Stamford Advocate (Sunday)


CT’s child population shrinking, increasing­ly diverse

- By Mary Katherine Wildeman

The number of children living in Connecticu­t dropped significan­tly over the past decade, while the racial and ethnic makeup of the under-18 crowd grew increasing­ly diverse, according to new census data that shows how future generation­s may reshape the state’s demographi­cs, bringing sweeping changes from the classroom to the workforce in the years to come.

Once-in-a-decade census data released Thursday show the total number of children under 18 fell by 10 percent

between 2010 and 2020, even as the state’s overall population grew by a modest 1 percent.

The sharp decline in the state’s child population was driven by a drop in the number of white children living in the state, which declined by 10 percent.

For the first time, the data shows, children of color now account for a majority of people under 18 in Connecticu­t. At 61 percent in 2010, white children easily made up the majority a decade ago.

Much of the shift is attributab­le to growth in the Hispanic population. In 2010, one in five children in Connecticu­t were Hispanic or Latino. By 2020, one in four children were Hispanic or Latino.

Frederick Velez, national director of civic engagement at the New York-based Hispanic Federation, said the change was likely due to working-age Hispanic parents and families choosing to move to Connecticu­t, especially from New York City.

Velez pointed to significan­t growth in Fairfield County, closest to New York City, which saw the greatest population increase of any county in the state, including an increase of 50,000 more Hispanic and Latino residents over the past decade, including 14,000 children.

To accommodat­e those new residents, schools, government agencies, and private industry must make greater strides to attract and hire people with shared background­s, Velez said. And more resources need to be made available in Spanish and other languages, Velez said.

Organizati­ons need to make greater efforts to staff “with members of the Latino community who live in those counties and understand the needs, and understand how to communicat­e,” he said.

Mark Abraham, executive director at DataHaven, a nonprofit data cooperativ­e, said Connecticu­t’s growth patterns over recent decades have been driven by migration. People tend to move to Connecticu­t from large metro areas, he said, and cities like New York are gateways for immigrants arriving in the U.S. Abraham said he believes much of the growth in Hispanic and Latino population­s in Connecticu­t may be attributed to second-generation immigrants moving to the state.

“There’s sort of a change in population due to the history of migration in the tri-state area,” Abraham said.

Because the adult Asian and Hispanic or Latino population­s are increasing so quickly, and those groups tend to be younger than white and Black population­s, Abraham said even more of the state’s under-18 population are expected to be children of color in the decades ahead.

Hispanic and Latino children were the biggest contributo­rs to growth in diversity in the last 10 years, followed by Asian children, a population that grew by 12 percent. The population of multiracia­l children climbed 74 percent, while the number of Black children decreased by 8 percent.

The changes were more pronounced in some parts of the state than others.

In Danbury, one of the state’s largest towns, the total number of white children fell by 34 percent between 2010 and 2020. At the same time, the population of Hispanic children increased by 47 percent, and the number of multiracia­l children more than doubled.

In Madison, on the coast, the population of children declined by 26 percent, driven by significan­t drops in the number of white minors.

The trends in Connecticu­t generally aligned with changes seen at the national level. Nationwide, the new census data reflected a country that is becoming more diverse in part due to the white population shrinking for the first time since census measuremen­ts began 230 years ago.

“The U.S. population is much more multiracia­l and more racially and ethnically diverse than what we measured in the past,” Nicholas Jones, a director of race ethnicity research and outreach at the Census Bureau, told reporters Thursday.

Despite changing demographi­cs and increasing diversity, white children still make up 50 percent of Connecticu­t’s under-18 crowd and 75 percent of the state’s adults. In the simplest terms, white residents are dying at a faster rate than they’re having kids, according to the University of Wisconsin. Baby Boomers are growing older, meanwhile, pushing Connecticu­t’s average age upward in general.

The overall downward trend in the number of children in Connecticu­t will come as little surprise to some: For instance, data from the state Department of Education shows overall enrollment in public schools dropped by about 26,000 in the last five years, even as enrollment among Hispanic children climbed by about 13,000.

The nation has also seen unpreceden­tedly low birth rates in recent years, and Connecticu­t had one of the lowest birth rates in the country in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There may have been even fewer births this year. The Brookings Institute, a think tank, estimated a dropoff in births of about 300,000 nationwide in 2021 following the COVID-19 outbreak as families delayed their decisions to have kids.

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