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Why Are Hartford And Bridgeport On A Brookings Institute List Of The Wealthiest Metropolitan Areas?

Our Super-Rich Metropolitan Areas

By Gregory B. Hladky

January 24, 2012

When the Brookings Institution came out with a listing of the 200 wealthiest metropolitan areas in the entire freaking world, it seemed shockingly weird to see Hartford at the very top and Bridgeport just below at No. 5.

Whenever Connecticut folks think about their two largest cities, the words that tend to pop up first are poverty, crime and unemployment. So how the hell could Hartford and Bridgeport be ranked above Zurich, Stockholm, Boston, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Paris, Munich and Los Angeles?

It's the kind of question that continues to fuel the Occupy Wall Street movement and the debate about the division of wealth in this nation.

The technical answer is that the "Hartford" listed on that chart is more than simply the poverty-riddled city itself. It's the Hartford metropolitan area, which includes all of Hartford, Tolland and Middlesex Counties, and the wealth we're talking about is "gross domestic product," not individual incomes.

So the region's wealth includes all the money and products companies like UTC, Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Sundstrand, Cigna, Aetna and The Hartford are pulling in from "high value" stuff like fighter jet engines and insurance policies.

The "Bridgeport" deal is exactly the same, because that metropolitan area basically includes Stamford, Norwalk and the rest of affluent Fairfield County and all its corporate headquarters and multi-billion-dollar hedge funds and financial houses.

So if you take all the money and the value of the products those companies are making and divide it by the number of people living in that region, you end up with a figure for the "per capita gross domestic product."

For the Hartford metro area, that comes out at $75,086 per person, which is higher than in Oslo, Norway; Silicon Valley's San Jose; or Abu Dhabi in the Persian Gulf. The number for Metro Bridgeport comes in at $63,555, above Zurich;Washington, D.C.; Stockholm, Sweden; Boston and San Francisco.

Carey Anne Nadeau, one of the authors of the Brookings Institution report that came out earlier this month, says those Hartford and Bridgeport regions tend to specialize in "producing expensive and exportable goods" and services.

"There is a lot of sophisticated, high-value, 21st century manufacturing going on in those areas," says Edward J. Deak, a professor of economics at Fairfield University. He adds that, when you add in the high-rolling financial sector, it becomes a lot easier to understand the rankings.

Still, Deak says the top five wealthiest metropolitan areas in the world is "an elite group to be associated with" for the Hartford and Bridgeport regions.

Especially when you consider grim statistics like the Hartford region being included among the 10 U.S. metro areas with the greatest increases in concentrated poverty.

Toledo topped this unfortunate list (which was also put out by the Brookings Institution) with a 15.3 percent jump in poverty between 2000 and 2009. Hartford came in 10th, with a 9.5 percent poverty increase. Bridgeport was farther down the concentrated poverty list with an 8.8 percent increase over that period.

And there's also the chilling fact that 39 percent of the City of Hartford's children are living in poverty, according to census reports.

Deak says there is a simple, if depressing, explanation as to why you can have pockets of deep poverty within these regions where vast wealth is being generated.

"It's that the people in those [inner city] areas are not participating in the high-value activities that are going on," he says. Deak says many of Hartford's and Bridgeport's poorest "have low skill levels, low education levels" that make it horribly difficult for them to get jobs in places like Sikorsky or UTC or Aetna or GE or UBS.

"The central cities are not participating in these economic activities," says Deak.

He argues that the dire need to give those people the education and skills they need to tap into all that regional wealth means "there's an important role for government" to provide some remedies.

Those Occupy Wall Street dudes can no doubt offer a few more drastic remedies of their own.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Advocate.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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