Seal of the State of Connecticut

III. The Changing Face of Connecticut

A Demographic Profile

Connecticut's population has experienced some dramatic changes in recent years. It is extremely important to monitor these trends closely because people have always been Connecticut's greatest asset and its most important resource.

Population and Job Losses

Between 1970 and 1991, Connecticut's population grew at a fairly consistent rate. During this period, the state's total population growth was 8.5%. In 1970 the state had 3,032,000 residents; by 1991, the state's population reached its peak at 3,291,000 people. The years of steady population increases ended in 1991, however, as the state experienced its worst economic downturn in fifty years. Connecticut's economic condition began to worsen at the beginning of 1989 and the trend continued until the fourth quarter of 1992. In total, the recession cost the state 162,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted quarterly basis. By the second quarter of 1995, Connecticut had recovered approximately 14% of the recession-based job losses and its population stood at 3,276,000.

Line Graph - Connecticut's Total Population (1970 to 1995)...  goes here

City Losses and Rural Gains

The overall population loss has not been evenly distributed throughout the state. Between 1990 and 1994, Connecticut's urban areas experienced significant population declines while rural Connecticut saw significant gains. Connecticut's five largest cities -- Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, and Waterbury -- lost a combined 41,475 people (a 6.6% decline) between 1990 and 1994. Adjacent suburbs such as East Hartford, West Haven, and Bloomfield also lost population during this period (declines of 3.5%, 2.4%, and 2.8%, respectively). In contrast, the 78 Connecticut towns with 10,000 or fewer residents had a combined population growth of 16,615 people (a 4.5% increase).


Shrinking Cities and Suburbs:
Population losses between 1990 and 1994
Town Population Loss Percent Loss
Hartford 15,543 (11.1)
New Britain 5,604 (7.4)
East Hartford 1,050 (2.1)
Bloomfield 259 (1.3)
West Hartford 645 (1.1)


Growing Rural Towns:
Population Gains between 1990 and 1994
Town Population Gain Percent Gain
Burlington 1,040 +14.8
East Haddam 864 +12.9
Ashford 475 +12.6
Colchester 1,242 +11.3
Coventry 886 +8.8
Lebanon 505 +8.3
Columbia 354 +7.8
Hebron 551 +7.8

This trend has become common across the United States, although it has been more pronounced in Connecticut. At 11.1%, Hartford's population loss was the largest in the nation for a large city during the four-year period; New Haven was second, with a population loss of 8.3%. This pattern will be important to track because population loss places enormous fiscal pressure on Connecticut's urban areas. Cities must continue to support their basic infrastructure--streets, schools, police and support services--with a declining tax base. This trend also demonstrates the downside of Connecticut's over reliance on property tax as a revenue source.


According to a migration study conducted by the Connecticut Policy and Economic Council (CPEC) covering the period from 1980 to 1995, the state's population decline is more the result of a drop in the number of younger people moving into the state than the consequence of a mass exodus of young talent leaving the state. In addition, the profile of the typical out-migrant in terms of age, education, employment status, and income was not significantly different from the profile of the typical in-migrant. This study refutes the notion that Connecticut's population loss has created a "brain drain" that will hamper future economic development. Indeed, the CPEC study concludes that if Connecticut can build a vibrant economy, people will come to the state to participate in the economic growth.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census projects that Connecticut will continue to experience some minimal population loss over the next few years. However, between 2000 and 2010, state population is projected to increase from 3,272,000 to 3,413,000 (growth of 4%). By the year 2020 total state population is projected to total 3,616,000.

Line Graph - Connecticut's Total Population (1970 to 2020)...  goes here

While total population is projected to resume its historical growth pattern, the demographic characteristics of the state's residents will change. Between 1995 and 2020 the total number of state residents age 65 or older is expected to increase from 467,000 to 630,000. The elderly will also comprise a larger share of the state's total population, increasing from about 14% in 1995 to over 17.4% in 2020. This demographic shift toward a larger elderly population will create a greater demand for long-term care arrangements. The Comptroller's initiative on long-term care, described earlier in this report, is the type of public-private partnership that will help Connecticut cope with the changing needs of state residents as we move into the 21st century.

