News Releases

Poverty stagnates in Michigan

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

Policymakers have options to help one in every four kids growing up in poverty

LANSING, Mich. — Poverty remained high in Michigan last year, highlighting that many people have not yet recovered from the recession and underscoring the need for state policymakers to do more to help struggling people afford the basics such as decent housing, nutritious food, reliable child care and transportation. Increasing the state Earned Income Tax Credit and minimum wage will help.

One in six in Michigan lived in poverty in 2013, according to new Census Bureau data released today. That’s less than $24,000 a year for a family of four. The 2013 poverty rate remained essentially the same as the previous year at 17 percent.

Child poverty saw a slight decrease but remained unacceptably high. In 2013, it was 23.8 percent, down from 24.9 percent the previous year.

“Clearly our economic recovery still is not reaching all families in Michigan,’’ said Karen Holcomb-Merrill, vice president of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Especially concerning is the high child poverty rate with nearly one in every four kids growing up in poverty. This is unacceptable, and we must find ways to make improvements.’’

One bright spot was that the median annual income in Michigan adjusted for inflation increased by 1.7 percent. While the median income is moving in the right direction, the stagnating poverty level is further evidence that the recovery is disproportionately reaching those with higher incomes. A recent report from the Michigan League for Public Policy documented the huge income losses since 1979 of those earning the least in the state.

Michigan policymakers have tools at their disposal to help households with low incomes across the state including:

• Restore the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps over 1 million children in families receiving the credit in Michigan. It was cut from 20 percent of the federal credit to 6 percent of the federal credit in 2011.
• Raise the minimum wage even more. Polls show strong public support for $10.10 an hour. Michigan’s wage is set to go to $9.25 by 2018.
• Resist more business tax cuts that would starve education and other needed state programs to help families.
• Return unemployment benefits to 26 weeks. Michigan Legislature cut to 20 weeks in 2011.
• Find ways to get more food assistance to the hungry. Michigan has options to expand federal food benefits in the state.
• Enact policies that make it easier for workers earning low wages to develop skills and obtain credentials.

Among other findings in the census release:

• Rent is still unaffordable for too many families. Nearly 44 percent of renting households paid more than 35 percent of total household income for rent in 2013. This is an improvement over nearly 47 percent in 2009, but still far too high.
• Between 2009 and 2013, households making less than $10,000 had a larger increase than any other income bracket (8 percent to 8.5 percent). Median household income fell by nearly $1,000 during that time.
• Michigan is becoming more educated. There were significant increases in the percentages of the population 25 and over with associate, bachelor’s and graduate degrees.


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.


Census shows improvement in uninsured

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

Census: Fewer in Michigan without health insurance in 2013
Big progress expected this year thanks to Medicaid expansion

LANSING, Mich. — The number of people without health care coverage in Michigan fell in 2013, according to Census Bureau data released today, and is expected to fall even further this year thanks in part to the state’s decision to extend affordable health insurance to those in Michigan with low incomes.

Today’s data release shows 1,072,000 Michiganians, or 11 percent, still did not have health insurance last year, though there was some progress between 2012 and 2013.

Dramatic gains are expected in 2014. In just six months this year, 386,000 adults in Michigan signed up for the Healthy Michigan Plan, Michigan’s version of Medicaid expansion. In 2013, Michigan lawmakers and Gov. Snyder adopted the Healthy Michigan Plan, making Michigan one of 27 states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The plan took effect April 1, 2014.

“We will see real progress in the years ahead, thanks to Gov. Snyder and the state lawmakers who supported the Healthy Michigan Plan so more in Michigan can get affordable health care,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “This is good not only for the people getting the coverage they need, it’s also good for our state’s businesses, communities, and economy.”

Strengthening Medicaid so it provides coverage to more low-income people is a key component of the Affordable Care Act. The federal government agreed to pay the costs of expanding Medicaid to people making up to 138 percent of the poverty rate – just $32,600 per year for a family of four – for the first three years. But the Supreme Court left it up to the states to decide whether to implement the expansion.

In 2013, the percent of people without health coverage was lower in Michigan and others states that have expanded Medicaid.  Only 14.1 percent of people lacked health insurance in the states that expanded Medicaid, while 17.3 percent went without health coverage in the states that have chosen not to.

The 2014 Census data – which will be released in September 2015 – is expected to show significant progress in the states that expanded Medicaid, while states that failed to expand Medicaid are expected to fall further behind.

In fact, other surveys preview this progress. The Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey shows a widening gap in coverage between the states that have and have not adopted Medicaid expansion from the end of 2013 to the middle of 2014.By the end of June 2014, the collective share of people without health insurance in states that chose not to adopt Medicaid expansion was 18.3 percent compared with 10.1 percent in states that chose to expand.

In the years ahead, other provisions of the Affordable Care Act will also help reduce the number of uninsured in Michigan. Next year’s Census data will show that even more people are gaining health coverage through the state’s new health insurance marketplace.

Since the Census data released today was collected, those who can’t get affordable health insurance through their jobs or who earn more than 138 percent of the poverty line have been able to sign up for coverage through the marketplace. The vast majority of this group are now eligible for federal subsidies to help them pay their premiums and reduce their out-of-pocket health costs.  As a result, next year’s Census data is expected to show that an even higher number of Michiganians have health care coverage.

“This has been a win-win for our state,” Jacobs said.  “By expanding Medicaid, Michigan is able to help struggling people get health coverage while also boosting our economy.”


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.

Dynamic duo: minimum wage and EITC

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

LANSING, Mich. — Raising the minimum wage and expanding state Earned Income Tax Credits are two key strategies to be used together to help working families as the economy slowly recovers from the Great Recession, a new national report concludes.

Michigan has taken steps in the right direction but has much room for improvement, said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

“Workers in Michigan continue to struggle with low wages that have declined over the years. Strengthening the state’s minimum wage and Earned Income Tax Credit even more would help those earning the least in our state, and it would boost our economy,’’ Jacobs said.

The report, State Earned Income Tax Credits and Minimum Wages Work Best Together, released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, concludes that states should use both options together to boost income, widen the path out of poverty and reduce income inequality.

Michigan’s declining and stagnating wages were documented in the League’s Labor Day report released last week. Wages for workers in the lowest 20 percent of incomes have fallen dramatically, with a 31 percent drop since 1979 for male workers earning the least.

A report by the Michigan Association of United Ways this week also estimated that 40 percent of Michigan families do not earn enough to pay the basic bills.

Increasing the EITC and minimum wage are ways to reward work as opposed to increasing public assistance to meet the basic needs of housing, utilities, transportation and food.

Michigan’s minimum wage on Monday increased from $7.40 an hour to $8.15 an hour and will climb to $9.25 by 2018. It will be indexed to inflation, with some exceptions, but does not eliminate the tipped wage. A ballot proposal to push it to $10.10 an hour and include tipped workers narrowly missed the ballot, and polls showed public support for the higher minimum wage.

The state’s EITC is 6 percent of the federal EITC. In 2011 Gov. Snyder and the Michigan Legislature cut the EITC from 20 percent, resulting in more than 15,000 families falling below the poverty line and more than 1 million children in Michigan losing income.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report finds that both strategies are needed. The minimum wage helps those earning the lowest wages while the EITC tends to help families with somewhat higher earnings. A minimum wage boost offers ongoing help while the EITC helps with bigger-ticket items such as car repairs so workers have the transportation they need to stay on the job.

“It just makes so much sense to strengthen these policies to keep families working and to boost the economy. These are tools that are available, and we know that they are effective,’’ Jacobs said.


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.

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.


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