STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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Weekend Wrap-Up

courtesy American Enterprise Institute

It’s been a busy week here at State of Opportunity, so here’s all the stuff you might’ve missed.

1. Charles Murray speaks with State of Opportunity

On Wednesday, Dustin Dwyer interviewed libertarian author Charles Murray. Often a figure of controversy, especially for those on the left, Murray offered four recommendations for dealing with poverty. Two of his ideas were:

a. Not every kid should go to college.

"Education should bring each child to adulthood having discovered things he or she loves to do and having learned how to do them well," Murray says. "And what that does mean is you do not take a youngster who is really really good with his hands, really really good at fixing things, but has low verbal skills, you don't try to make an English major out of him. You build on his or her strengths."

b. Government programs get in the way of “natural incentives.”

"To tell you the truth, a working class, a middle-class community doesn't need these overeducated elitist snobs in order to function. But it does need the kinds of natural incentives to form a vital community, which the welfare state ravages."

Read the rest of Murray’s recommendations, and listen to Dwyer’s complete interview with him, and let us know what you think.

2. Census numbers provide mixed bag of data

The Census Bureau released poverty and health care figures for 2011 on Wednesday, and to everyone’s surprise, the data was better-than-expected. Even our own, self-described health policy nerd Sarah Alvarez had anticipated the poverty index to be at levels not seen since 1965.

Instead, the poverty rate decreased – barely – by one-tenths of a point to settle at fifteen percent. That’s approximately 42 million Americans.

The report also found that the number of those without healthcare dropped from 50 to 48.6 million, largely due to an expansion in the federal government’s Medicaid and Medicare programs.

To read the rest of the data released, check out Alvarez’s reports this week. Also, stay tuned next week as we analyze Michigan-specific numbers.

3. Youth in Metro-Detroit among the most disconnected in the nation

Just in case you didn’t know, Metro-Detroit has a serious problem keeping residents engaged in their community.

A new study by Measure of America shows that 17 percent, or more than 85,000, of the region’s 16-to-24 year olds aren’t working or in school. Only Phoenix and Miami had higher rates.

The study also found that the rates also differ greatly across racial groups. About one in four African American youths can be considered disconnected compared to 14 percent of Latinos and 19 percent of Whites.

One of the suggested remedies for this disconnection is for the nation to reinvest in vocational training, a sentiment echoed by Governor Rick Snyder earlier this week. Read both stories and make sure to let State of Opportunity know your thoughts on the high rate of disconnected youth and the suggested policy recommendations.

4. Kalamazoo Promise offers students hope in the midst of despair

If you looked at students in Kalamazoo, MI by the numbers, you might not be impressed. One in three lives in poverty. Many of them are first-generation high school graduates. Students raised in two parent households are considered an anomaly. Black teenagers in Kalamazoo have one of the highest pregnancy rates in the state.

Yet in November 2005, these students were offered a ray of hope: unnamed donors pledged to pay their tuition at Michigan’s public colleges, universities and community colleges if they graduated from the district’s high schools. That’s the Kalamazoo Promise.

This week, an article by Ted C. Fishman in The New York Times gave an in-depth look at the program, past and current scholarship recipients, and the hurdles students from Kalamazoo face. It’s a long, but insightful article.

You may remember the interview Sarah Alvarez did with Leatrice Fullterton, a resident of Kalamazoo. She’s a mother of two, who despite numerous obstacles, is committed to raising successfully children. One of the reasons she hopes she is able to find work in Kalamazoo is so her children will benefit from the Kalamazoo Promise.

State of Opportunity would love to hear from more families in Kalamazoo that stand to benefit from the Kalamazoo Promise. If you would like to share your story, please let us know.

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