Survey: child poverty in MI continues decade-long increase

Mar 21, 2016

Alicia Guevara Warren directed the 2016 Kids Count survey, which found child poverty has increased in 80 of Michigan's 83 counties over the past decade.
Credit WKAR File Photo

An annual survey of child poverty in Michigan indicates continuing challenges for kids and families struggling to attain economic security.  

The 2016 Kids Count survey was conducted by the Michigan League for Public Policy based in Lansing.

The league is emphasizing a sobering piece of data stemming from this years report.  

It says that since 2006, child poverty has gone up in 80 of 83 Michigan counties.  That, it says, leads to struggles in every other area of a child’s life.  

This year’s marks the 25th Kids Count survey in Michigan.   

On its website, the Michigan League for Public Policy describes itself as a non-partisan policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all.  It says that all its work is done through a race equity lens.

Current State's Mark Bashore asked survey director Alicia Guevara Warren if it’s clear why child poverty has gone up in nearly every Michigan county in the past decade.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

Why has poverty gone up in nearly every Michigan county over the past decade?

“I think there are a couple of things going on here. One of them is, we’re in an economic recovery. Clearly we’ve left a lot of families behind in this. A lot of the jobs that have come along are going to require some sort of post-secondary training or credentialing to provide that stable, livable wage that families need.

But we know that adult education is underutilized. The access is just not there. About one-third of kids are living in a family where their parent has no secure employment. We’re seeing a lot of parents need to piece together part-time, seasonal work - the types of jobs that don’t provide stability.” -- Alicia Guevera Warren

How much on average did child poverty go up across the 80 counties?

“About 2.5%. It ranged pretty strongly between a low of 2.2 percent in Houghton County to a high of 3.4 percent in Macomb County.

I think what is important to really emphasize is that the counties that we saw the largest increases are actually where the child poverty is lowest. Livingston County, for instance, had the lowest child poverty rate but increased 42 percent." -- Warren

On how child poverty is measured

“Our poverty definition is based on what’s provided by the census bureau. So it’s all based on the federal poverty level on their income. For a family of four, you’re talking about $2,000 or close to $24,000 a year. For a family of three, $1,600 a month - or about $19,000 a year.” -- Warren

Policy recommendations

“We’re talking about investing in communities to create safe neighborhoods, clean air, drinking water, affordable housing, reliable transportation. Looking at how we can fund local governments to provide these basic services. There are so many things that influence a child’s development. Where they live is a really big part of that.

To improve the well-being of children, we know that one of the best ways to do that is to help parents. Helping parents to help kids. We can help by strengthening work policies like the Earned Income Tax Credit; a proven tool to reduce poverty that we’ve cut back on as a state. EITC levels have gone from 20 percent to 6 percent, a trend that looks backwards when compared to other states." -- Warren