Bad news for Michigan kids, at a time when it should be better

The 2015 Kids Count Data Book, released last week from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that Michigan has again slipped – for the second year in a row – in the state rankings for child well-being, dropping to 33rd place. This ranks Michigan behind all of our Great Lakes neighbors (Minnesota is ranked 1st). Michigan is part of the troubling national trend where we see more children living in poverty now than in 2008, in the midst of the Great Recession.

If Michigan is going to have a thriving future, we have to start taking better care of the next generation. Today’s kids are the parents, homeowners, workers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. But how can we expect them to be successful in the future when Michigan policymakers are failing them now?

More than 524,000 Michigan children live in poverty – one in four, up from one in five in 2008.

Other indicators of economic well-being have worsened for children in Michigan. The rate of children living in families where no parent has regular full-time employment is up 6 percent. The rate of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods – where poverty rates are more than 30 percent – has increased by 21 percent since the recession, ranking our state in the bottom 10 in the nation on this indicator. One of the most disturbing statistics highlighted in the report is the widening economic gap among children of color, with almost half of African-American children and nearly a third of Latino children in Michigan living in poverty.

The 2015 report analyzes key trends in child well-being in the post-recession years. In the state-by-state ranking, Michigan ranks 23rd in health, 29th in family and community and an embarrassing 37th in education. More than half our children are not attending preschool and more than two-thirds of our fourth-graders are not proficient in reading. Education is clearly our state’s biggest weakness, but Michigan’s recent expansions and state investments in early childhood and literacy programs should help address these issues and better serve our kids. However, given the connection between poverty and education outcomes, the state must also address poverty if we are to realize the desired outcomes.

There are some bright spots in the report for Michigan, though, with a significant reduction in the number of teen births and improvements in teen substance use, the number of children without health insurance, and low-birthweight babies.

The 2015 Kids Count Data Book is not just a tally of the problems facing Michigan’s kids – it’s also a blueprint for how our state can fix them. The report illustrates that there is a clear correlation between progress and policy, and these numbers should spur lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to help give parents the tools and support they need to raise healthy, educated children for Michigan’s future.

Recommendations include many of the same policies that the Michigan League for Public Policy has been championing to help break the cycle of poverty and support our kids and their families. Knowing that when we help parents, we help kids, these include investing in funding for adult education and training, and improving child care programs for working parents to have quality, affordable care while also providing their children with a rich early learning experience.

Additionally, working to reduce the number of babies born below weight and continuing a strong investment in education, particularly early childhood initiatives, will help improve child well-being in our state.

Michigan families would also benefit from policymakers maintaining a fair tax system that includes the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), solidifying the improvements to the federal EITC and Child Tax Credit, and strengthening safety net programs that provide temporary relief to families experiencing economic hardship.

Whether you care about the future of your child, or the future of our state, know that Michigan cannot succeed while overlooking the needs of the next generation. For Michigan policymakers, this report and the policies within can hopefully be the catalyst for change.

