Michigan’s child poverty unacceptably high

Added September 19th, 2013 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

Michigan’s child poverty rate now matches those of Florida and West Virginia, according to the latest data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. All the states with child poverty rates higher than that of Michigan are located in the South or Southwest where overall child well-being lags national averages.

Although Michigan’s child poverty rate didn’t continue its upward climb in 2012, it is stagnating at a relatively high level—affecting roughly one of every four children. More than half a million children in Michigan lived in a family with income below the federal poverty level ($23,300 for a family of four and $18,500 for a single parent with two children). Roughly half of these children live in families in extreme poverty—with annual income below $10,000.

While these minimal income levels heighten the risk of homelessness and hunger, they also compromise the likelihood of physical health, access to quality child care, safe neighborhoods, stable family life and healthy environments.

The fact is we can’t leave children behind economically and expect them to achieve academically. While there are exceptions, the data are clear that children who spend substantial amounts of their childhood in poverty are at considerably higher risk for low academic achievement. The latest test data show a persistent and substantial gap in scores between low-income students and their more affluent peers.

Federal and state policymakers need to consider and fund initiatives to reduce poverty among families with children. Our economy is shaped by federal and state policies. Half in Ten, the campaign to cut poverty in half in 10 years, provides a wide array of strategies to address poverty.

A job is not necessarily the solution to poverty: Earnings from a job or even multiple jobs do not always lift a family above the poverty level. While unemployment has dropped in the state, too many job seekers remain unemployed or underemployed.

Despite huge tax cuts to business in Michigan, child poverty persists.

— Jane Zehnder-Merrell

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