I grew up here in Lansing and went to college at the “other school” to the south (Go Blue!) during difficult economic times in Michigan. I decided to go out-of-state for graduate school, but was determined to come back to my home state and help my community. I returned during the rise of the Great Recession when jobs were scarce and we all knew someone who was experiencing financial hardship and/or impacted by the growing foreclosure crisis. Things would only get worse before getting better. Child poverty rates would actually peak five years later in 2012 at nearly 25%.
Now, we’ve been in an economic recovery period for close to a decade and there have been improvements for kids and families. But, how much? The national 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book was recently released and ranks Michigan 33rd overall for child well-being. We are last in the Great Lakes region, again, and fall in the bottom half of the country in three of the four categories of child well-being:
- Economic well-being: 31st
- Education: 38th
- Health: 25th
- Family and community: 30th
Compared to 2010, the first year after the end of the Great Recession, all four of the individual measures of economic security, including child poverty, have gotten better. However, we continue to rank last in the region and our national ranking remains unchanged from last year.
Other states are doing better and are improving at a faster pace.
The state ranks sixth worse in the country in the rate of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods with some of the highest rates for kids of color. Michigan policymakers must do more to invest in our children, families and communities addressing both racial and ethnic equity and poverty to improve opportunities and remove barriers that many in our state are facing. The League’s most recent Budget Brief outlines some of the missed opportunities.
The report also highlights a major concern: the 2020 Census. In Michigan, about 62,000 young children are at risk of being missed. Approximately 11% of young children statewide and 70% of young children in Detroit live in hard-to-count census tracts and could go uncounted in the next decennial census. Young children, kids of color, those in families with low incomes and children in immigrant families are more likely to be missed. Many of our state’s programs funded with federal support rely on an accurate count to meet the need. Our KIDS COUNT research, which helps inform many state and local decisions, relies on an accurate collection, too!
With the addition of an unnecessary, untested citizenship question and under-resourcing of the Census Bureau, there is much work to be done to ensure that every child is counted. This includes fully funding outreach campaigns in targeted areas, addressing privacy and confidentiality concerns and increasing the number of trusted messengers. If you’re interested in getting involved, check out the work happening here in Michigan.
While we continue to hear about the great progress being made in Michigan, let’s not forgot about the significant number of kids and families being left out. These might be the good times for some, but not for all. Are we doing enough to protect our kids and families from the next economic recession?