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Sat, 08/01/2015 - 7:20am
Michigan's dysfunctional legislature can't figure out something as basic as paying for road improvements, how can we expect them to grasp the complex nature of all the problems outlined in this article.
Sat, 08/01/2015 - 8:20pm
7, It seems these problems have been with us for longer than any reader has been around and the Legislatures in the past have not solved them so why do you feel that this one is any more dysfunctional that all others? I could be wrong, so please point out a Legislature or a Governor that has solve the children in poverty problem. Point a Congress or President that has soved this problem. Point out a government body that has even solved an element or symptom of the problem.
Sun, 08/02/2015 - 7:44am
Dysfunctional doesn't related directly to the result but the attitude and effort put forth to deal with the situation. Many people in the legislature I believe look upon poor people as worthless human trash to be pushed to the sidelines of society and not worthy of any respect or dignity.
Sun, 08/02/2015 - 10:13pm
7, Why do you have that belief? Is it based on actions or results or what? How do you tell? Over the decades I have seen many who claim to care for the poor do much harm with their 'good intentions'. I can't say what is in the hearts and minds of people so I try to only comment on their actions and the results of those actions, and to some extent on what they say [though often it seems words, actions, and results fail to match]. As for effort, without results effort is like 'good intentions' it matters not if it doesn't have a positive impact.
Sat, 08/01/2015 - 11:02am
"Michigan families would also benefit from policymakers maintaining a fair tax system that includes the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), solidifying the improvements to the federal EITC and Child Tax Credit, and strengthening safety net programs that provide temporary relief to families experiencing economic hardship."Ummm, define "a fair tax system"? Based on everything I've read on the MLPP, they have never seen a tax hike that it didn't like. Waiting for the follow up piece "connecting the dots" between what people are allowed to keep from their own labor and how the effects from multitude of taxes promoted by the likes of the MLPP actually affects poverty here in Michigan. Given the literally billions spent on the 'War on Poverty" they literally have decades of data to back up their argument. If they can make it?
Sat, 08/01/2015 - 12:05pm
Or we might ask ourselves what we as a culture and society are doing to encourage people not ready, unable and having no business being parents to bring children (multiple) into the world in the first place?
Fri, 08/07/2015 - 10:13am
Maybe we should ask as a society why so many people are in poverty in the first place & why 98 percent of all money in 2 percent of population
Sat, 08/08/2015 - 8:25pm
How do you define poverty? Is it a certain income level compared to the rest of the population, is it a quality of life [health, learning, socialization, choice], what? Until we have an established defintion of what we want to change people will talk passed each other relying on their personal perspectives rather then using a common perspective. I grew up thinking we had a good life, I didn't know we were 'poor' until about the 5th grade when at school I was told [by staff] I was 'poor'. I didn't feel 'poor', I lived much like all the others in my neighborhood. My parents never acted 'poor' because they felt that how we lived [responsibility for family, for personal choices] addressing needs were more important than what others had or did. To me it is how we live not what we have or others have that determines what social status we have. That maybe a different perspective then how others see the 'poor' and 'rich' issue, so that is why I ask how do you define poverty.
Fred Overeem
Sat, 08/01/2015 - 3:26pm
I can remember a time when Michigan was a leader in education and other child related programs. Then we elected a governor and legislature who said that if we cut taxes every one would be better off. Now the goal is to do everything on the cheap. Everything that does not directly benefit those with great wealth is cut. Those with great wealth flourish, the rest of us suffer. Wealth will trickle down they say. If you still believe in trickle down I have a bridge to sell. We are returning to the 1890s.
Charles Richards
Sun, 08/02/2015 - 12:36pm
I'm curious about what definition of poverty Alicia Guevara Warren is using. If she is using a percentage of median income as her criteria, then she is talking about relative poverty rather than absolute poverty as defined by the minimum basket of goods and services needed to get by. If that is the case, an increase in median income would automatically put more kids in poverty even though their actual condition had not worsened. She recites Michigan's poor ranking on various measures of child welfare, but neglects to account for our low ranking in terms of median income. And she says, "Education is clearly our state’s biggest weakness, " But Amber Arellano, writing in the July 31, 2015 Detroit News, says, "Research shows that the state is in the top nine in the U.S. for school funding and teacher salaries but in the bottom quartile for student achievement." And she talks exclusively about government programs and responsibilities, but fails to mention the irresponsible, antisocial actions that individuals take that create the problems she is concerned about.
Joe Frat
Sun, 08/02/2015 - 3:37pm
America's K-12 education system is a failure and a disgrace to all of us who sincerely care. We USED to be able at least instill literacy in our high school graduates, but no longer. I am convinced we must take education out of the hands of the teachers' unions, who care nothing about education, but everything about maintaining the status quo, or worse. The answer has nothing to do with money. We could easily close down the worst half of non-performing schools, lay off (if it were EVER possible) all of the teachers, their assistants and the school administrators, and substitute an on-line education program for the whole mess. We would save a LOT of money, get rid of a LOT of dead wood, and I BET, we could actually EDUCATE students.
Sun, 08/02/2015 - 9:04pm
This article cites one solution is investing in adult education. For adults who did not graduate from high school there is no longer any funding after age 20 for adult education to do so. For these people, likely living in poverty, they cannot afford to pay for classes to get their diploma. Our state used to have adult education programs in almost every public school, but that came to an end because funding was reduced and then totally cut. What a shame! There are many reasons people don't complete high school on time -- many due to family or other circumstances that did not support their education or interrupted it. After age 20 their opportunity is gone, even if they desire to complete high school. Our state now recognizes the value in pre-school education, but also needs to acknowledge and fund the need for adult education -- it will make a difference not only the adults but also for their children living in poverty.
Fri, 08/07/2015 - 10:18am
We need good paying jobs! I have a bachelor degree & my guy has an associate's degree we live in poverty!
Mon, 08/03/2015 - 8:46am
The problem is that with each passing decade, we are becoming a nation of dependence that lowers self-esteem and motivation. We have the government passing out food money at record levels to record numbers of people. We have private organizations such as Forgotten Harvest that operate like a Big Business that feels the need to expand at all costs. Such as providing bags of groceries through their mobile program and affiliated partners to schoolchildren regardless of need. This all has unintended consequences of subtly giving the notion of reliance on others. Also, in the Black community, it is unsustainable to continue to have generation after generation of ~75 % of Black Babies born to single unwed mothers in poverty. Poverty feeds Poverty. Also, there isn't a single successful Education Model anywhere in the US that can successfully educate mass populations of children in poverty. It just doesn't happen. I support the beginning of some Tough Love Public Policy. Government programs need to be scaled back and generation poverty families be made to feel bad and made known of the consequences of their actions and choices in life.
Thu, 09/03/2015 - 2:11pm
Yes! Because we all perform better when we feel worse!!!/snark
Mon, 08/03/2015 - 11:41pm
Drug test the parent and teenagers must be attendance in school.
Thu, 08/06/2015 - 6:24pm
Government piss programs should apply to all working class citizens, not just parents and teenagers.