Trinity begins a two-year study of the state of Hartford. The picture of a declining city at the moment is a discouraging one.
By ADAM BULGER, Hartford Advocate Staff Writer
February 14, 2008
The audience watching in Trinity College's Washington Room auditorium on Friday, Feb. 8 was treated to a fascinating — and at times depressing — data dump.
At a panel discussion called "The Transformation of Hartford," professors from Fairfield University, the University of Connecticut and Trinity, presented their research on Hartford.
Each presenter explored a different aspect of Hartford. Trinity International Studies Professor Janet Bauer looked at immigration's impact on the city, Trinity Sociology Professor Michael Sacks studied trends in the greater Hartford area, while others looked at population trends in the city and other issues.
Here's some of what attendees learned:
The largest migration of African Americans into Hartford came between 1900 and 1920, and white flight started before the '30s. The current per capita income in Hartford is $13,000, less than half of the state's per capita income.
Fifty-one languages are spoken in Hartford's schools.
In the '80s and afterwards, there was a major influx of Vietnamese, Russian, Kosovar and Bosnian refugees in Hartford while at the same time the federal government severely reduced support for refugees.
In the '90s, Hartford's population dropped by a larger percentage than any other American city of its size.
Former Hartford city councilor Louise Simmons, who currently works for UConn, gave a presentation called "Does Anybody Care About Poverty and Inequality?"
Among the troubling statements made during her presentation was that while Hartford is no longer the second worst city in America for child poverty rates, the reason the city has moved down on the list to sixth is not because Hartford has improved, but because other cities have gotten even worse.
A city official who attended the panel echoed Arena's observation, saying that one overlooked truth became apparent.
"I'm going to make myself remember that Hartford's poverty is so bad. People tend to forget it," Hartford City Councilor Luis Cotto said.
The panel was the first presentation in a two-year research project by the newly created Trinity Center for Urban and Global Studies. It marks a subtle, but noteworthy shift in the Hartford liberal arts school's relationship with its surrounding city. The school has undertaken several noteworthy community projects like the Learning Corridor, but center chairman Xiangming Chen said the Center is the closest marriage between academic resources and outreach.
"The Hartford research seminar is intended to look at the city more comprehensively, more as a system," said Chen.
Chen, a former professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago with a background in researching emerging urban centers in Asia, wants the center to be a point of connection for several different Trinity efforts, linking research, student internships and Trinity's international programs. The hope is that all aspects will inform one another.
"We want to present a local, regional and then global perspective. It's a small city, but it's very complex and very diverse," Chen said.
The two-year project, Chen said, will culminate in a research book and policy proposal.