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.”