Nearly half of New Haven’s black and Latino children live in poor neighborhoods, compared to only three percent of the city’s white children, according to recently released statistics in DataHaven’s 2016 Community Index.
A poor neighborhood is defined in the report as one in which the average household income is less than half the state average. The statistics show that racial income disparity is a much larger problem in the Elm City than it is in other parts of the country.
According to the 2012 U.S. Census, 27.2 percent of black Americans live in poverty, compared to 9.7 percent of white Americans. Although these national numbers also reveal a difference between black and white poverty rates, the Index shows that the disparity in New Haven is much larger — a 42 percent figure for black residents compared to three percent for white residents.
City spokesman Laurence Grotheer said the city government is aware of the problem and is working to combat poverty by funding educational opportunities in the city.
“Race-based disparities in education, healthcare and economic opportunity persist in New Haven, prompting renewed efforts to improve outcomes in public schools, expand school-based health centers and provide comprehensive internship and job training programs,” Grotheer said. “These concurrent initiatives are underway so all city residents are better able to participate fully and succeed in today’s knowledge-based economy.”
Grotheer did not provide specific examples of these initiatives.
Yale anthropology professor Erik Harms, like Grotheer, stressed the importance of improving access to education opportunities. He explained that both the cause of racial income inequality and its solution might lie in reforming public school policy.
“Even the most progressive-minded parents, who might otherwise be theoretical proponents of policies or actions designed to fight racial and income inequality … make very self-interested and regressive decisions when it comes to the topic of schools for their children,” Harms said. “Such decisions, in turn, perpetuate the spatialized and neighborhood-level racial inequalities that have become so entrenched in New Haven.”
Harms added that Yale itself could help ameliorate the problem by providing incentives to faculty and staff to enroll their children in the New Haven public school system.
The Index presented other causes for concern. It showed that between 2005 and 2014, the number of households that were classified as severely cost-burdened rose by 16 percent in New Haven County. Severely cost-burdened households are defined as households in which more than half of total income is paid towards housing costs.
Ward 21 Alder Brenda Foskey-Cyrus, a longtime Newhallville resident, said things were not always this way.
“There was poverty back in the day, but it wasn’t as bad,” Foskey-Cyrus said.
She added that she believed the economic situation in the Elm City was better when she was growing up because “there were more job opportunities.” According to the Index, 62 percent of workers living within Greater New Haven are unemployed or underemployed, which is defined as any part-time worker who would prefer to work full-time.
The city will be even more hard-pressed to increase Elm City residents’ access to secondary education if recent plans discussed by Gateway Community College administrators to increase tuition costs come to fruition. Gateway is one of the biggest secondary education destinations for New Haven residents, and its administration is considering changing the current flat tuition fee to a per-credit fee. This would significantly increase the burden on many full-time Gateway students who take the maximum 18-credit course load offered by the school.
There are 48 public schools in the New Haven public school system.