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Study shows quality of life in Fairfield County depends on racial, geographic and economic status

Fairfield, Connecticut
AP Photo/Michael Melia

The Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index has been released. Every three years, the report shows how people in the county are faring with education, housing, health, civic engagement, income and wealth.

The report shows that quality of life in Fairfield County depends heavily on racial, geographic and economic status.

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation President Mendi Blue Paca said the median income in Fairfield County is $98,000 — in Bridgeport, it is $47,000.

“For many in the county, Fairfield County ranks as a really terrific place to live and has some of the highest levels and measures of self-reported well being in the country,” Blue Paca said. “But then it's sort of a tale of two realities, because on the other side of the equation, again, for our primarily Black and Brown populations in the county, the story looks completely different.”

The income inequality issue impacts everyone in the county. Businesses want to be in a county where their staff can afford to live, and teachers and first responders look for work in districts where they can pay their bills.

“When income inequality gets too severe, you tend to see a lack of public safety, so that has reverberations across every single area of life and livelihood in our county,” Blue Paca said.

The report also shows that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on education and housing — specifically for Black and Brown residents.

Homeownership in the county decreased by 4% between 2020 and 2022.

In the 2021-22 school year, 54% of eighth graders in Fairfield County received a passing score on the English Language Arts SBAC standardized test, down 6% since pre-COVID. Only 21% of Bridgeport students received a passing score down 7% since pre-COVID.

While a solution may be difficult to find, Blue Paca urged legislators to start by supporting policies that look past municipal lines.

"I think one thing that would be really great is to see more regional thinking and more collaboration across borders to tackle some of these big issues," Blue Paca said.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.