Bar Graph - Projected Change in Age Distribution (1995 to 2020)...  goes here

In addition to the age shift, the racial and ethnic composition of Connecticut residents is changing. In 1995, African Americans comprised 9% of the state's total population; by 2020, it is projected that over 11% of state residents will be African American. Similarly, the total number of Hispanic individuals as a percentage of total state population is expected to rise from about 8% to almost 13% between 1995 and 2020. In preparing for the 21st century, it is important that Connecticut's educational system address the needs of our increasingly diverse population.

Personal Income

Connecticut continues to rank first in the nation in per capita income ($29,044 in 1994), although over the past several years state residents have been losing ground. Connecticut experienced the slowest rate of personal income growth in the nation between 1989 and 1994. During this period, our state lagged behind the United States in personal income growth every year except 1992. Connecticut's growth was slower than the New England region in three of those five years. In Fiscal Year 1995, Connecticut personal income grew by only 3.5%, while New England's growth rate was 4.7% and the U.S. rate was 6%. It is also important to note that prices in Connecticut are about 20% above the national average. So part of the income advantage is offset by the higher cost of goods and services.

Bar Graph - Per Capita Income Growth (1990 to 1994)...  goes here

The gap between the rich and the poor in Connecticut is large and it is growing.The richest county in the state is Fairfield,the poorest county isWindham. In 1993 per capita income in Fairfield totaled $37,642 compared to $20,225 in Windham (Hartford's was $26,876 and New Haven's was $24,422). Other measures of income disparity are presented below.

Poverty in Connecticut

Each year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes federal poverty guidelines, which are adjusted annually for inflation. These figures are for all states, with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii and the District of Columbia, and are used to estimate the number of families living below the poverty threshold. The chart that follows shows the poverty level according to family size in 1995. For illustration, a Connecticut family of three whose annual income totaled less than $12,590 would be under the poverty level. .


1995 Federal Poverty Guidelines
Number in Family Poverty Level
1 $ 7,470
2 $10,030
3 $12,590
4 $15,150
5 $17,710
6 $20,270
7 $22,830
8 $25,390
For each additional member add $2,560

While the statistics show Connecticut to be a wealthy state, there are wide disparities in income distribution. Census data for 1990 show a statewide poverty rate of 6.8%; however, the poverty rate for most of Connecticut's cities is double the state average or higher. The chart below compares poverty rates for Connecticut's largest cities from 1970 to 1990. It should be noted that in 1994 Connecticut's poverty rate had increased to 10.8%. The chart uses 1990 census data because it is the last year for which comparative data are available.


Poverty In Connecticut (1970 to 1990)
Area 1970 1980 1990
Statewide Average 7.2% 8.0% 6.8%
Bridgeport 11.7% 20.4% 17.1%
Hartford 17.0% 25.8% 27.5%
New Haven 17.5% 23.2% 21.3%
Stamford 7.1% 7.7% 6.3%
Waterbury 9.6% 14.1% 12.1%

Hartford has experienced a dramatic increase in poverty since 1970 and is one of the nation's ten poorest cities, ranked at number eight. New Haven, with a poverty rate of 21.3%, is ranked the thirty-ninth poorest city in the country.

Another means of measuring income disparity is to compare Effective Buying Income (EBI) by household and location. For 1993, Hartford and New Haven had median household EBI of $26,235 and $29,884 respectively, compared to Greenwich at $70,740 and Fairfield at $62,174.

Slow wage growth in Connecticut has made escape from poverty more difficult. During FY 1994- 95, average weekly gross wages in the state rose by less than 1%. This is the smallest rate of increase in twenty-five years. The growth rate in total wages and earnings in the state has also been weak. In 1973, approximately 75% of Connecticut's per capita income was derived from wages and earnings, 16% was attributable to interest, dividends, and rent, and the remaining 9% came from transfer payments. By 1993, less than 70% of Connecticut's per capita income was derived from wages and earnings, 17% came from interest dividends and rent, and transfer payments accounted for 14%.

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