Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and DataHaven Unveil Community Wellbeing Index 2019 at Forward Fairfield County: A Day of Data-Driven Conversation

Sep 23, 2019

Despite Some Progress, Stubborn Areas Persist; Significant Geographic and Racial Inequities Remain

(Norwalk, Conn.) Forward Fairfield County: A Day of Data-Driven Conversation, presented by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation (FCCF), was held today in conjunction with the release of its latest research initiatives, including the updated Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2019 (CWI) and new research from the Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls. Produced by DataHaven and co-funded by regional hospital, health system partners, and others, the Community Wellbeing Index 2019 illuminates the complex issues facing Fairfield County neighborhoods and towns, painting a picture of where the region is headed.

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation envisions a vital and inclusive community where every individual has the opportunity to thrive. The Community Foundation is interested in reliable data to measure its own progress toward that vision. At today’s event, highlights from the newly released DataHaven report were shared to inspire reflection and dialogue among the nearly 200 attendees, including elected officials, nonprofit partners, community leaders, and donors. It was a day of data-driven, compelling conversation, and collaboration.

“By focusing on the interrelationship between quality of life, health and the economic competitiveness of Fairfield County, one can better appreciate successes, acknowledge challenges, and craft a strategic plan for a brighter future,” stated Juanita T. James, President & CEO, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. “As many of you are aware, in order to close the opportunity gap the Community Foundation has to drive systemic social change. We know that achieving this ambitious goal will take a long-term, focused commitment and willingness to adapt our tactics along the journey based on progress. Data derived from these studies is key to measuring our progress, as are the kinds of conversations we’ve had today,” she continued.

The morning session at Forward Fairfield County, held at The Water’s Edge at Giovanni’s in Darien, Connecticut, focused on the Community Wellbeing Index 2019 and featured keynote speaker, Jacqueline Rabe Thomas of The Connecticut Mirror. Ms. Rabe Thomas addressed the role of data in achieving community impact. A facilitated, interactive conversation explored the ways data and the Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index, which highlights the complex issues impacting the people and places of the county, can inform community impact efforts throughout the region.

The Community Wellbeing Index 2019 (CWI) indicates that Fairfield County has experienced significant population changes that provide context to the opportunities and challenges the county and state will face in the coming years. Racial diversity has increased among children and younger adults while, simultaneously, the immigrant population has grown throughout Fairfield County (22 percent). The immigrant population is concentrated in urban centers such as Stamford (35 percent), Danbury (31 percent), and Bridgeport (30 percent). The county also faces an aging population. Projections through 2035 show that the over-65 age segment will increase by 11 percent compared to a meager 4 percent increase for people ages 18-34.

CWI research indicates that by nearly every measure, education continues to be an area where disparities are among the widest and have the greatest long-term impacts. Also, Fairfield County continues to be a region where the cost of homeownership is high and a large percentage of renters (28 percent) are severely cost-burdened, meaning that more than 50 percent of their income goes towards housing. Gaps in wages and wealth, based on race and gender, continue in the region as well. CWI data reveals that white children from low-income homes in Fairfield County can expect greater upward economic mobility than Black children from high-income homes. In Fairfield County, the percentage of children living in low-income families is 26 percent, compared to 36 percent in Norwalk, 39 percent in Danbury, and 64 percent in Bridgeport.

Civic health was also tracked by DataHaven’s study. Measures of civic health reveal that countywide there is a high degree of trust in neighbors, good relations with government, and a feeling of safety in communities. Yet, while government responsiveness is rated at 77 percent in Greenwich, county-wide government responsiveness is rated at 55 percent with Norwalk, Stamford, Stratford, and Bridgeport reporting 48 percent, 47 percent, 33 percent, and 31 percent, respectively.

The Community Foundation’s core values are critical to advancing its mission and act as a guiding force in all that it does. These values are equity, integrity, diversity and inclusion, and collaboration. The conversations that took place during Forward Fairfield County will inform FCCF’s next steps as the organization continues to invest in closing the region’s opportunity gap.

“Closing the opportunity gap in Fairfield County is a very ambitious, but necessary goal. At the Community Foundation, we are committed to this goal because we believe that every county resident should have equal access to the resources and tools to succeed,” stated Mendi Blue-Paca, the Community Foundation’s Vice President of Community Impact. “This is a long-term proposition that will require persistence, collaboration, and significant funding. And while we need to galvanize patient capital to achieve our shared impact goals, we also cannot lose sight of the urgency that the pressing challenges we are addressing demand,” she concluded.

The Community Foundation shared its gratitude today to its partners and major co-funders: to DataHaven, for its creation of the Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2019, along with Bridgeport Hospital, Danbury Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, Norwalk Hospital, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Stamford Health, Yale New Haven Health, United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, and United Way of Western Connecticut. Other government agencies, nonprofits and philanthropic organizations from throughout our region were among the statewide funders that supported the latest update to the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Index.

“We are grateful to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and the many other regional partners for their strong support of this year’s Community Wellbeing Index,” said Mark Abraham, Executive Director of DataHaven. “As with previous releases of the Index, this new report will be widely used by public and private agencies, community-based organizations, and residents throughout Fairfield County to support effective decision-making and advocacy,” he stated.

Key data and the full research report can be found at FCCFoundation.org/cwi2019. In 2019, DataHaven also led the creation of Community Wellbeing Index reports for other cities in Connecticut, which will be available this fall on its website at ctdatahaven.org, enabling trends in the Fairfield County report to be compared within a statewide context.

About DataHaven

DataHaven is a non-profit organization with a 25-year history of public service to Connecticut communities, and is a formal partner of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership of the Urban Institute in Washington, DC. Its programs include the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey and the Community Wellbeing Index, which collect and share data about neighborhoods throughout the state. Learn more at ctdatahaven.org.


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