"Disconnected youth" are young adults between 16 and 24 years old that are neither working nor studying. This is a population that has been poorly served by the education system, often failing to retain them as students. As a result, they reach the labor force without the academic and soft skills that would enable them to become self-sufficient.
Disconnected youth are twice as likely to live in poverty, three times as likely to have left high school without a diploma, and half as likely to hold a bachelor's degree. Disconnected female youth are more than three times as likely to have a child. Nationwide, the cost to taxpayers was $26.8 billion in 2013 alone, just taking into account increased use of public benefits.Connecticut currently has more than 46,000 disconnected youth, with a disproportionate overrepresentation of racial minorities:
if the numbers for the state as a whole are worrisome, the gap is even large in two of our largest metro areas, New Haven and Hartford. These cities are ranked third and fourth nationwide on percentage of disconnected Latino youth:
CAHS has long worked in programs that support this population (developmental and adult education, apprenticeships). Now with Opportunity Connecticut we will be looking at the structural causes behind theses disparities.
The Connecticut General Assembly is in session, and the budget hearings have begun. With the state facing a deficit north of $570 million in the coming fiscal year, legislators are again scrambling to find ways to balance the budget.
There seems to be very little appetite so far for any kind of tax increases, so Governor Malloy and legislators are talking about cuts - and these cuts are being discussed, right now, at multiple Appropriations Committee hearings at the Capitol. You can find the calendar here; today the committee will hear about higher education. Tomorrow at 4 pm they will host the hearing for human services which may be of most interest to you.
There are two things to bear in mind about the budget revisions proposed by Governor Malloy, one about process, one about where the cuts will fall. Both are important, and deserve some attention.
A. WHERE ARE THE CUTS?
The cuts for fiscal year 2017 add up to $570 million. The departments that are facing the worst cuts are the Department of Social Services ($61 million), Department of Developmental Services ($55 million) and from addiction and mental health services ($71 million).
This by itself would be worrisome, but it goes beyond that. According to the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance´s analysis, 72% of the cuts ($408 million) come from non-profit providers. Consequently, many core services offered by these providers will again face an uphill battle meeting the needs of low-income families in the state with diminishing resources.
The slow economic recovery has left many families behind. The budget is asking them again to bear the brunt of the state fiscal woes.
B. HOW ARE THE CUTS BEING INTRODUCED?
Governor Malloy has decided to consolidate most line items in the budget under a generic "agency operations" heading. After that, his proposal states that spending will be cut 5.75%, but without specifying exactly from where.
This is a problem. Instead of the traditional budget breakdown of proposed reductions with specific explanations of what line items are facing cuts, this proposal just offers an agency-wide spending level, and gives the authority to each agency head to decide where to cut. The result is a budget that imposes harsh spending cuts but is lacking in transparency, with no information on what programs will be eliminated.
This is not acceptable. Transparency is an essential for accountability. The Governor´s budget proposal shifts the responsibility and decision making for crucial spending decisions from an open, public process at the General Assembly towards one with no public participation, no open hearings and limited accountability. The only way to make those decisions and introduce real, needed changes to the state budget is through an open, accountable and transparent budget process, not by delegating authority to the executive branch.
WHAT IS NEXT? HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
Right now we encourage you to reach out to your legislators, even more so ifthey are on Appropriations. If you are able, we strongly encourage you to submit testimony to the committee, specially if you are involved in a program that is facing cuts. The message is simple:
Feel free to give us a call if you have questions or need a hand drafting testimony, setting up a meeting with a legislator or preparing talking points. We will be happy to help.
- In Connecticut, 10.8 percent of people were poor in 2014 - roughly the same as in 2013.
- The child poverty rate also remains stuck, with 14.9 percent of Connecticut children living in poverty in 2014 - roughly the same as in 2013, as well.
- Nearly 21 percent of African Americans and 26.5 percent of Latinos in Connecticut are poor. In contrast, poverty for non-Hispanic whites is 6.1 percent.
- Nearly 15 percent of Connecticut children are growing up in poverty, and the statistics are worse for children of color: 30.5 percent of African American children and 33.4 percent of Latino children in Connecticut are poor.
- Congress will cut 1,010 existing housing choice vouchers in Connecticut alone, although today 1 in 4 low income renters in the state pay more than half of their income in rent.
- Cuts to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit could push146,000 Connecticut residents, including 63,000 children, into or deeper into poverty.
Besides the disappointing poverty data, the Census release included a very important piece of good news: the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is working really well. The percentage of residents in Connecticut without health insurance dropped from 9.4 to 6.9%. The decrease is statistically significant - close to 90,000 people that did not have insurance last year have it now.
For children the drop is smaller, and not statistically significant, although the starting point was already low: only 3.7% of Connecticut children remain uninsured, down from 4.3% in 2013. Full coverage is within grasp.
The ACA is not just having positive effects in our small, progressive state in the northeast. Nationwide, the uninsured rate has dropped from 14.5% to 11.7% in one year. The decrease will be even steeper with wider Medicaid adoption, but the trend is in the right direction.
As usual, CT Voices have a policy brief covering this issue as well. You can find it here.
Despite an improving national and state economy, new data released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) show many Connecticut residents are still struggling to afford the state’s high cost of living. CFED’s 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard ranked the state among the lowest across various measures of housing affordability, including homeownership by income (47th), housing cost burden for renters (44th), housing cost burden for homeowners (43rd) and overall affordability of homes (39th).
harder for many Connecticut residents to keep up. It ranked Connecticut dead last (51st) among all states and the District of Columbia for average credit card debt and 36th for its high rate of underemployed residents, defined as part-time workers who want full-time jobs and discouraged workers who have stopped searching for employment. The report also found that 14.9% of jobs were in occupations with low wages.
