Charles Patton, PhD, previously served as the Senior Policy & Research Manager at the Partnership for Strong Communities.
Recently, Opportunity Insights, which is a partnership between Harvard and the U.S. Census Bureau, built a tool (The Opportunity Atlas) that allows users to explore which neighborhoods offer children the best opportunity for upward mobility (i.e., economic success). Users are able to conduct custom analyses with census tract level data.
At the Partnership, our goal is to make every town in Connecticut a place where anyone can access the resources they need to succeed. However, as we know and as this mapping tool illustrates, this is not currently the case.
There are many places in Connecticut that offer children valuable resources (e.g., high-quality education, social networks, low incarceration rates, etc.) that research has shown is critical to their success. However, exclusionary zoning practices that prevent the construction of smaller homes as well as apartment complexes and perpetuate high housing costs, essentially build walls around these municipalities so the vast majority of lower-income families cannot live there.
For example, Wilton, CT is a great place for a low-income student to climb the economic ladder but not many low-income families can afford a home there. Low-income children (i.e., children with parents whose income was in the 25th percentile or around $25,000) in one Wilton, CT neighborhood (Tract 09001045300) went on to almost triple this household income and make an average of $76,000 per-year.
However, the median rent to live in that Wilton neighborhood was $1,400, which makes it inaccessible for many less fortunate families.
Nevertheless, there is hope. The Opportunity Atlas map also shows “opportunity bargains”. These are relatively affordable areas that offer an increased chance of earning more than one’s parents and potentially escaping poverty.
Manchester (Buckley Tract 09003514101) is an example of an opportunity bargain. Low-income children who were raised there went on to make an average of $51,000 per-year.
The rent was about $500 cheaper than Wilton, which makes it much more accessible for less fortunate families.
So, while we continue to push toward our goal of making every place in Connecticut a space where anyone can access the resources they need to succeed, this tool allows families and their advocates to strategically locate places where households can afford a home now and provide their children with the best opportunity to experience upward mobility. To learn more about affordable housing in your community click here to see our 2018 Housing Data Profiles. These profiles detail the current housing stock and needs across Connecticut, and include charts and graphs visualizing data on income, age distribution of residents, affordable units, etc.