News Releases

Labor Day Report

Contact: Judy Putnam or Yannet Lathrop at (517) 487-5436

Wages for Michigan men plummet, women’s wages stagnate

LANSING, Mich. – With the minimum wage set to increase Monday to $8.15 an hour, a new report highlights the need to increase low-wage salaries even more to close the gender wage gap and reverse wage losses in Michigan.

The Labor Day report, released by the Michigan League for Public Policy, finds that Michigan has the seventh-highest gender wage gap in the country, despite dramatic wage losses for men since 1979 and stagnating or modest increases for women.

One way to curb these wage trends and help narrow the gender wage gap is to raise the minimum wage and eliminate the tipped wage. A minimum wage increase helps more female workers because they hold large shares of low-wage jobs such as child care and food service.

“Monday’s minimum wage increase is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough to close this  gap,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “There are no winners in a gender wage gap. Narrowing the wage gap based on wage losses for men hurts not only them, but also women. The same factors that hurt men’s wages also pose a threat to women’s improved wages.”

In Michigan, women earn only 74 cents for each dollar earned by a male.

The Labor Day report found that workers in Michigan suffered the most dramatic wage declines in the Midwest, with especially large losses for low-wage workers. Between 1979 and 2013, wages for Michigan workers dropped 13.4 percent for those in the low-wage category.

Workers without postsecondary education were particularly affected. High school graduates’ wages dove 32.1 percent and wages for those who did not complete a high school education plunged 46.3 percent.

“These are dramatic wage drops,” Jacobs said.  “Some of it can be explained by the particularly painful effects of deindustrialization in the state, but these wages are also the result of policy choices over the years. The state spends less on education and has seen slower growth in the knowledge-based industries than other more prosperous Midwestern states.”

In addition to increasing the minimum wage to at least $10.10, boosting the state’s education funds (including early and higher education), strengthening workplace policies that give mothers and fathers the flexibility to work and raise their children, restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit, and encouraging collective bargaining are policies that Gov. Rick Snyder and legislators must adopt to address these worrisome wage trends.

Michigan’s minimum wage is set to rise from $7.40 an hour in four steps: $8.15 on Sept. 1; $8.50 on Jan. 1, 2016; $8.90 on Jan. 1, 2017; and to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2018. The League supports an increase to $10.10 an hour, which can be approved by either the Michigan Legislature or Congress.

The report can be found online:

The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all.

Michigan’s big flaw in jobs strategy

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

LANSING, Mich. – As more than 750,000 Michigan public college students prepare to start a new school year, one group is finding it harder than ever to participate: Older adults.

Michigan offers no financial aid grants to attend a public university or community college for those who graduated from high school more than 10 years ago.

Two of Michigan’s three higher education grants are aimed at students who graduated a decade or less ago, according to a new policy brief from the Michigan League for Public Policy. And the third one can only be used at private institutions, which are generally more expensive.

“We know that postsecondary education is so important in today’s economy. Helping older workers sharpen their skills or pursue studies leading to in-demand jobs will help Michigan’s economy,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The League’s report, State Financial Aid Leaves Adult Learners Behind, shows that financial aid grants that once helped older students have disappeared as Michigan made recession-era cuts to higher education. Those eliminated were the Adult Part-Time Grant, the Michigan Education Opportunity Grant, the Michigan Nursing Scholarship and a state Work-Study program.

That leaves three major grants: The Tuition Incentive Program, aimed at students from low-income families, and the Michigan Competitive Scholarship, which are only available for 10 years after high school graduation while the third, the Michigan Tuition Grant, does not set a post-graduation limit but is only available for attending private, not-for-profit institutions.

Michigan has three routes to repair the big flaw in its workforce development strategy:

• Restore one of the programs that was discontinued in 2010 aimed at serving older students.
• Modify the timetable for one or both of the remaining public institution scholarships so they could be used for part-time students or for short-term occupational programs.
• Implement a state Work-Study program that connects low-income adult students to paid employment that is directly relevant to the course of study. (This should not be the only policy response because many older students cannot fit work-study into their work and family schedules.)

