Do kids really count in Michigan? Data shows them losing ground

Over the past year our state has received a significant amount of national and international attention, due to the Flint water crisis – exposing an entire city to poisonous lead – and the deplorable and dangerous conditions of the Detroit Public Schools. These two incidents alone raise the question of whether kids really do count in Michigan. State leaders have become extremely focused on the bottom line and reducing spending so much that basic needs like clean air, safe drinking water and quality schools have become issues.

The Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2016 reveals further evidence of the lack of attention to the needs of all children and families. In 2014, the latest year of data available, nearly half a million Michigan children lived in poverty. That is a 23 percent rate increase from 2006. Child poverty also increased in 80 of 83 Michigan counties since 2006, showing it is an issue in every corner of the state. In fact, all three measures of economic security examined in the book showed that more families are struggling to make ends meet.

We know that poverty affects every aspect of a child’s life, harming their education, physical health, socioemotional health and long-term financial security. That means that we must ensure that every child has the ability to reach their potential in order for Michigan to have a vibrant future. But significant economic disparities exist by age and race and ethnicity. Younger children are more likely to live in poverty. Almost half of African-American and nearly one-third of Latino children live in poverty. There are clearly still many structural and institutional barriers to opportunity and access that inordinately hurt people of color, and these must be eliminated to improve the wellbeing of all children.

The data also show that since 2006, more children are living in families investigated for child abuse and neglect – up 52 percent – and more are also being confirmed as victims. In 2014, nearly 15 of every 1,000 kids suffered from abuse or neglect, an increase of 29 percent since 2006. However, after a lawsuit resulted in a consent decree to improve safety, permanency and well-being for children in the child welfare system, the state has had fewer children placed in out-of-home care due to abuse or neglect. Compared to 2006, the out-of-home care rate has declined by 31 percent. It is apparent that targeted efforts in foster care have worked. But more needs to be done to prevent child abuse and neglect upfront to keep children out of the system altogether.

A few other startling statistics from the 2016 Kids Count Data Book include:

  • 32 percent of children live in a household where no parent has secure employment;
  • Nearly 80 percent of young children (ages 0-5) had both parents in the workforce;
  • On average, monthly child care consumed almost 40 percent of 2015 minimum wage earnings; and
  • 17 percent of children in Michigan live in high-poverty neighborhoods, including 18 percent of American Indian, 55 percent of African-American and 30 percent of Latino children. These rates for Michigan are some of the highest in the country.

There are some bright spots in the data. Michigan is doing a better job at the teen birth rate–although it is still higher than in any other industrialized nation and more work needs to be done. The infant mortality rate improved by 10 percent over the trend period; however, while the gap is closing, the rate for African-American or black babies is still much higher than average. Plus, troubling trends are emerging for Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander infant mortality rates.

These numbers illustrate the current landscape Michigan kids are living in. But now what?

Clearly there is much work to be done to improve the lives of kids and their families. Nationally, Michigan has fallen two years in a row in our overall child well-being rank to 33rd in 2015 and we rank last in the Midwest.

For 25 years now, the Michigan League for Public Policy has been producing the Kids Count report to make sure Michigan kids have a voice in the policies that are affecting them. Our goal is to have these books in the hands of local advocates and state policymakers, not collecting dust on a shelf.

It’s time to take action before Michigan becomes an unrecognizable place where we do not want our kids to grow up. We urge lawmakers and concerned residents to take a look at this report, especially the numbers in your county, and act on our recommendations. Kids still count in our book, but a lot more needs to be done to make them count in the state Capitol.

