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Connecticut is the land of steady habits — or is it? New data shows otherwise

The Connecticut state Capitol building in Hartford.
Danielle Wedderburn
The Connecticut state Capitol building in Hartford.

Comparing Connecticut’s data from the last decade shows just how much has changed in a few years.

WSHU’s Ebong Udoma spoke with CT Mirror’s José Luis Martínez to discuss his article, “CT has changed in the last decade. Here are 10 charts that show how,” as part of the collaborative podcast Long Story Short.

WSHU: José, you show the changes in Connecticut with 10 charts. Could you just tell us a little bit about how you broke them down, and what each chart shows?

JLM: Yeah, for sure. So, when starting this project we wanted to see how the state changed in 10 years. And what better way to do that than in 10 charts. And the way we went about choosing those charts was, we wanted to focus on a variety of things, not just specific industries, not just demographics. We want to focus on how Connecticut looks, Connecticut's economy, we want to focus on the health of the state — on a variety of things. And some of them include racial and questions some people might have about how our state specifically changed in terms of that.

There's also things such as education: public education, and then higher education. On the public education part, we looked at graduation rates for high schools across the state. And then the higher education section we looked at, what's the educational attainment of our residents. Other things we looked at were migration in and out of the state. Where are people coming from? So people are wondering, where are people leaving us to go to? Other things we're looking at are job industries, where's our economy where our workers are going? Fortune 500 companies, they're huge symbol of a community's prestige, economic viability, that type of stuff. Political parties, the things that drive decision making in the country, how's that looking? And finally, the last two were greenhouse emissions, how's the state made efforts to change that. And finally, the leading causes of death.

WSHU: So let's start from the top, let's talk about race. U.S. Census figures, what did they show?

JLM: We looked at data from 2011 to 2021. And what it shows is that just real quick, real simple, Connecticut is becoming more racially diverse. The share of the non-white population has increased. Specifically, the white population in 2011 went from just below 72%, to about 65% in 2021. In terms of raw numbers, that's 2.5 million people to 2.3 million people. And like any other state, that population increases, since the white population decreased, where's the increased number coming from? And that's from other racial groups.

More specifically, the fastest increasing group is the Hispanic or Latino population, they've actually had a 31% increase, which is huge, that's over a third of their own group, their share went from 13% to 17%. So they're nearing that 20% mark, where they're making up a fifth of the state population, which is pretty big. In terms of raw numbers, they went from 146,000 to over 600,000, which is a major increase. And then after that the other two groups, they increased by less than two percentage points, but they still had increases, which is notable, especially given that the white population decreased. The Asian population had a 24% increase, which is very large as well. They went from 33,000 to 165,000. And the Black population grew 8%, going from 29,000 to 359,000. And there's changes for a lot of towns, but looking at the state numbers, those are it.

WSHU: Now, we have been concerned over the years in Connecticut about migration, that people are moving out of the state, what do the figures show?

JLM: Yeah, so a lot of people are going to Florida and New York. And there's a lot of commentary out there about why that's the case, we just looked at the numbers. We didn't explore why — we will in future reporting. But what a lot of people are commenting on and saying the reason for that is because people move to Florida to retire. That's where people have lower taxes, they can go get a nice place. And then New York, because it's the proximity there. There's a variety of jobs, some people that live in Fairfield County commute there, so maybe they decide to just move there. But the main places we're seeing are Florida, New York and Massachusetts.

WSHU: So let's talk about the Fortune 500 companies. What does that show? Because the tendency has been that we have felt that the large corporations are moving out of Connecticut.

JLM: Some have, but at the same time, some have come in and at the same time, a lot of the companies that we do have headquartered here in Connecticut, their ranking has increased. So they've made more money, creating more jobs in the state.

For the Fortune 500 chart, we looked at data from 2012 to 2022. And in 2012, we had 14 companies headquartered in Connecticut that were part of the Fortune 500. Now 2022, we have 15. So we have one more, but the companies that make up those groups are different. For example, one of the most notable ones was General Electric, which left for Boston. For example, they're not part of the NYST anymore. But at the same time we have other companies coming in or increasing the rank. Maybe they were at rank 600, for example, so they weren't part of the Fortune 500. But they increase their rank, they're making more money, and they're still headquartered in Connecticut. So we've increased that.

I spoke to executives at AdvanCT, they're an organization that helps business development in the state. One thing that they were saying is that the amount of Fortune 500 companies we have in the state is very per capita, given the size of our state, given that we're one of the smallest states in the country. We're pretty high up there, at least in comparison to California or Texas, big states that have a lot of Fortune 500 companies. Well, we have 15, and we rank third per capita, which is really good.

And one thing they argue is that we're in a strategically relevant corridor we're right between Boston and New York, we're a highly educated state, and we'll get to education later. So we have increased by one more company, but the makeup always changes. And that's bound to happen especially as some companies increase the revenue, some drop, some get acquired, and we have a lot of companies that are still headquartered in Connecticut, but the only reason they're not in the Fortune 500 list anymore, it's because they got acquired by larger companies.

