Conn. inequality compared to Bangkok in “The Great Divide” series

International media outlet and NPR partner GlobalPost is doing a series on income inequality around the world called “The Great Divide”, and they’ve just released a print story and video comparing inequality in Connecticut and in Bangkok. Both areas have similar GINI index scores. (Here’s a Conn. State Data Center map of GINI scores across the country and comparing them internationally, and here’s one looking at the scores withing Conn. cities and towns). Check out this GlobalPost video about Connectictut and Bangkok:

The GlobalPost print story describes the impact that the ending of county governments had on increasing economic disparity. The reporters spoke with Bridgeport resident (and sometime mayoral candidate) Jeff Kohut:

“In Connecticut, this process was supercharged when, in 1960, the suburban interests succeeded in changing the state constitution to abolish Connecticut’s eight county governments, eliminating any hope that the affluence surrounding Bridgeport or other struggling cities could be harnessed for redevelopment. Bridgeport natives like Kohut view this as a betrayal. The migration of more prosperous residents that fed the growth of neighboring towns like Stratford, Trumbull and Fairfield — ‘colonies of Bridgeport, if you will,’ says Kohut — encouraged a selfishness that exacerbated his hometown’s decline.”

The companion print story about Bangkok is online here.

How does Connecticut’s disparity compare nationally?

When it comes to incomes, Connecticut has one of the biggest disparities between its richest and poorest citizens. This interactive map was created by the Connecticut State Data Center at the University of Connecticut. Click on each state to see its score in the Gini Index, a scale of disparity.

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How much disparity is there in each Conn. town?

This interactive map, from the Connecticut State Data Center, shows the level of disparity within
each city and town in Connecticut. The measurement is the Gini Index, which is a standard measurement of inequality. A score of 0 would mean the region was completely equal in its distribution of wealth. A score of 1 would mean one person had ALL of the region’s wealth. Note that Greenwich has the widest economic range in the state. The most equal Conn. town is Union.

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“Connecticut’s Ribbon of Hardship”

In this Businessweek story from July, reporter Esme E. Deprez takes a close look at disparity in Connecticut, in part through the story of Jodey Lazarus of Stamford. The headline of the story (and of this post) is explained in this passage.

“The Connecticut portion of Interstate 95 was dubbed the “ribbon of hope” by state planners for its promise of prosperity when it was built in the 1950s. It’s still an apt nickname for those living in the hedge fund hubs along it: Greenwich and Westport. In Bridgeport, 35 minutes northeast of Greenwich, and where Lazarus attends community college, I-95 is more like a ribbon of hardship.”

We see the economic differences through the eyes of Lazarus’ 8 year old Ahhsha.

“It’s school vacation week and Lazarus’s daughter Ahhsha gazes out the window as they pass exits for Old Greenwich and Cos Cob. ‘Greenwich looks very different,’ says Ahhsha, a rail-thin girl with five perfect fresh braids tracing her scalp. ‘They have more sun than us, more windows on the houses, more beautiful houses.'”

The story describes the so-called “Great Gatsby Curve,” which economists say illustrates the increasing difficulty in moving up in the world. “What the Great Gatsby Curve illustrates is that where Lazarus and her kids ultimately end up on the income spectrum will be more a reflection of their family background and not of their talents,” the author writes.

Welcome to WSHU’s State of Disparity blog!

The difference between the very wealthy and the very poor is more evident and extreme in Connecticut than in probably any other state in the country.  We at WSHU are launching the “State of Disparity” project to shine a spotlight on that disparity. We’re interested in stories of wealth, poverty, and where those two worlds intersect. We’ll be addressing the issue in a series of radio stories, and updating this blog with our reporting and observations on the subject of economic disparity in the state.  And we want you to join us.  This blog is a place where we’d like you to share your comments, stories and observations about disparity in Connecticut.