According to the 2020 U.S. Census, within Litchfield County there was a drop in overall population but an increase in the number of Hispanic and Black residents over the past decade.
Overall. Litchfield County saw a drop in population from 189,927 residents in 2010 to 185,186 in 2020, census data shows. The change included 7,645 fewer children living in the county in 2020 than in 2010, the data shows.
But there was an increase of about 6,000 Hispanic people living in Litchfield County, or 71 percent, from 2010, bringing the total Hispanic population to more more than 14,500, the census data shows. Additionally, the total population of Black residents living in Litchfield County has increased by 34 percent, going from about 2,200 to about 3,000 people, the census shows. The Asian population increased by 19 percent or about 560 people to 3,400 residents.
Mark Abraham, executive director of DataHaven — a nonprofit organization that partners with public and private agencies to collect, share and interpret public information, in commenting on census data, said Litchfield County declined in population by 2 percent from 2010 to 2020, “which is very similar to what we saw in Connecticut’s four other smaller counties.”
“Although a handful of Litchfield County’s smaller towns saw upticks in population, most towns in the county, including the largest towns there, saw substantial declines,” he said. “This is a reversal of the trend seen from 2000 to 2010.”
Abraham said that, also similar to other areas of the state, Litchfield County is growing more racially and ethnically diverse. While the population that identifies as Hispanic or Latino of any race rose by 71 percent, from 8,535 to 14,580, and the non-Hispanic multi-racial population grew by 214 percent, from 2,342 to 7,352, over the past decade, he said.
“This population tends to be younger — for example, while 6 (percent) of all adults in Litchfield County identify as Latino, 15 (percent) of children do,” Abraham said. “This suggests that Litchfield County will continue to grow more diverse over the next decade, and may begin to grow again if these more diverse communities continue to thrive in the area.”
While it is a community of just 1,080 in 2020, a 12 percent decrease from 2010, leading the Litchfield County towns with the greatest percentage increase in the Hispanic population is Canaan, with a 195 percent increase from 2010 — going from 19 residents, up to 56 residents.
Additional towns within Litchfield County that saw an increase in the Hispanic population over the past 10 years include Torrington, with a 70 percent increase; Goshen, with a 79 percent increase; Harwinton with an increase of 115 percent; and Plymouth, with an increase of 100 percent, the census data shows.
In contrast, the total non-Hispanic, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander population within Litchfield County has increased by 54 percent of the past 10 years.
There was a decrease over the past decade, however, in the total white population in Litchfield County — of 10 percent, from about 173,000 down to 156,000.
The decline in residents from white-only backgrounds reflected a trend across the state. Although white residents make up nearly three-quarters of the population in the state, the number of white residents dropped by 14 percent in the last decade.
At the same time, the statewide Hispanic population increased by 30 percent, the Asian population climbed by 27 percent and the Black population rose by 7 percent.
The overall Torrington population dropped from 36,383 residents in 2010 to 35,515 residents in 2020, a decrease of 868, census data shows.
Deirdre Houlihan DiCara, executive director of Torrington-based Friends in Service to Humanity of Northwestern Connecticut, or FISH, said it is their mission to serve those experiencing food insecurity or homelessness, and they “have definitely seen for some time the demographic changes in our community.”
“We are so very pleased that people are feeling a comfort level when they come to the FISH food pantry for food assistance,” she said. “At both the FISH food pantry and shelter, we do our best to connect with clients to guide them to other resources they may need, as we collaborate and partner with a great variety of other agencies.”
Maria Gonzalez, director of the nonprofit agency, New Opportunities, said she was happy to see that the census reflects an increase in the Hispanic populations in Torrington.
“In 2010, I don’t think as many were counted, because people weren’t getting the information they needed,” she said. “This year during COVID-19 when the census was going on, I put video on Facebook reminding people that we were open, that we were there to help, and I also reminded them about filling out the census.
“Nationally, there was much more of an outreach effort this time around,” Gonzalez said. “There was a bigger effort to get everyone counted.
“I’m glad,” she said. “A few years ago we weren’t able to get certain grants, because we didn’t have the numbers. This year many, many more people took part in the census and it shows. We were helping people fill out the census forms at New Opportunities, because a lot of people didn’t know what to do.
“It makes a difference when more people are counted,” she said.
Torrington’s Hispanic population in 2010 was 3,193 people. In 2020, the census reported 5,433 people, an increase of 2,240 people including 1,577 adults and 663 children or 70 percent.
Winsted Mayor Candy Perez the census numbers that stand out for her show “a loss of children,” in the community.
Her town’s population dropped from 11,242 in 2010 to 10,224 in 2020, a difference of 1,018. Out of that number, 627 were children, according to the census data.
“I find that very interesting. Town hall staff and the Board of Selectmen will be looking at the data and discussing it,” Perez said.
However, Perez said, questions remain.
“I have a question about second home data in the northwest corner as well, because that affects a town’s population,” Perez said.
Kent First Selectman Jean Speck said the decrease in the number of children is “concerning.”
“I am interested in diving into what that decrease means,” Speck said. “This data will be helpful as we develop our municipal affordable housing plan that is due to OPM next year.”
Abraham said the decline in the number of children living in Litchfield County was particularly pronounced: down 19 percent with the drop of 7,645 children, compared to a drop of just 10 percent statewide.
“Middlesex County was the only other county with such a large percentage decline in its child population. This may reflect that the population is aging, leading to lower birth rates than previous decades,” he said. “There may be relatively fewer young families establishing themselves in places like Litchfield County or Middlesex County each year, especially when compared to the larger towns with more housing and employment options.
“In particular, Stamford, Norwalk, Danbury, Bridgeport, and New Haven have younger populations and stable or growing populations of children, so are increasing in population even as the rest of the state is declining,” Abraham said.
Abraham also has noted longer-term trends in Connecticut are that the population has aged and people, on average, are having fewer children. The state population did grow in size, but was largely driven by people moving into Fairfield County, Abraham said.
School enrollment has declined from 546,349 young people in 2014-15 to an estimated 512,393 in 2020-21, according to the state Department of Education. There were 33,242 people born in Connecticut in 2020, according to the state, down from 36,021 in 2016.