WSHU: So José, how has political affiliation changed in Connecticut in the past 10 years?

JLM: Political affiliation, yes. So the largest group is the unaffiliated voting group. And if we look at the numbers, which I'm looking at here, in both years, 2012 and 2022, the unaffiliated group made up 41% of all the active voters, Democrats make up 36%, and Republicans make up 20%. What's interesting is that those shares have stayed almost the same, exactly the same in both years. So there haven't been any major changes.

WSHU: Demographics have changed but the breakdown of party affiliation hasn't changed that much over the years.

JLM: Exactly, yeah, it's very minimal. And I was surprised when looking at the numbers, both Democratic and unaffiliated voters, both their groups grew by 5.88%. In both groups, which is wild. I mean, the Democratic raw numbers in 2012, were 768,000, they went up to 813,000. As for the unaffiliated group, they went from 872,000 to 924,000, both a 5.8% increase, but the fastest growing group was actually the Republican Party, not by much, but they had the fastest increase, they had a 7.6% increase going from about 430,000, to 463,000. But even if they were the fastest, and we make that clear in the story, even though they were the fastest, since they still have a smaller share than the other groups, they still didn't surpass the Democratic or unaffiliated voting group.

WSHU: And now let's talk about education.

JLM: Okay, so education, we broke that down in two parts. First, I'll talk about public education. For a lot of these sections no data point that I analyzed represents the entire sector or industry. It's more like a general look into each sector. So for public education, we used high school graduation rates. I looked at the statewide rates, like the average, also looked at the median, and I looked at individual school districts.

What we found is that generally speaking, high school graduation rates are improving. The statewide four-year graduation rate for the school year starting in 2010 was 82.7%. Ten years later for the school year, starting in 2020, it went up to 89.6%. That's a 6.9 percentage point increase. That's huge.

Then if we want to look at the distribution, get deeper into the stats, we can look at the median graduation rate. The median graduation rate in the school year starting in 2010 was 89.6%. And now in 2020, it was 93.8%. And the reason we use the median, and not the average, was because there were some school districts that had extremely low graduation rates. And of course, that would skew the average. So we stuck with the median. Connecticut's known for having very good public schools. But that doesn't tell the entire story.

There's a lot of inequity in school education, so we have to look at each school district separately. And we were looking at which ones had consistently low graduation rates, including district operated schools, and also charter schools. The ones with the lowest, one of them is the Unified School District Number One, and that's the one that's headed by the Department of Correction that serves incarcerated individuals. They had graduation rates from 1.4% to 3.8%. Also the one headed by the Department of Children and Families, they also had consistently low graduation rates.

But as for public school districts, the ones that had low graduation rates were in Hartford, New Britain and Bridgeport. And meanwhile, the highest graduation rates were seen in Weston, Westport, and New Canaan. But we also think it's important to highlight who had the biggest percentage increase, maybe something happened there, maybe there was some decision making in the process of how to improve those rates. But the New Britain school district went from a graduation rate of 51.3% in 2010 — so that's only half of students graduating — to 78.7% in 2020. And, you know, that's still below the state median, but it's a huge improvement, it's 27.4% percentage point increase.

WSHU: So we should pay attention to what has been happening in New Britain.

JLM: Exactly. Yeah. This is cause for a follow up: what's going on in New Britain? What are they doing that increased it by such a large amount? But yeah, those are the numbers we looked at for public education.

WSHU: And now, could we talk about greenhouse emissions? Where do we stand? Are we making any progress, or is it worse, what's going on there?

JLM: Some progress, some progress, and it's really dependent upon the sector. Because emissions come from transportation, they come from commercial emissions, industrial waste, agriculture, all that stuff. All of that gets together, and we have a total.

So the largest sector within that group is the transportation sector. And it's one that governments and organizations are keeping an eye on to see, okay, how can we decrease these emissions? And even though the transportation sector is the biggest, their emissions have actually increased from 1990. And the reason we're citing 1990, is because there was an act in 2008 here in Connecticut that was passed, known as the Connecticut Global Warming Solutions Act. And they had a lot of thresholds that they wanted to meet.

For example, one of them was that by 2020, the state had to reduce emissions to a level 10% below 1990 levels. So the state was basically telling itself, okay, we have these levels in 1990. By 2020, we have to have them this much lower. And right now, the most recent state data that we have access to was 2018. And it looks so far that we are on track to meet the 2020 level. But for the other ones, it's a little difficult, the state would have to make huge, huge changes, huge drops in emissions. And the reason why transportations a big part of that is because it makes up the largest sector of emissions.

And so, besides transportation, the commercial industrial sectors increased emissions in the past decade of data. So from 2008 to 2018 these two sectors increased their emissions. Even though the transportation decreased, it was still higher than in 1990. So it's still unknown. With admissions, you have to look at decades of data, not just the years, so we did think it was important, and that's why the graphics in the story don't just show 10 years of data. We do know where the 10 years are, but we put data all the way back to 1990.

WSHU: So the bottom line is there's a lot changing in Connecticut — the state that calls itself the land of steady habits. Thank you so much, José.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.