1 in 4 live in poverty in New Haven

More than one in four New Haven residents lived in poverty last year, according to census data released Tuesday. At 26.7 percent, the city had the second-highest poverty level in Connecticut, behind only Hartford’s 31.9 percent.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a family of four lives below the federal poverty level if it makes less than $22,050 per year.

New Haven’s poverty level is not likely to go down anytime soon, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. told the News on Wednesday, as a large percentage of the state’s affordable housing is in the city and attracts immigrants and low-income families. In addition, the city is home to most of the state’s mental health facilities and homeless shelters, he said, which also contributes to the high poverty level.

“New Haven shoulders a heavier burden of regional affordable housing than we should,” Ward 1 alderman Mike Jones ’11 said, adding that other communities in Connecticut should step up to provide accommodationsfor low-income families.

But Ward 24 alderman Marcus Paca said in an e-mail that the city must confront poverty at the local level.

Too many New Haven residents are unemployed because they lack specialized job skills and higher education, he said, adding thatthe city’s public high school curriculum should incorporate job training.

“Not all young people see college as a viable goal,” he said.“I would like to see a job pipeline geared at high school students directly to specific skilled jobs.”

The city’s 2009 poverty level was not statistically different from 2008’s. Connecticut’s poverty level similarly remained at about 9.4 percent while the national poverty level jumped significantly from 13.3 percent to 14.3.

Ward 10 alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 said he is not surprised the poverty level has not changed much in the last year, given the state of the economy.

“Poverty is intertwined with crime, obesity and economic development,” he said. “We have to attack all these issues at once.”

Even though New Haven’s poverty level is above the national average, the city has a marginally lower percentage of uninsured residents. According to the census, 14.4 percent of New Haven residents are uninsured, compared to 15.1 percent nationally.

The overall rate for Connecticut, however, is just 8.8 percent.

Asked about the significance of these numbers, DeStefano said, “It is hard to draw meaningful conclusions from this census because the year-to-year time frame is so small.”


  • Sara

    There are issues with poverty in New Haven, but the statistics above are misleading. First, the “poverty rate” is not the greatest measure of need: income is not the same as deprivation, like not being able to put food on the table every day. Poverty rate may be correlated with severe social issues such as equity, access to opportunity, social exclusion, and income divides, but doesn’t tell you about them.

    Second, poverty does not apply equally to all demographics. Some of the highest poverty rates in the country are in small college towns. New Haven’s poverty rate is high in part because of the 50,000 students in the area, who have little income; many cities are actually much poorer. A better measure than poverty is the self-sufficiency rate or percentage of families with children on food stamps.

    Third, if you standardize the comparison between New Haven and other cities using commute patterns, which the Census does by using MSAs, New Haven (as an extremely dense city stretching from Branford to Milford) is actually among the 10% of wealthiest cities in the US. Comparing cities by using measures OTHER than MSAs is like comparing apples to oranges. This is because only a fraction of central neighborhoods counts as the “city” (municipality) of New Haven, even though the city is much larger than that. Only about 14 square miles of developed land area fall within city limits, whereas cities like Wichita have over 100 square miles because their government has annexed land far outside the center. New Haven’s population density is higher than that of some cities that are 10 times our population, because only the central area is counted as within city limits.

    Finally, keep things in perspective. The city of Chicago has a much larger population in poverty than the entire State of Connecticut. As a state, Connecticut has the second-lowest poverty rate in the United States, after New Hampshire, according to CPS.

    Don’t downplay rates of poverty entirely, but it is a useless measure to illustrate the problems here, especially if you aren’t adjusting for the above variables. Instead of looking at “poverty rate” we should be looking at the number of families in the region who live in concentrated poverty, i.e., both within a poor, low-resource neighborhood and within a poor family economic setting, as well as the number who can’t afford housing and transportation, even if they work long hours at minimum wage.

    By those measures, it is clear that 1) things have been getting worse across the country and within the state, particularly within suburbs (nationally, suburbs have more poverty than cities), 2) families in trouble continue to be concentrated within older neighborhoods with low-performing schools because of our history of national housing and transportation policy, and 3) little is being done to reverse the trend even though it will have a major impact on our future workforce, global competitiveness and burden of social costs.

  • Hitch2

    1 in 4 lives, you mean?

  • Quals

    Does this include HGS and Helen Hadley?

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Come clean, Sara: Are you working for Yale’s OPA?

  • choctawindian

    I assume this has something to do with the relatively low rental prices of off-campus apartments in the area around campus; which also has something to do with the number of “safety shuttles” around campus at night; and the rest of the high-crime statistics for New Haven. This is all relative, of course. It is a city of less than 150,000 no matter how you crunch the census numbers.

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