“Leaving older workers out of financial aid programs is a flaw in Michigan’s workforce development strategy that needs to be fixed,’’ Jacobs said. “The health of our economy depends on workers getting the skills they need to become productive employees and support their families.’’

The report may be found online.

The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a nonpartisan policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.



Court ruling likely to have no impact

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5437

Ruling denying affordable healthcare in Mich. likely to have no impact

The following statement was released by the Michigan League for Public Policy in reaction to conflicting U.S. Court of Appeals rulings today on whether residents of Michigan and 35 other states with health insurance marketplaces run by the federal government should be denied Affordable Care Act premium subsidies to make mandated coverage affordable. Comments may be attributed to Policy Director Karen Holcomb-Merrill.

“Fortunately, the Fourth Circuit Court ruled that the premium subsidies should stand. We believe this ruling will eventually prevail and the 237,337 people in Michigan already enrolled and helped by the premium tax credits will not be impacted by the opposite ruling in Halbig v. Burwell. That case is expected to have no immediate impact on the ability of consumers in Michigan to maintain their premium tax credits to lower the cost of their health insurance plans purchased through the Marketplace.

“When the full D.C. Court of Appeals reviews the Halbig v. Burwell case, the League is confident the court will agree, just as the Fourth Circuit Court and other courts have ruled, that the clear intent of Congress was that all Marketplace enrollees receive the subsidies for which they qualify. “

Michigan ranks No. 32 for child well-being

Contact: Judy Putnam or Suban Nur Cooley at (517) 487-5436
25 years of KIDS COUNT show gains, losses for kids

Michigan’s No. 32 ranking calls for focus on education, poverty

LANSING, Mich. — In the 25 years since the launch of the first KIDS COUNT Data Book, fewer Michigan teens are having babies and fewer children and teens die each year. During the same period, however, the number of children living in poverty dramatically worsened and Michigan tumbled in education rankings.

The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book, released today by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, marks a quarter-century of bringing attention to national and state-level data on the well-being of children. In this year’s report, Michigan is ranked No. 32, placing it behind 31 other states for overall child well-being, down one slot since last year.

“As we mark 25 years of tracking child well-being, it’s heartening to know that we’ve made progress in some key areas, and it’s clear that good public policy made a difference,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president & CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, the Michigan partner for KIDS COUNT. “Michigan’s overall ranking, however, puts us in the bottom half of the country, and this is not acceptable. We must redouble our efforts to make Michigan a great place to raise a child.’’

Among recommendations to improve Michigan’s child well-being:

  •  Restore education funding cut since the start of the Great Recession, with a focus on making sure kids can read by the end of third grade.
  •  Support families earning the least through tax credits and more robust food and cash assistance.
  •  Increase child care payments to help working parents.
  •  Invest in strategies to reduce the 8.4 percent of Michigan babies born too small, particularly in communities of color.

Since the first KIDS COUNT report was released, strong public health education measures dramatically reduced teenage pregnancies. The rate of births per 1,000 Michigan teens improved by 56 percent, falling from 59 births to 26 births per 1,000 teens.

Other progress in that time frame was a 41 percent improvement in the child and teen death rate, in part a result of stronger teen driver laws through a graduated driver’s license. In addition, Michigan enjoyed a 41 percent improvement in children living in families where the head of the household lacks a diploma, and a 28 percent improvement in the share of 3- and 4-year-olds not attending preschool. Michigan is poised to improve even more in this area with $130 million in new funding for the Great Start Readiness Program in this year’s and next year’s state budget.

Michigan’s worsening trends since 1990 included the 39 percent increase in the share of children living in poverty with one in every four children living in poverty. Also worsening was a 36 percent increase in the share of children living in unaffordable housing, defined as consuming 30 percent or more of the household income. More than one in every three kids lives in such a household. In addition, the rate of kids living in single-parent families jumped 30 percent.

This year’s ranking of 32nd for overall child well-being places Michigan behind all of its Great Lakes neighbors: Minnesota (5th), Wisconsin (13th), Illinois (20th), Ohio (24th) and Indiana (27th).

