In the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, no small number of Connecticut residents found themselves in the same place as a decade earlier coming out of the Great Recession— trying to push their financial cushion out by another week or two, or chip down a pile of debt by an equivalent margin.
For some, it might come as a surprise that their home state finds itself in the same place as well — as the second “most prosperous” in the nation, according to one think tank that advocates for pathways out of poverty.
Connecticut remains sandwiched between Massachusetts and Minnesota on the Legatum Institute’s annual ranking that adds up 11 broad criteria. Broadly, the London organization defines prosperity as “effective institutions, an open economy, and empowered people who are healthy and educated” in its words.
While that includes economic clout, it extends to living standards and societal considerations like inclusiveness, crime and governance.
As of June, Connecticut was even with New Mexico for the highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 7.9 percent. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates Connecticut was ahead of only a handful of eastern states for economic growth in the first quarter of 2021 as COVID-19 vaccinations gained momentum.
Gov. Ned Lamont addressed Connecticut’s long-term efforts to improve prosperity for all, in Hartford Wednesday on a new program for employers to provide detailed feedback on specific skills schools should cover in their curricula. Lamont promised Connecticut kids will be getting the most inspirational and relevant science, technology, engineering and math instruction — STEM in learning circles — that will prepare them for better paying careers.
“This is a state whose jobs engine has been on stall for decades,” Lamont said. “We’re going to make sure these are opportunities where we look back and say we gave kids … [and] young people an opportunity they wouldn’t have had otherwise. And businesses that are in a global search for talent all over the world … know they don’t have to look any further.”
Another group lost out on opportunities during the pandemic, at a potential future cost — earners ready to purchase a home for the first time, who found themselves on the outside looking in as wealthy New York City residents scouted Connecticut for weekend getaways or permanent homes, outbidding rival buyers. Economists rank homeownership as a pillar of economic growth, allowing families to build equity and stability.
The Legatum Institute rated Connecticut outside the top 10 in only two of its 11 categories — economic quality and “social capital” which assigns values to the strength of families and civic participation, on the proposition that builds trust in communities leading to shared economic growth.
In Hartford on Wednesday, Sen. Doug McCrory (D-2nd) said Connecticut has ample room for improvement on that front as it emerges from the pandemic.
“Our school systems are almost 50 percent Black and Brown children — and these children don’t often get the opportunities,” McCrory said. “If we’re going to move this state forward, we’re going to have to move it from the bottom up, … where people are engaged — people who normally don’t get the opportunity to sit at tables and make decisions on how we are going to move forward as a state.”
Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman