Milford, CT

Analyzing the Desirability of Milford, Connecticut 

by Corinne Kentor and Lucas Riccardi 

1 | Introduction: Selling a City

Milford, Connecticut touts itself as “A small city with a big heart!”[1]  Scrolling quickly through the city’s website, potential residents are introduced to hackneyed images of a classic “small town” where “charm” is coupled with “the sense of history” that comes from living in “an English settlement dating from 1639.”[2]  Milford is a mid-sized suburb that touts its adorable ice cream shops and romantic Victorian inns, invoking familiar images of colonial New England in most of its promotional material.  At the same time, the city works to balance sentiment with success, highlighting the easy access residents have to major cities and airports and praising its “solid public education system” and private school network.[3]  Milford markets itself as an old-timey, know-your-neighbors kind of town, but the city is careful to couple bucolic language with references to its larger retail, manufacturing, and service industries, from the local mall to the newly-expanded Milford Hospital.[4]  Milford’s promotional material provides a decent roadmap for a more extensive review of the suburb, which reveals how and why the town attempts to distinguish itself from other suburban emblems of colonial New England.[5]

 

2 | Milford’s Businesses and the Local Economy

The heart of Milford is its downtown area, a collection of waterfront shops and restaurants located along the marina.  Aside from its large shopping mall and small businesses, Milford’s economy depends largely on its manufacturing industries, which develop various “consumer products, fabricated metals, [and] plastics.”[6]  While Milford attempts to market itself as a tourist destination, the local economy is in reality more dependent on larger industrial complexes, which are predominantly located in and around residential neighborhoods.[7]  Milford offers residents the opportunity to work relatively close to their homes, making it an appealing place both to purchase a home and to establish a career.[8]  At the same time, a swath of boutique stores and restaurants of various styles and price points offer residents various opportunities to enjoy the luxuries of a small-town downtown.  Both the Economic and Community Development profile on Milford’s website and the downtown welcome page emphasize the important role small businesses play in Milford’s economy, but further investigation reveals that the Subway fast food corporation and Milford Hospital are two of the top three employers in the city, according to the 2013 Annual Financial Report.[9]  In addition to the 10 Subway restaurants found in Milford, the corporation headquarters also provide substantial employment opportunities for locals and those living close to the suburb.  While it may have a “small-town feel,” Milford’s economy is primarily supported by larger firms and businesses like Subway, which, while decidedly less charming, prove a relatively stable anchor for the city’s finances.[10]  

 

3 | Residential demographics

Milford is a town of 53,358, making it one of the largest New Haven suburbs by population. 89.1% of its residents identify as White. It has equal populations of Hispanic/Latino and Asian populations, at 5.2% and 5.3% respectively, and an African American population of 2.5%. Roughly one out of ten residents is foreign born, and 12.3% of residents speak a language other than English in the home.[11]  These racial, ethnic and (inter)national demographics are remarkably similar to those of nearby suburbs, including Woodbridge, North Haven, and East Haven.  However, Milford is decidedly less diverse by these metrics than the suburbs situated more closely to New Haven’s urban core, such as West Haven and Hamden. In addition, patterns of residence in Milford are reasonably spread out. While one Asian enclave appears in census tract 1502 (in 2010, the neighborhood was 26.3% Asian, in comparison to the town’s 5.3% Asian population), most other racial groups appear to be dispersed evenly throughout the suburb (see Figure 1).[12]

 

Figure1

Figure 1. Percentage of White population (left), percentage of non-White population (right) by census tract. Darker shades indicate higher percentage.

 

The socioeconomic demographic data shows that the average Milford resident has a high level of income and is relatively well-educated. Three-quarters of the housing stock in Milford is owner-occupied, and the median home value is $304,200.[13] The median household income is well above the county average – $80,743 versus $61,114 – although this statistic places the town in the middle-range for New Haven suburbs.[14] Milford does offer some affordable housing options for low-income families and individuals, including the Milford Redevelopment and Housing Partnership.[15]  

While Milford distinguishes itself greatly from urban New Haven in economic terms, educational attainment in the two environments is comparable, with around one third of both populations possessing a Bachelor’s degree or higher. This data is in line with Milford’s marketable image as a small, humble town where residents still enjoy great success.

 

4 | Milford Public Schools

The Milford Public School District serves 6,405 students in 14 schools (8 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, 2 high schools and 1 alternative education high school).[16] 84% of the district’s funding comes from property taxes paid by Milford residents and businesses.[17] Because the town is made up of primarily middle- and upper-class households, and there is a stable local business economy (see section 2), it is unsurprising that the Milford Public School District has the fiscal means to offer students and families an appealing and competitive academic experience.

