[Excerpt of feature article by Leslie Yager, Greenwich Free Press, 1/21/24. More photos are available in the article]
Thursday night’s “Bending the Arc” panel discussion at the YWCA Greenwich focused on inequity and access in Greenwich.
YWCA Greenwich CEO Mary Lee Kiernan quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s words from a speech given at the National Cathedral on March 31, 1968 when he said, “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
US Senator Richard Blumenthal delivered a statement remotely, noting that about a third of Greenwich families are one major unexpected expense away from financial disaster, and 25% of Greenwich Public School students quality for free or reduced lunch. [....]
Congressman Jim Himes said in taped remarks that it was important not to lose the broader legacy of Dr. King’s aspirations and ambitions. [....]
DataHaven – Understanding Equity in Greenwich
DataHaven’s CEO Mark Abraham said since 2015 DataHaven completed 45,000 interviews in Connecticut, including 900 randomly selected adults in Greenwich – about 100 from each each of the town’s neighborhoods.
He illustrated chronic disparities in income, housing, healthcare and food security through data.
Abraham said Census data showed that many parts of Greenwich were more diverse than Fairfield County as a whole and there are persistent income disparities.
While the equity profile for Greenwich (see page 14) notes that the median household income in Greenwich is $180,447, racial disparities in outcomes related to education, housing, employment, and wages result in disparate household-level incomes and overall wealth. Households led by Black or Latino adults generally average lower incomes than white households.
Abraham also noted that Black and Latino adults represent a large share of people who work in Greenwich, up to 10,000 workers have potentially stressful commutes from places like Norwalk and Bridgeport, Danbury, and New York’s outer boroughs.
For jobs located in Greenwich in the financial sector, average income is about $500,000, and for jobs in Greenwich in the retail sector the pay is on average about $40,000.
Elaborating on income disparities, he said despite examples of high income and wealth in the region, there are also large differences in wages between men and women. White women in the Greenwich area earn about $90,000 a year on average, and Latino men earn about $45,000 a year on average.
A household is considered cost-burdened when they spend 30% or more of their income on housing costs, and severely cost-burdened when they spend 50% or more of their income on housing costs.
DataHaven’s report for Greenwich notes that among renter households in Greenwich, 42% are cost-burdened, compared to 28 % of owner households. This also leads to housing overcrowding, which is defined as having more than one occupant per room.
Talking about financial stress in Greenwich Mr. Abraham said thousands of residents face food insecurity.
Breaking down the data by neighborhood, for example, in the 06870 zip code (Old Greenwich) only 2% of residents reported food insecurity whereas the number jumps to 14% in the mix of neighborhoods around the center of town.
Demetria Nelson, the Commissioner of Human Services for the town of Greenwich, said the trends her department sees were in line with the DataHaven numbers.
Slightly over 1,800 Greenwich households – about 4,250 individuals – accessed services from her department in FY 2023, with 70% of the population they serve living in Chickahominy, south center of town, Pemberwick and Byram.
The panel also included Evonne Klein, a housing advocate and founder of Fairfield County Talks Housing. Klein was also the former Commissioner of Housing for the State of Connecticut and previously served as the First Selectwoman in Darien.
Dr. Lou Hart, Medial Director of Health Equity at Yale New Haven Health System, said health equity was reflected in both quality and safety.
“Historically we have algorithms and equations that tell us to treat patients differently on the basis of race,” he said.