[Radio news report by Molly Ingram, WSHU, 2/26/24]

A year-long study led by the Fairfield County Community Foundation (FCCF) will look into the economic benefits of racial equity.

The first-of-its-kind study, called the “upside of equity,” will be done in collaboration with DataHaven and the Urban Institute.

FCCF President and CEO Mendi Blue-Paca said the study will be used to inform more equitable policy.

“Efforts to increase fairness, opportunity and access in our region should be rooted in ethics and justice,” Blue-Paca siad. “But not everyone is guided by moral arguments. For many, economic data is a persuasive point for looking at challenges in new ways and with different goals. We hope that the upside of equity will provide some of that perspective.”

According to Mark Abraham, executive director of DataHaven, the county is suffering from a widening wage gap. He said closing it would benefit everyone in the region.

“If you look at the six wealthiest towns in the county, incomes have actually increased by 60%. During that time in Bridgeport, they've only increased by 9%. So, pretty dramatic widening of inequality in the county over the past few decades,” Abraham said.

According to data from the FCCF, white and Asian full-time working men in the county make an average of $100,000. Latino full-time working women make an average of $37,000.

“All of the interests involved in this study will be to close those inequity gaps, close the mobility gaps,” U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said. “And I think that the argument about the costs and benefits of doing it seem pretty apparent. But this study will create the data that supports the instinctive gut feeling that we all have, that morally, it is imperative. Now we're going to see why economically, it is imperative.”

The study is funded by more than $460,000 from the federal government.

Findings and recommendations are expected next spring.