This Connecticut Metro Area Is The Most Unequal Place In America
Getty ImagesA woman in front of a graffitied building in Bridgeport.
A recent Business Insider ranking called the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro area in Fairfield County, Connecticut, the most unequal place in America, and it also happens to be the wealthiest area in the country.
In that area, the ultra-rich enclave of Greenwich lies just 20 miles up the road from the crime-ridden, post-industrial city of Bridgeport. Whereas Greenwich is dotted with mansions and country clubs, deserted factories and public-housing projects line the streets of Bridgeport.
If Fairfield County were a country, it would be the 14th-most unequal spot on the planet, Bloomberg reported in 2011. Just 5% of Fairfield County residents share almost 30% of the region’s income, while the bottom 20% share just 2.3%, according to the Business Insider ranking.
As of 2012, Bridgeport’s per capita income was $19,743, with 23% of residents living below the poverty line, according to the US Census Bureau. By contrast, the per capita income for Greenwich in 2012 was $83,270 — more than twice that of Fairfield County ($37,807), and 7.1% of residents live below the poverty line. The average Greenwich property sells for $948,500, whereas the average home in Bridgeport is worth $163,400.
Connecticut abolished county governments in 1960, removing the possibility that residents of poorer cities would ever benefit from the wealth in more affluent cities. With no county government to oversee the redistribution of wealth, the chances of poorer cities like Bridgeport and Norwalk ever being redeveloped are slim to none.
How Bridgeport Got So Poor In The First Place
Once a leading industrial city, Bridgeport suffered as the manufacturing industry became increasingly obsolete in the 1970s and ’80s, replaced by the service industry in most cities.
Getty ImagesA Bridgeport house in foreclosure.
The number of available jobs in Bridgeport has been steadily declining for 28 years, and the employment rate has plummeted 42% since 1970, according to Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development. Thousands of urban-middle-class residents have lost their jobs and fled the city to find work elsewhere.
How Greenwich Got To Be So Rich
Greenwich has been known as “the richest town per capita in the world” since the 1920s, when leading industrialists began moving in and spending their new money on glorious estates.
Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesA Greenwich mansion.
Years later, company executives looking to avoid the commute to New York City began setting up hedge funds, which now inhabit about a third of Greenwich’s office buildings. One-tenth of all hedge fund wealth worldwide, or $120 billion, is now managed out of Greenwich.
Crime In The Most Unequal Place In America
While one in 28 residents of Bridgeport will be a victim of a crime, one in 168 people will become a victim fewer than 20 miles away in Greenwich, according to Neighborhood Scout. While Greenwich is safer than 90% of US cities, earlier this year the FBI listed Bridgeport as the sixth-most crime-ridden city in the US, WFSB reported.
The nature of each city’s crimes is very different. While crime in Greenwich usually consists of white-collar crime like embezzlement or investment fraud, Bridgeport’s crimes tend to be much more violent: the rate of murder, rape, robbery, and assault in Bridgeport is 9.5 per 1,000 inhabitants, more than 50 times that of Greenwich (.19 per 1,000 inhabitants), according to an FBI crime report.
Gun violence has become a fact of life in Bridgeport. Between 2000 and 2012, 63% of gun-related deaths or injuries in Connecticut occurred in Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven.
One Greenwich resident was asked by NPR reporter Michael Moran how she felt about the plight of the 145,000 Bridgeport residents just down the road. “I don’t think of it at all,” she replied.