Compared to those who live in neighboring cities, New Haven residents fare relatively well in terms of insurance coverage, new data suggest.

According to newly compiled data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, 3.5 percent of children in New Haven are uninsured, while the city’s overall uninsured rate of 13.4 percent. The figures place New Haven ahead of peer cities such as Stamford and Norwalk, Conn., all of which have higher median incomes per capita. Still, the city’s uninsured rate is 4.4 percent above the state average

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”10065″ ]

“This is, in no small portion, because of Yale,” said Nicholas Perna, a expert on Connecticut’s economy and a lecturer in the Yale Economics Department. “Yale and Yale-New Haven Hospital are the city’s two major employers, and nearly all employees have insurance.”

But the statistics suggest that local residents have comparatively greater access to health care services, said Amy Casavina-Hall, director of community impact at United Way of Greater New Haven. She cautioned against placing too much faith in the new data.

“The data from the census is very striking,” Casavina-Hall said. “But the relatively high number of insured residents can be explained by the greater number of people being able to access low-income public health care.”

Perna noted that the low percentage of uninsured children in New Haven speaks to high enrollments in the Healthcare for Uninsured Kids and Youth program, which offers full health care coverage to children under the age of 19, and that the statistics will further improve once the state’s universal health care plan, known as SustiNet, takes effect in the coming years.

Casavina-Hall added that improvements, especially in the areas of maternity care, infant mortality and teenage pregnancy, need to be made if the quality health care services in the city is to match the standards offered in the rest of Connecticut. The new plan, which was passed despite a veto from Gov. M. Jodi Rell, will improve resident’s access to primary and preventative care, legislators have said.

City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said that while local officials have yet to examine the full details of the new data, the city has worked to help direct local residences to all available publicly funded health care services.

“We offer assistance to help determine whether children qualify for HUSKY and advocate for better health care services for local residents,” Mayorga said.

Connecticut Voices for Children, a think tank dedicated to finding public policy solutions to improving youth and family services, said the data indicate the need for national health insurance reform to ensure coverage for the over 300,000 state residents that remain without health care coverage, particularly when many are losing their insurance due to layoffs.

“We need action on health care reform from Congress before our economic downturn makes Connecticut’s health insurance problems even worse,” Sharon Langer, a senior policy fellow with the organization, said in a statement yesterday.

The data, collected for the first time in the American Community Survey in 2008, will become a staple of the Census Bureau’s annual reports.