These findings are included in the 2015 Asset and Opportunity Scorecard from CFED, part of a comprehensive nationwide analysis on American´s ability to save, build wealth, and become financially secure. Connecticut is ranked 27th in the nation, down from 25th last year.
All this is despite some very strong state policies on the areas covered by the report, many of them very recent. The state was ranked in the top ten of all states in policies designed to promote Financial Assets & Income (3rd), Health Care (6th) and Education (5th). On the remaining two issue areas, Businesses & Jobs and Housing & Homeownership, Connecticut remained in the top half of states, ranking 17th and 13th, respectively.
CAHS and the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) have released an analysis reviewing the latest census poverty data for Connecticut and the rest of the nation. The new figures show a state than far from coming back from the recession stronger, is leaving more families behind.
Although the recession officially ended in 2009, poverty has increased in the last four years: 9.4% of Connecticut´s population was below the Federal Poverty Line in 2009, compared to 10.7% last year. Children are still the hardest hit, as well as minorities. To make things worse, inequality got even worse - the income of the top 1% of US earners grew by 31.4% since the end of the recession, compared to 0.4% to the other 99% of Americans.
You can download the full report here, with additional details regarding education, inequality, access to jobs and food insecurity.
Inequality, both regarding income and wealth, is slowly getting back to our national debate. The benefits of economic growth in the past three decades have increasingly been going to those at the top of the income distribution, while wages remain flat for the middle class or even slowly decline for the poor.
Although inequality has been trending up in most developed nations, the United States is an outlier on the magnitude of this shift. Consider this, using data from Atkinson, Piketty and Saez (original graph):
In this graph there are two outliers with growing inequality in the past two or three decades: Sweden (that goes from being extraordinarily equal to just very egalitarian) and US. In our case, the US goes from having more or less average levels of inequality to being far and beyond any other developed nation.
Today at the CLASS conference we gave a presentation on the rise of inequality both in the US and in Connecticut, offering a lot more data and graphs showing how things have changed in the country in the last 30 years, and offering some policy ideas on the effects of these growing disparities and how we can address them. You can download the Powerpoint from our presentation here (PDF) o you can have a look at the slides after the jump.
Inequality in Connecticut:
Via Kevin Drum, a quick look at the share of national wealth in the hands of the top 3% of Americans, as compared to the bottom 90%:
The data comes from the Federal Reserve´s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances. In 1989 the top 3% were already ahead by 11 points. 24 years later, the distance has climbed to 30.
It is important to stress that this is something fairly new. The United States was in 1970 one of the most egalitarian societies in the developed world, with an income distribution not that different from what we could see in Germany or Sweden. Starting in the early eighties things suddenly changed, and the US became a remarkable outlier in this regard, with only the UK coming even close. The rise of inequality in the United States was certainly not inevitable, by any means.
40% of all households depend on women as the sole or primary breadwinner. Yet, today in Connecticut women are paid 77cents for every dollar paid to a man for the same work. In reality this means that women must donate an average of three months work each year before they begin to be paid equally to their male counterparts. This wage gap is found across all income levels and all levels of educational attainment. (PCSW Research Brief)
But what does it mean for our economy?
When considering the wage gap, single parent households that are headed by working women face greater barriers to economic security for themselves and for their children. So what would it mean if women received equal pay? There would be additional money for groceries, child care payments, and rent; equal compensation could make the difference between poverty and economic sustainability for many working mothers. In fact, it is estimated by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research that the very high poverty rate for working single mothers would fall by nearly half, from 28.7 % to 15%. This in turn will greatly reduce children living in poverty. With fewer families in poverty Connecticut will pay far less for social services, there will be a larger tax base and children will have a greater opportunity to grow up in a healthy and positive environment. The result would be an economically stronger Connecticut.
What can be done?
During a recent round table discussion at the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Senator Blumenthal said the time for equal pay is now. He along with others in Connecticut’s democratic congressional delegation, including Chris Murphy and Rosa DeLauro, are hoping to gather enough support to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014. The Paycheck Fairness Act would build upon the Equal Pay Act which of 1963 by addressing some of the loopholes that exist in that legislation. It would require that:
- employers rather than employees carry the burden of proof when addressing equal pay issues
- companies be prohibited from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination
- penalties be strengthened for equal pay violations, including both compensatory and punitive damages
Blumenthal believes there is majority support for this bill; however the Senate was unable to gather the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster in the Senate. He is hoping that with additional support and advocacy work, this bill will pass before years end. For more information :
- Blumenthal Calls For Passage Of Paycheck Fairness Act, Demands Equal Pay For Women
- Hispanic Women’s Wage Inequality data show that Connecticut is one of the ten worst states in the country:
As we have mentioned in the past, concentrated poverty is rising in Connecticut. An area of concentrated poverty is defined as census tracts with poverty rates of 40 percent or more. Currently 5.4 million Americans live in these areas and the number has been increasing steadily since 2000. In a fascinating report, Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube at the Brookings Institution analyze
the data. Surprisingly, suburban areas in the sunbelt are some of the hardest hit, but the numbers for some of Connecticut's metro areas are dismal:
- Harford/West Hartford/East Hartford: 22.3% live in concentrated poverty areas, 15th worst in the country.
- New Haven/Milford metro area: 17.9% live in concentrated poverty areas, 25th worst in the country.
- Bridgeport/Stamford/Norwalk: 7.9%, 71st worst in the country.