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A Study In Contrasts

Hartford Courant Editorial

December 26, 2011

If you have a good job and money, Connecticut is truly marvelous. But if you don't have a decent income, life can be tougher here than in communities around the country where expenses are lower, the middle class is broader-based and amenities are not so difficult to attain.

This conventional wisdom about the two Connecticuts has now been tested and proved, and the proof offered in two recent articles.

The first comes in the journal "The Connecticut Economy." University of Connecticut economist Steven Lanza evaluated 26 factors, including incomes and cultural amenities, to conclude that life here is really nice compared to other states: Professor Lanza weighted Connecticut's high educational attainment, access to cultural amenities, high incomes and good health care as assets, while its poverty, air pollution and unemployment rate were weighed as liabilities. Taking everything into account, Connecticut ranks in the top five of states in the country in quality of life. Add the high cost of housing and taxes here, however, and the state drops to 14 -- still higher than most other states.

But before we all engage in a self-satisfied group hug, consider a story from Bloomberg News. It examined numbers from the U.S. Census to show that income disparity in Connecticut is so stark that if our state were a country, we would live in the 14th most unequal place on the planet, just behind Brazil and a whole passel of countries in South America. Some counter that this simply reflects life in America, which has become less equal over the last 30 years, in part because of increasing advantages to the rich and fewer supports to the poor. But that's not entirely true. America taken as a whole landed 40th on the list, showing that Connecticut is still a place of stunning inequality.

Connecticut's higher-than-average home prices, utility costs and food prices, as well as its sparse public transportation, make even renting an apartment a real struggle for those holding down a low-paying job -- or several jobs. That's why it's critical Connecticut improve underperforming schools and get the Hartford-New Britain busway and New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail up and running.

This isn't just a matter of simple fairness. The more we can help everyone have a good life, the more secure the future of our state will be. Lopsided income inequality and the kind of contrast we have become too accustomed to in Connecticut are not what America should be about.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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