Interestingly, Milford public schools are demographically less white than the the town at large. African American, Hispanic/Latino and Asian populations are disproportionately represented in local schools. Moreover, this is an ascending trend, and Milford schools are continually serving more minority students over time; as a result, public schools are enrolling a smaller percentage of white students (see Figure 2).[18] This trend might point toward the emergence of a growing population of minority families with young children in the district. As students from white families grow out of school age, the demographics of the district are beginning to shift, naturally engineering more racially diverse schools. For now, though, the public schools broadly reflect Milford’s residential demographics and remain majority-white.

As we might expect of a well-funded, majority-white district, the Milford Public School District schools are high-performing. The district graduates a higher percentage of students (92%) than the state average (87%).[19] The graduation statistics among White and Asian students in Milford is comparable to the Connecticut state average, but Black and Hispanic/Latino students in Milford are graduating at slightly higher rates than in other districts. Perhaps most striking is the support that special education students receive in the district – Milford graduates 80% of its special education students, as compared to 65% in Connecticut as a whole.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Percentage of minority students in Milford public schools from 1993-1994 to 2013-2014.

A similar trend is evident among test scores recorded throughout New Haven and Connecticut overall (see Figure 3). Middle schools in Milford demonstrated higher performance on the SBAC than any other middle school in New Haven, and the percentage of students meeting or exceeding proficiency standards surpassed state performance statistics by 25% or more.[20]  Milford’s impressive performance might be due in part to the rigor of the public school curriculum, which is lauded by parents who review the district on forums like www.greatschools.com.[21]  In any case, the quality of the Milford education system aligns with the town’s self-assigned reputation for home-grown excellence.  

 

Figure3

Figure 3. 2013 test score results for 6th grade students in Connecticut Milford School District, and New Haven School District.

 

5 | Conclusion

In all, Milford portrays itself as the quintessential New England suburb: a small town with a stable economy, a middle-class residential population with some racial diversity, and great neighborhood schools. While, on the surface, the town is remarkably similar to other New Haven suburbs, Milford residents benefit from a fairly middle-of-the-road residential experience – close analysis of demographic trends reveals how Milford balances a high White population with steady increases in minority residents, and, while economic privilege is evident in income statistics, Milford is not an exclusively wealthy suburb, and provides opportunities for lower-income residents to live and work in a stable business environment.  Milford’s economy lends strength to its schools, which offer students the opportunity to learn in a high-performance environment.  At the end of the day, Milford comes across as an extremely desirable place for those looking for a stable place to live, work, and learn.

 


[1] “About Milford.” Milford, CT. Web. 20 February 2016.  http://www.ci.milford.ct.us/home/pages/about-milford.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Economic and Community Development.” Milford, CT. Web. 20 February 2016. http://www.ci.milford.ct.us/economic-and-community-development.

[4] Ibid.

[5] For more information on all of the above, visit the city website, http://www.ci.milford.ct.us.

[6] “Downtown Milford.”  Web. 20 February 2016.  http://www.downtownmilfordct.com/

[7] “Economic and Community Development.” Milford, CT. Web. 20 February 2016. http://www.ci.milford.ct.us/economic-and-community-development.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Erodici, Peter A. and Ariane P. Swift.  “City of Milford, Connecticut Annual Financial Report.”  2013.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Population Estimates, July 1, 2015..” QuickFacts. U.S. Census Bureau. Web. 20 February 2016. <http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/0900947535,00>.

[12] “Race: White alone; All other races, 2014.” Map. Social Explorer. Social Explorer, Web. 20 February 2016. (based on data from U.S. Census Bureau).

[13] U.S. Census Bureau.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Affordable housing opportunities offered through this project are listed on both http://www.lowincomehousing.us/ and http://affordablehousingonline.com/.  

[16] U.S. Department of Education. Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey, 1993-94 v.1a, 1998-99 v.1c, 2003-04 v.1a, 2008-09 v.1b, 2013-14 v.1a. [Data set] National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD). Web. 20 February 2016.

[17] “A Citizen’s Guide to the Board of Education Budget.” Budget & Financials. Milford Public Schools. Web. 20 February 2016. <http://www.milforded.org/page.cfm?p=2865>.

[18] U.S. Department of Education.

[19] Connecticut Department of Education.  4-Year Cohort High School Graduation Rate, 2012-2013, 2013-2014 (Connecticut and Cheshire School District). [Data set] Connecticut Data Collaborative. Web. 20 February 2016.

[20] Busemeyer, Stephen, and Matthew Kauffman. “How Did Your School Do On The Connecticut SBAC?” Hartford Courant. Tribune Publishing, 27 Aug. 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. <http://www.courant.com/data-desk/hc-how-did-your-school-do-on-the-sbac-20150827-htmlstory.html>.

[21] See http://www.greatschools.org/connecticut/milford/schools/ for reviews.