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Fri, 03/25/2016 - 1:38pm
With 40% of all children being born into single mother families, (and in specific minority communities this stat soars to 60 and 70%) and the fact that these mothers are largely uneducated, unskilled and flat out unequipped for parenting, what if anything in your Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2016 is even remotely surprising? The better question is, in spite of the widespread knowledge where single parenting leads, why does it continue at such a pace particularly in poorer communities? And strangely you don't even mention it, is that possibly part of the problem?
Sun, 03/27/2016 - 1:44pm
Matt makes a series of excellent points.
Tue, 03/29/2016 - 8:37pm
It continues because it's government subsidized. It just kills me that today, even mentioning abstinence is 'unreasonable'. Good grief, why don't we even expect anyone to exercise self control any more? Go on, make babies, we'll pay for it. Not well, just enough to keep the baby alive. We know you can't be expected to keep your clothes on - or to take precautions. We don't expect it of stray dogs, why would we expect it of *you*? (that's directed at BOTH sexes and ALL races) Tell me again how humans are supposed to be more intelligent than other animals... *sure* they are! If you're old enough to participate in it, you know that sexual intercourse is the mammalian method of making babies. If making a baby is not what you intend to do, and you do not have effective birth control in place, relieve your 'tension' in some other manner!
Fri, 03/25/2016 - 2:04pm
"Our goal is to have these books in the hands of local advocates and state policymakers, not collecting dust on a shelf." Expect a "thank you for your concern" type of response from politiclans in Lansing while they put the book on a shelf somewhere to collect dust.
Sun, 03/27/2016 - 6:55am
Charles Murray did a study of black families that detailed how they self-destruct by not marrying, having no father in the house, having babies in their teens, dropping out of school, using drugs, and having no employable skills. For this he was excoriated for being a racist. So, to counter this criticism, he did another study of only white families so there could be no charge of racism. His findings for white families was the same as for black families. He concluded that there is a sub-culture of self-destruction that prevails for both groups! Our challenge is to, somehow, change this sub-culture! So far, we have not been able to do it!
Chuck Jordan
Sun, 03/27/2016 - 11:30am
Education, jobs/job training, and subsidized child care so single parents can work or go to school. I don't think making couples stay married is going to work.
Sun, 03/27/2016 - 4:36pm
Chuck, I believe tht this is eactly what we have now, and according to the author of this article it isn't working very well.
Tue, 03/29/2016 - 11:27am
We do have some subsidies for education and job training, but those for childcare fall woefully short of the need. One very important issue is that almost all licensed child care requires full time registration and payment and costs more than $8 / hour for children under 2 years old, and even more for infants under 12 months. There is no way that a single parent with limited skills can earn enough to pay for unsubsidized child care for even a single child. Nor could 2 parents working full time for minimum wage (assuming 2 full-time jobs were even available) can earn enough to pay for rent, diapers, food not covered by SNAP, and childcare for more than a single child. We must either continue to trap these families in poverty until the kids are at least school-age or subsidize child care for everyone making less than 200-500% of poverty level.
Wed, 03/30/2016 - 12:09pm
You use the term "subsidize" by definition this means to offset part of the cost of what is being subsidized. This is what we are doing now, It doesn't mean to provide the service or good for free. Giving things away for "free" without the recipient having skin in the game just tends to devalue that good or service.
Sun, 03/27/2016 - 1:58pm
Alicia Guevara Warren says, "There are clearly still many structural and institutional barriers to opportunity and access that inordinately hurt people of color, and these must be eliminated to improve the wellbeing of all children." What 'structural and institutional barriers' prevent the use of readily available birth control? That alone would sharply improve the situation of "people of color".
Mon, 03/28/2016 - 10:35am
Birth control is not readily available to all women, and it can be expensive. That's why it's so cruel and counterproductive for politicians to try to shut down Planned Parenthood and eliminated insurance coverage for birth control...those moves increase unintended pregnancies and end up costing all of us more by helping to perpetuate the cycle.
Wed, 03/30/2016 - 12:27pm
Birth control pills run about $10 a month at Wal-Mart. other forms are less than that. Having a great deal of experience watching poor people spend money, I seriously doubt that cost has a thing to do with it.
Mon, 03/28/2016 - 1:28pm
These comments seem to betray a lot of judgemental attitude and blaming the victim for years of political and societal neglect. Of course, these attitudes will solve all the problems and not cost any taxpayer dollars either.
Mon, 03/28/2016 - 4:51pm
If you don't understand history, you are likely to repeat it. Obviously, many who have commented on this article do not understand history and why Michigan is in the shape it is in today. Blaming the "poor" for creating their plight shows a high degree of misunderstanding. That happens a lot with whitel privilege. People who by the very color of their skin was given advantages people of color have never had. Unless you are willing to "walk a mile in their shoes" you can never understand what that experience has been. If you tried just to understand that, you may become a better person.
Wed, 03/30/2016 - 12:21pm
Bernadette, Given the WELL KNOWN problems Inflicted on yourself and your children by bearing children without being married, educated, or prepared for any type of career AND THEN GOING OUT AND DOING IT ANYWAY! Just who do you think should be blamed for creating this very poor situation if not the person who does it? Please tell.
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 8:39pm
I agree with many of the comments here! All you have to do to avoid poverty is keep it in your pants until you've graduated college, learned employable skills, got married, paid off your student loans, and gotten one of the many stable, family wage sustaining full time jobs Michigan has to offer. Oh wait, this article is about *childhood* poverty? Then it's even simpler! Just select parents that do all of the above!