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More Immigrants, More Advanced Degrees, Same Old Commute

Changes In Census Data Collection And Release Help To Pinpoint Population's Evolution In State

By MARA LEE

December 18, 2010

For the first time since 2001, we can see how our towns and neighborhoods are changing.

The U.S. Census no longer sends a detailed questionnaire about housing, immigration, education, ancestry, commuting and income to one in six households every 10 years. Instead, it has expanded its annual surveys and uses that data to show what's happening in our country.

"We're changing dramatically as a society," said William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington. And getting more frequent data is a huge improvement. He said when people can see how immigrants are arriving, how people are getting older, how people are delaying marriage, and how more people are living alone, it changes how we view ourselves.

"It's important for ordinary citizens to learn who their neighbors are, how it's different from other parts of the state, how it's different from other parts of the United States," he said.

Over the coming months, The Courant will tell stories about wealth and poverty and the middle class, integration and segregation, immigration and staying put, marriage, widowhood, cohabitation and singletons, and more.

But for now, here's a tiny taste of the flood of information released this week about how we live today.

Immigration

The number of immigrants in the state between 2000 and 2009 rose 24 percent The data released this week, which show averages from 2005 to 2009 for every municipality in the state, revealed that some cities and towns changed far more. Averages are used because for smaller towns the sample sizes are too small to give accuate data year by year.

Among cities, Norwich had the fastest increase, as its immigrant population doubled to about 4,800. Meriden was next, with a 59 percent increase, as the number of immigrants in the city grew from about 3,760 to 6,000 during the period.

New Haven had the third-highest gain among cities, at 42.5 percent. A little more than half of New Haven's 20,000 foreign-born residents come from Latin America. Yale's labs, hospitals and classrooms include thousands of immigrant doctors, researchers and students from China, India, South Korea, England, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and other countries.

Education

The number of adults with advanced degrees masters, Ph.Ds, M.D.s and legal increased 21 percent between 2000 and '05-'09 and is now 15.5 percent. Connecticut is No. 3 in the country for the percent of its population with advanced degrees, behind Massachusetts and Maryland.

You might expect one of Fairfield County's suburban towns to have the most highly educated population, but that's not the case. Woodbridge, a suburb of New Haven, is tops, with 44 percent of adults having advanced degrees. Fairfield County towns are No. 2 through No. 6, and University of Connecticut professors bring Mansfield in at No. 7.

West Hartford, where 31.2 percent of adults have advanced degrees, moved up the education ladder in greater numbers than any of the towns in the state's top 10. Ten years ago, 26.2 percent of adults had more than a bachelor's degree.

Commuting

You may feel like you sit in traffic more each year, but the census surveys say that our average commuting time remained at 24 minutes from 2000 to 2009.

The town whose residents have the longest commute is Weston at 41 minutes; the town with the shortest commute is North Canaan, at 17 minutes.

Public transit use was also flat. The town with the highest percentage of public transit commuters is Darien, where 26 percent ride Metro-North trains. Despite Metro-North passing through Bridgeport and New Haven, Hartford is the heaviest public transit user among the state's big cities, at just under 15 percent.

Median Income

The rich get richer (and they mostly live in Fairfield County), but the poorest towns' rankings have changed over the decade.

In 1999, the top 10 towns had a midpoint income for households at more than $99,000 and less than $146,800. During this survey period, the top town changed from Darien to Weston, and the richest town in the state had a median household income of about $206,500.

In 1999, the poorest 10 towns, were, in order, Hartford, New Haven, New London, New Britain, Waterbury, Bridgeport, Windham, North Canaan, Norwich and Killingly.

During this period, Hartford was still poorest, at barely over $29,000, but the other players shifted. Windham fell four slots, and now is third-poorest in the state, after New Haven. Killingly and Norwich prospered enough to move out of the bottom 10. Now Torrington is No. 9, and East Hartford is No. 10, at about $48,750

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.
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