Michigan was once the epicenter of economic opportunity. Here, a person could move out of poverty and into the middle class simply by getting a job on the assembly line. Millions of people did just that.
But today, the path out of poverty seems narrow in Michigan. And the outlook for the next generation can look downright scary.
Here is what we know:
Nearly one out of four children in Michigan lives in poverty. The disadvantages these kids face start piling up before they’re even born. Pregnant mothers living in poverty are less likely to get good prenatal care, and more likely to have negative birth outcomes, such as low birth weight or early delivery. When their children are born, it’s less likely they’ll have the time or the resources for development activities such as reading. By the time these kids enter kindergarten, they’re already far behind their middle and upper class peers. And the gap only gets worse with time.
It's a core belief in America that every child should have the opportunity to succeed, no matter where they live or how much money is in their parents' bank account.
But the brutal truth is 42 percent of children raised in poverty stay in poverty as adults. Among those who make it out, most don’t make it very far.
So how do we break the cycle? That’s what this new project is all about.
For the next three years, our State of Opportunity team will be looking at what we can do to improve opportunities for Michigan’s most disadvantaged children. We’ve been talking to national experts and we plan to bring you the latest research on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to overcoming childhood poverty.
But we’re also pretty sure we can’t give you the full picture unless we do something really different.
So, we’ve been hanging out at hospital clinics and playgroups, Head Start classrooms and WIC offices. We’ve been visiting families where they live, and exploring corners of neighborhoods and cities most people don’t spend much time in. We’re talking to mothers and fathers struggling to keep the lights on, feed their kids, find a job. We’re also talking to providers - those on the front lines trying to connect low-income families with resources.
Our goal is to follow several families, groups, infants and kids over the course of our three-year project. They’ll share their stories and open up their lives to help us all better understand the state of opportunity here in Michigan.