The report ranks Michigan in four domains:

  • Economic Well-Being: 34th
  • Education: 38th
  • Health: 29th
  • Family and Community: 29th

Michigan’s worst ranking was in education. Michigan did poorly on fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade math and on-time graduation, ranking 37th, 38th and 39th among the states. Interventions that will help all children read by the end of third grade are a far better option than retention policies that will force kids to repeat a grade.

“Michigan has been running in place on education, while other states race ahead. Michigan is in the bottom third of states when it comes to education,” Jacobs said. “This is clearly an area identified in this report where Michigan must make progress along with lifting up children from poverty. Investing in education and reading by the end of third grade, and restoring the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit to help working families earning the least, are good places to start.’’

The KIDS COUNT Data Book and Michigan-specific information may be found online.

 # # #

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit

For more information: KIDS COUNT Data Center, which is home to comprehensive national, state and local statistics on child well-being. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all.

Schools still have time to offer free meals

Contact: Justin Rumenapp ( at the Center for Civil Justice, (810) 244-8044
or Judy Putnam ( at the Michigan League for Public Policy, (517) 487-5436
Editors, please note infographic is available here:

Deadline looms for schools to boost nutrition

LANSING, Mich. – Schools serving a large number of children from low-income homes have until Aug. 31 to qualify to offer free breakfasts and lunches to all students regardless of family income.

Michigan has 822 schools in high-poverty areas identified for the Community Eligibility Provision where 40 percent or more of the student population qualifies for other assistance, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. The option not only reduces hunger and the stigma for students from low-income homes, it decreases paperwork usually needed to access free and reduced-price school meals. (more…)

Report: Giving babies the Right Start

Contact: Jane Zehnder-Merrell ( and Suban Nur Cooley ( at the Michigan League for Public Policy, (517) 487-5436

Right Start report highlights maternal/infant well-being in Michigan’s cities

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s cities have the most work to do in order to give infants a “Right Start” in life, a new report has shown, with maternal and infant well-being in 15 Michigan cities examined having worse outcomes on almost every measure compared with their out-county areas.

“For an infant born into disadvantaged communities, the inequities worsen as they grow – fewer state-supported early prevention and intervention programs are available,” says Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Using eight key measures to identify existing risks to infant and maternal well-being in these 15 Michigan cities, The Right Start in Michigan’s Legacy Cities: Inequity Begins at Birth report has found that roughly one quarter of all newborns in the state were born to mothers living in these 15 cities across the southern half of the state.

The report also found that infants in Michigan’s cities were more than twice as likely to be born to women without a high school diploma or GED, had roughly double the likelihood of being born to a teenager and nearly double the risk of being born to a single parent compared to out-county areas.

In four of the 15 Michigan cities, the majority of infants were born to women of color, and almost all the cities experienced an increase in minority births between 2006 and 2012. Detroit on its own represents 40 percent of all births in the cities measured.

As Michigan works to improve education outcomes and strengthen the state of the economy for future generations, the report suggests addressing the challenge of making sure more infants have the right start to early childhood in these larger cities.

“In order to see positive change, we need to fully implement the strategies outlined in the state’s Infant Mortality Reduction Plan which promotes safe sleep practices for infants, expands home-visits to high-risk women and reduces unintended pregnancies,” adds Zehnder-Merrell. “We also need to work across state departments to address social and economic determinants of health, increase opportunities and support systems for low-income women to complete education or training and be there at the very beginning with early interventions.”


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization dedicated to economic opportunity for all. 

Statement: Wins for families in budget

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436 (office) or (517) 410-5798 (cell)

Statement: Important wins for families and kids in the state budget
The following statement was released by the Michigan League for Public Policy in reaction to the finalization of the state budget that begins Oct. 1. The statement may be attributed to President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature made important strides for low- and moderate-income families in the state budget finalized today.

“Among the positive steps is full funding for the Healthy Michigan Plan, which has already helped more than 287,000 Michigan adults gain the coverage they need to stay healthy and on the job.

