Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2023 Provides Snapshot of Both Progress and Persistent Disparities

May 01, 2023

Supported by funding from Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and other community partners and developed in partnership with DataHaven, the newly released CWI 2023 report shows challenges and opportunities on quality of life, public health, economic development, and civic vitality.

NORWALK, CT. (March 28, 2023) – Fairfield County may be an ideal place to live for some residents, but many others face barriers that severely limit their opportunities to thrive in our community of 23 cities and towns.

Produced every three years and supported by funding from Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and other community partners, the Community Wellbeing Index 2023 (CWI) reveals in stark detail the increasing disparities that exist in Fairfield County. The report offers county and town-level data on these opportunity gaps in housing, health, education, and income – gaps that are linked to longstanding systemic and structural racism and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This latest CWI report illustrates that the disparities in our communities increased significantly during the pandemic,” said Mendi Blue Paca, president and CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. “We can leverage the information in the 2023 CWI to enhance our understanding of how our systems and structures impact the wellbeing of local residents, so we can take action to ensure all of us truly have an equitable opportunity to thrive.”

The disparities highlighted in the 2023 CWI fall along very clear racial, geographic and economic lines. For instance, indicators of quality of life and wellbeing in Fairfield County’s six wealthiest towns – Darien, New Canaan, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton – rank among the highest in the nation.

Meanwhile, in neighboring communities such as Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford, the picture is much different. By almost every measure, a child living in one of Fairfield County’s wealthiest communities has opportunities that simply do not exist for a child in a neighboring suburban town.

“These lines are not arbitrary, nor are these conditions new,” said Blue Paca. “Fairfield County’s long and wide-reaching history of segregation has created conditions in which the highest-income neighborhoods and towns are predominately White, while lower-income communities are largely home to Black, Latino and immigrant populations.”

Some of these data identify progress, such as rising high school graduation rates, increased voter turnout, and a decline in violent crime.

“While progress in those areas should be celebrated, those gains are dwarfed by the glaring disparities in indicators of wellbeing, equity, and quality of life between those with wealth and those with low-incomes, and within communities of color,” said Dr. Tanya Hills, Director of Learning & Evaluation at the Community Foundation. “The CWI provides an opportunity to examine a range of data to inform community-based efforts for addressing inequities.”

The CWI is compiled through a combination of local, state, and federal data sources, and DataHaven’s Community Wellbeing Survey of thousands of CT residents. The index uniquely focuses on key indicators of wellbeing, quality of life and economic opportunity on a county and town level rather than a state or national perspective. The Community Foundation continues to invest in the report as it is an invaluable tool for residents, organizations, and philanthropy in identifying pressing challenges and opportunities to affect positive social change.

“Because of its accessible graphics, unique research insights, and detailed disaggregation of data, the CWI has become one of the principal documents that helps to guide efforts to boost quality of life of all residents,” said Mark Abraham, Executive Director of DataHaven. “This work is especially important as policymakers and residents seek to ensure a strong, equitable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.”

FCCF’s Executive Summary of the 2023 CWI and the full Fairfield Community Wellbeing Index 2023 can be found at fccfoundation.org/research-publications/cwi2023/.  A Spanish language translation of the executive summary will be published soon.

Major funders of The Fairfield County CWI 2023 include Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, Yale New Haven Health, Health Improvement Alliance, Connecticut Health, Stamford Health, Hartford HealthCare, Nuvance Health, United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, United Way of Western Connecticut and The Housing Collective.

Additional state Community Wellbeing Index 2023 reports, DataHaven survey results, and related resources can be found at ctdatahaven.org/reports/.

About Fairfield County’s Community Foundation
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is partnering with our community to create a county where every person has an equitable opportunity to thrive. We work closely with community organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and philanthropists to address challenges and identify opportunities to create a stronger, more vibrant community. Informed by three decades of partnering with and serving our community, we have awarded more than $390 million in grants to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Media questions may be directed to:
Lauren Stewart | lauren@turn-two.co | (804) 690-9966