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Census: Norwalk Poverty, Uninsured Rates Rising

The U.S. Census Bureau released data from its American Community Survey for Fairfield County and its biggest cities Thursday.
The U.S. Census Bureau released data from its American Community Survey for Fairfield County and its biggest cities Thursday. Photo Credit: U.S. Census Bureau, Public Information Office

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – More residents in Fairfield County were living below the federal poverty level and without health insurance in 2012 compared with recent years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau released data from its 2012 American Community Survey on Thursday. The numbers included the number of residents without health insurance and those living with incomes below the federal poverty level.

The federal poverty level is adjusted each year based on economic trends, and is determined by a sliding scale based on the number of people in a household. For example, the guideline for a family of four in 2013 is an income of $23,550 per year.

In 2012, an estimated 372,000 people in Connecticut lived in households with an income below the federal poverty line, or 10.7 percent of the population. Among those, 117,000 were under 18, or 14.8 percent of all children in the state. Both of those rates increased significantly from 2008, when 9.3 percent of all people and 12.6 percent of children lived below the poverty line.

“We need to look at all of the contributing factors—state and federal programs and taxes, the federal minimum wage, and employers that need to offer higher wages and benefits,” said Jillian Gilchrest, policy director for the Connecticut Association for Human Services, a statewide advocacy group.

The Census Bureau also released city-by-city data for all cities with more than 65,000 residents. Of the four Fairfield County towns that qualified, Bridgeport had the highest poverty rate, with 25.3 percent of residents and 37.6 percent of those under 18 under the threshold.

Norwalk had the second-highest rates (10.3 percent total, 13 percent of children), followed by Danbury (9.3 percent, 11 percent of children) and Stamford (7.7 percent, 9.7 percent of children). Fairfield County’s overall poverty rate was 8.9 percent overall and 11 percent for those under 18, both slightly higher than in 2008.

About 9.1 percent of Connecticut residents did not have health insurance in 2012, which was not a statistically significant increase from the year before. But the number of children without coverage rose over the last year, from 2.9 percent in 2011 to 3.8 percent in 2012.

“The apparent increase in uninsured children over this one-year period is concerning and surprising, given that we’ve seen thousands more uninsured children enrolling in the HUSKY health insurance program,” said Sharon Langer, senior policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children.

Norwalk was the Connecticut city with the biggest change in uninsured rate, especially among children. An estimated 14 percent of Norwalk residents under 18 did not have health insurance in 2012, compared with just 3.5 percent in 2011. The city’s overall uninsured rate climbed from 12.1 percent to 15.1 percent.

Countywide, the percentage of people without health insurance in 2012 was 11.4 percent, a statistically insignificant change compared to the last year. But among children the rate climbed from 3.2 percent to 5.1 percent in Fairfield County year-to-year.

Bridgeport had the highest uninsured rate in Fairfield County, with 23.4 percent of its residents and 8.5 percent of its children without coverage in 2012. Danbury was next with 18.4 percent of all residents uninsured and a 2.4 percent rate for those under 18. About 15.2 percent of all Stamford residents and 8.9 percent of children in the city were also uninsured.

But advocates such as Frances Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, expect the number of uninsured residents to go down soon, with the opening of Access Health CT, the state’s healthcare exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act. The exchange will allow residents without employer-paid healthcare to buy packages at rates set by the exchange.

“This is the state’s opportunity to level some of the disparities we see and our foundation stands ready to help in making sure the next phase of the Affordable Care Act brings much–needed relief to hard-working families,” Padilla said.

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