Michael Newman / flickr

Tomorrow the Census Bureau will release estimates on how many Americans were living in poverty during 2011. Back in July there were stories about how this report is likely to be seriously depressing.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Just when you thought the Republican and Democratic national conventions were over...

I'm here to talk about an event that took place behind the scenes at one of the conventions -- specifically the DNC in Charlotte, NC. Between all the speeches and sound bites and people in funny hats mugging for the camera, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation held a symposium in Charlotte, where they released a 47-page report on the profound achievement and opportunity gaps that African American males face.

The "Challenge the Status Quo" report looks at not only those factors that impede academic progress for black male students, but also what can be done about it. 

You can check out the full report here, which is packed with data and research from a wide range of studies. Meantime, here are a few highlights:

Education and the inequality of opportunity

Sep 7, 2012
SvobodalT / flickr

I’m new to State of Opportunity. Before I begin writing regular posts I want to tell you a little bit about myself. It isn’t very often that readers get a glimpse into the personal lives of reporters.

My personal narrative in part explains why issues like those we explore in State of Opportunity are so important.

I was raised in what is quickly becoming the typical American family. My mother provided for my sister and me through working as a secretary and monthly child support payments.

Next week, we're hoping to sit down for a chat with political scientist and author Charles Murray. For the unfamiliar, Murray is a conservative thinker whose writings on race, achievement and the family have been hugely influential and plenty controversial.

courtesy Melissa and Jeffrey Rice

The long, glorious summer is over for Michigan's kids. But the new school year does offer an opportunity for a fresh start

Today, we bring you a story of what that fresh start can look like from a kid's perspective. Leah Rice recently turned nine. Last year, she went through a difficult time with her family. Over the summer, we gave her an audio recorder. The story she tells on her own is different than the story you'd hear from the adults in her life. But Leah's story is a reminder of the importance of family, fun and the chance at a new beginning.  Click above to listen.  

Michael B. / flickr

Students from dozens of Michigan districts headed back to school today.

As students break out their No. 2 pencils and notebooks, parents might be interested in reading this new report about how schools across the country are being forced to make do with less money and fewer teachers.

The report, from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has lots of juicy and well-researched stats, but it  also tells a bigger story about this particular political moment where spending cuts are more likely than tax increases.

We had several comments on my story this week about the disturbing disparity in infant mortality rates between African-Americans and whites in Michigan. A number of the comments took issue with the the claim that racism could be "a major cause" of the disparity. 

user Brad Brundage / Flickr

When it comes to keeping infants alive in Michigan, we're not doing that great a job.

Michigan's infant mortality rate has been higher than the national average for more than two decades. 

Here are the latest numbers:

For every 1,000 babies born in Michigan, roughly seven won't make it to their first birthday.

flickr user cheriejoyful

Racial inequality shows up in just about every possible measure of opportunity you can think of - in schools, neighborhoods, employment numbers, incarceration rates and even health.

Perhaps the most disturbing racial disparity, though, happens right at birth. 

Emily D. Elliot / flickr

Kids do better in school if their parents are involved.

But when I hear about schools pushing parent involvement, it conjures up visions of a parent I, and many other parents, can't be.

I think of a parent who goes on all the field trips, attends all the meetings at school, and remembers to send in all the forms on time.