly, with a thirty-seven percent increase.
- Fairfield County’s sizeable immigrant population (twenty percent of county residents) grew eighty-nine percent from 1990 to 2014. In some municipalities, foreign-born residents make up as much as a third of the population.
- Since 1980, the size of the population living in neighborhoods that are considered most affluent – defined as those with an average family income more than 2.5 times higher than the state level - has tripled within Fairfield County. Meanwhile, the number of people living in poor neighborhoods is 3.5 times its 1980 size. The number of people in middle-income neighborhoods has decreased by sixteen percent.
- Fairfield County residents are healthy when compared to national benchmarks. However, many conditions and risk factors—such as asthma, food insecurity, exposure to community violence, and the early onset of diabetes—are disproportionately prevalent in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Sections of Bridgeport in particular fall very far behind the surrounding area in many of these measures.
- Example: The issue of dental care arose as an indicator of well-being, particularly among younger adults and families. The Index shows that for every 10,000 residents living in Fairfield County, 12 residents visit an emergency room to receive treatment for preventable dental conditions in any given year, whereas on the East Side of Bridgeport, 178 residents do.
- High and rising childcare costs are often prohibitively expensive for low and middle-income families. While Fairfield County has nearly enough spaces for all 3- to 4-year-olds to attend preschool, there are only enough regulated childcare slots for fifteen percent of the county’s children ages 0 to 2, and enough subsidized slots to cover only twenty-two percent of these youngest children in low-income households.
- Disparities in access to reliable transportation persist between racial and income groups. A majority of Fairfield County workers, regardless of income, commute to another town for work. Many low-income (annual wages under $40,000) workers leave Bridgeport for work, while large shares of high-income workers commute to New York City.
More information can be found on the Fairfield County Community Foundation and DataHaven websites.
Partners of DataHaven’s Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2016 include Fairfield County’s Community Foundation; Bridgeport Hospital; Danbury Hospital; Greenwich Hospital; Norwalk Hospital; St. Vincent’s Medical Center; and Stamford Hospital. Other government agencies, non-profits, and philanthropic organizations from throughout Fairfield County were among the over 50 statewide funders who supported the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey, once of the key sources of data used in the report.
DataHaven is a non-profit organization with a 25-year history of public service to Greater New Haven and Connecticut. Its mission is to improve quality of life by collecting, sharing, and interpreting public data for effective decision-making. DataHaven is a formal partner of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership of the Urban Institute in Washington, DC. More about DataHaven can be found at www.ctdatahaven.org.
About Fairfield County’s Community Foundation
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation promotes philanthropy as a means to create change in Fairfield County, focusing on innovative and collaborative solutions to critical issues impacting the community. Individuals, families, corporations and organizations can establish charitable funds or contribute to existing funds. The Community Foundation is in compliance with the Council on Foundations’ national standards and manages over 600 funds and total assets of over $175.6 million and has awarded over $212 million in grants to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond. As a trusted nonprofit partner and thought leader, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation brings together community organizers, business experts and philanthropists to solve our region’s challenges. Our goal is to create a vital and inclusive community, where every individual has the opportunity to thrive. Visit fccfoundation.org for more.