“The budget also expands the Healthy Kids Dental program to Kalamazoo and Macomb counties, and 16,000 new preschool slots will be created for low-income children across the state.

“These expansions would have been jeopardized by the passage of income tax rollbacks that were introduced this session. It’s to the Legislature’s and governor’s credit that rollbacks, which would threaten Michigan’s economic recovery, were not taken up.

“Among the missed opportunities in the budget were continuing the policies that restrict income and food assistance for families struggling to make ends meet.

“The Legislature also failed to expand the school clothing allowance for the state’s poorest children and did not restore funding for prevention programs despite increasing numbers of child abuse and neglect victims.”

For more information see the Budget Briefs page.

The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all.


Road fix must protect low-income families

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

Sales tax is Michigan’s most regressive tax; low-income workers must be protected

The following statement was released by the Michigan League for Public Policy in response to potential road funding solutions that include an increase in the sales tax. The statement may be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“It’s clear that Michigan must come up with a solution to repair its broken roads. A funding solution that requires a higher sales tax, however, will be especially difficult for lower-income working families who already pay a greater share of their income in state and local taxes.

“The sales tax is by far Michigan’s most regressive tax, meaning it hits low-income families the hardest. In fact, a Michigan family earning $16,000 or less pays an average 6.7 percent of their income in sales tax. That’s more than seven times the impact on a family earning $331,000 or more, who pays less than 1 percent of their income in sales tax.

“A tax on wholesale fuel will also make it more difficult for workers to afford transportation as the price of fuel rises, but it is a far better option than a sales tax as a dedicated source of revenue. Those workers earning the least in Michigan are paying about $247 million more each year in income taxes as a result of the tax shifts that occurred in 2011, specifically the reduction of the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit from 20 percent to 6 percent of the federal credit. For Michigan’s economic recovery to reach everyone, workers who can least afford additional costs to get to work should be protected.

“Increasing the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit would be a perfect vehicle to offset the additional costs on those who can least afford them. This will help workers stay on the job while making sorely needed repairs to the state’s roads.’’

For more information on the sales tax, see the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s Who Pays? report

For information on the change per county in Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit see the interactive EITC map.

The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all.



Statement: Minimum wage increase doesn’t go far enough

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 410-5798

Approval of minimum wage increase is encouraging but $10.10 an hour proposal deserves vote

The Michigan League for Public Policy released the following statement after the House voted Tuesday to increase the minimum wage to $9.25 by 2018. Gov. Snyder signed the legislation this evening. The statement may be attributed to League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“The minimum wage increase to $9.25 an hour is greatly needed but it does not go far enough to lift working families from poverty. The legislation would freeze inflationary increases in times of high unemployment and it falls far short on the tipped wage. We need to remember that if minimum wage had kept up with inflation, the 1968 minimum wage of $1.60 an hour would now be $10.90 an hour.

“With enough signatures collected to put this on the fall ballot, voters deserve a chance to have their say on an increase to $10.10 an hour, with a very gradual increase in the tipped wage. The tipped wage increase is critical to working moms in the food industry. Employees who work hard in tough jobs should be able to meet their basic needs, and a raise to $10.10 an hour will go a long way to accomplish that.”


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all. It convenes the Prosperity Coalition,

Statement: Minimum wage moving in the right direction — up

 Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

Statement: Senate moves minimum wage in the right direction – up

The following statement was issued by the Michigan League for Public Policy in reaction to the Senate passage today of a revised minimum wage bill that increases the minimum wage from $7.40 to $9.20 by 2017 and increases the tipped wage from $2.65 an hour to $3.65. Both will have future inflationary increases. The statement may be attributed to League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“The Senate-passed increase in the minimum wage is moving in the right direction – up. It’s a far better bill than the original but it does not go far enough.

“The tipped wage in particular remains a concern. Many food service workers, the majority of them women, are unable to support themselves and their families on their earnings. Those who work hard and long hours should be able to meet their basic needs on their wages.’’


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all. It convenes the Prosperity Coalition,




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