The largest-ever quality of life survey of Connecticut residents, conducted during the past six months, has found that four out of five adults report feeling happy and satisfied with where they live; but one-third of adults report just barely or not getting by financially. The disparities in quality of life across the state’s population were a constant running through the survey results. In-depth interviews were completed with 16,219 randomly-selected adults in every Connecticut city and town. Although Connecticut does well when compared to national and international averages of health, income, and education, survey officials said, results reflect that disparities are still great, with a sizeable share of residents continuing to face significant barriers to economic success, safety, health, and other critical aspects of well-being.
The 2015 DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey, which asked more than 100 questions of survey respondants, created a detailed portrait of social and economic conditions in towns throughout Connecticut and adjacent sections of New York State. DataHaven, a non-profit group leading the collection and study of neighborhood-level public data on key social and economic trends, undertook the survey with assistance from Sienna College in New York. It is said to be the most intensive effort of its kind in the United States, according to the survey’s leaders. Among the key findings:
- 74% of men and 75% of women in Connecticut report feeling mostly or completely happy during the previous day. However, this measure varied widely by income, ranging from 53% among adults earning less than $15,000 per year to 89% among adults earning $200,000 or more.
- Although official unemployment rates have fallen substantially since 2012, 14% of Connecticut workers are still considered “under-employed,” meaning that they have no job and would like to work or they are currently working part-time but would prefer to have a full-time job. Within the Greater New Haven region, the “under-employment” rate among workers fell from 21% in 2012 to 13% in 2015.
- Two-thirds (66%) of Connecticut residents say that they are either doing alright or living comfortably when asked how they are managing financially these days. However, 11% are finding it difficult or very difficult, and an additional 21% say that they are just getting by.
- Many in Connecticut still struggle to afford food, adequate housing, and reliable transportation. One out of every ten adults identifying as white or Asian-American, and one out of every four adults identifying as African-American or Latino, reported that they did not have enough money to buy food for themselves or their family at some point during the past 12 months – in some cases, facing this situation almost every month of the year. About 6% of adults reported that they did not have enough money to provide adequate housing for themselves or their family, and 13% reported a lack of reliable transportation, at some point in the past year.
“The purpose of the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey is to produce the highest-quality, neighborhood-level information on issues that are most meaningful to local residents,” explained Mark Abraham, Executive Director of DataHaven. Abraham also pointed out that “the initiative is helping to strengthen collaborations between dozens of organizations and agencies that are working together to measure social progress and improve population well-being at the statewide and local levels.” The metrics in the survey complement traditional statistics on topics such as employment, personal income, reported crimes, tax base, and industry output.
More than 50 of Connecticut’s leading foundations, hospitals, community institutions, and government agencies have supported the survey initiative. Major funders are located in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, Waterbury, New Britain, Norwalk, Danbury, Greenwich, Middletown, Derby, Bristol, Norwich, New London, Manchester and other cities across the state.
The survey also found that residents of some urban neighborhoods have substantially lower rates of overall satisfaction with where they live as well as much greater concerns about government responsiveness, police effectiveness, and public services. On the other hand, cities such as Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport, and New Haven have relatively higher proportions of adults who are optimistic that their neighborhood is improving, and residents of higher-income neighborhoods within these city centers are in some cases significantly more satisfied with local quality of life than the average resident.
"The Connecticut Council for Philanthropy along with other funding partners invested in the first ever statewide Community Wellbeing Survey, a scientific survey of the state’s entire adult population that will provide timely, powerful knowledge about our communities and enable us to better know the people and places we care about,” added Maggie Osborn, President of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy.
In a departure from most statewide and national surveys, officials said, the DataHaven program brings together existing grassroots efforts across the state – effectively unifying more than a dozen pre-existing regional or local surveys into a single, high-quality effort that now covers all areas in Connecticut. The power of the survey results was greatly enhanced both by the number of respondents, as well as by having the same questions being asked of respondents in many different areas.
DataHaven designed its 2015 Community Wellbeing Survey with the support of nearly 100 local government, academic, health-care, and community partners as well as a panel of epidemiologists and survey research experts. The 20-minute survey, conducted by the Siena College Research Institute (SRI) in Loudonville, New York, involved landline and cell phone interviews with nearly 17,000 randomly-selected adults throughout Connecticut and adjacent sections of Westchester County between April and October, 2015.