In News Releases

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Contact: Alex Rossman –  or
Alicia Guevara Warren –  517.487.5436

In its 25th year, 2017 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book shows kids of color, families with low incomes face many barriers, kids’ challenges vary by community

LANSING—Historical and current public policies are adversely affecting Michigan kids’ ability to thrive and widening disparities in child well-being based on where a child lives, their race and ethnicity, and their family’s income, according to the 2017 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book released today by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

According to the report, more than 1 in 5 (22 percent) Michigan children lived in poverty in 2015, a 15 percent rate increase since 2008, the last full year of the Great Recession. But the rates are significantly worse for kids of color, with 47 percent of African-American kids and 30 percent of Latino kids living in poverty compared to 15 percent for White kids in 2015. Nearly 28 percent of children in rural counties live in poverty, 24 percent in midsize counties and 22 percent in urban counties, although poverty increased at the highest rate for urban areas.

“No Michigan child should be experiencing poverty, hunger, abuse or neglect, regardless of where they are born and grow up, their race or ethnicity, or their family’s economic standing,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

“Just as past policies and practices have created these disparities, using a racial equity lens and a two-generation approach to develop policy solutions can help resolve them. In order to have a vibrant state for us all, lawmakers need to make sure all kids in Michigan thrive.”

Key data findings:

  • Working a full-time, minimum wage job leaves a parent with a family of three $1,657 below poverty each year;
  • Nearly 20 percent of mothers report smoking during pregnancy, with higher rates in rural communities;
  • 31 percent of mothers did not receive adequate prenatal care throughout their pregnancy;
  • Rate of confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect rose by 30 percent from 2008; over 80 percent of incidents were due to neglect;
  • About 10 percent of children in Michigan are impacted by parental incarceration;
  • On average, monthly child care consumed 38 percent of 2016 minimum wage earnings; and
  • Nearly 17 percent of Michigan children live in high-poverty neighborhoods—but the rate is 55 percent for African-American kids and 29 percent for Latino children.

Key policy recommendations:

  • Promote comprehensive strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect, including the expansion of home visitation programs.
  • Ensure access to affordable, quality child care by raising eligibility levels for state child care subsidies and reforming the current system.
  • Increase funding for maternal smoking prevention and cessation programs and services.
  • Provide sufficient funding for early interventions to improve third-grade reading using a birth-to-eight framework.
  • “Raise the Age” of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years old.

“The Michigan League for Public Policy has been fighting to protect Michigan kids since 1912, but child poverty is just as pressing now as it was then,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Too many Michigan families are working but barely making ends meet and are one financial emergency away from disaster. Simply having a job is not enough anymore, and we need stronger policies to support workers with low wages and their families.”
Since 1992, the Michigan League for Public Policy has been compiling and releasing the annual Kids Count in Michigan Data Book to analyze and evaluate the well-being of children in the state.

The 2017 book primarily compares data from 2008 to 2015 and analyzes 15 key indicators across four domains. The report also ranks 82 of the 83 counties for overall child well-being (Keweenaw County lacks sufficient data). The top three counties for child well-being are Ottawa (1st), Clinton (2nd) and Oakland (3rd) counties, with each of these counties moving up one rank from last year. The bottom three counties in 2017 are Oceana (80th), Iosco (81st) and Lake (82nd).

“As a doctor, I see firsthand how every element of a child’s family life and environment affects their health, and furthermore racial and economic inequities compound these challenges,” said Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, former Michigan surgeon general and senior vice president of community health & equity and chief wellness and diversity officer at Henry Ford Health System. “This book presents child data in a compelling way and uses it to help policymakers, advocates and service providers understand the policy and programmatic needs to support happy, healthy lives for all kids.”


The Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Frey Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Battle Creek Community Foundation, and the Fetzer Institute. More state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center,