STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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What it means to be born Black, White, Latino or American Indian

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I'm currently working on an hour-long radio special about race and culture, which is heavy stuff to be sure. I've interviewed students, parents, community workers, and experts to get their thoughts on race and what it means to be born Black or White or Latino or American Indian. Statistically speaking, race is predictive of a number of things, and it tends to correlate with relatively bad outcomes.

Here's a short list:

  • Percentage of children under 18 living in poverty, by race: 39% Black, 37% American Indian, 34% Latino, 14% White.
  • Percentage of children in single-parent families, by race: 67% Black, 53% American Indian, 42% Latino, 25% White.
  • Percentage of people with college degrees, by race: 10% Black, .08% American Indian, 9% Latino, 73% White.
  • Number ofyouth in confinement, by race: Black youth are nearly five times more likely to be confined than their white peers. Latino and American Indian youth are between two and three more times likely.

I could go on and on with the stats, but the type of outcome is pretty much the same: bad for Latino and American Indian youth, worse for Black youth. And these national statistics mirror what is seen at the state level, too.
Now consider this: Michigan's population is changing. It's becoming more diverse, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Data guru guy Kurt Metzger blogged about the state's growing diversity on his  Data Drive Detroit blog:

When we look at the share that persons of color (anyone who is not white, nonHispanic) represent by age, we see a gradual increase as age decreases. While accounting for only 14 percent of the population 65 years and over, the figure below shows a 34 percent share in the youngest cohort, less than 5 years of age. Overall, persons of color represent 23.4 percent of Michigan’s population. ... As the older white, nonHispanic population ages, it will be the younger, African American, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern and other ethnic groups that will help drive Michigan’s future. Their presence is now and will be in the future a true asset for our State.

So I ask you: What will that future - our future - look like if we continue to see such gaping disparities between whites and minorities? If a child who's born Black or Latino or American Indian is more likely to grow up in poverty, in a single-parent household, with very little opportunity around them, how will they be successful in the future? And how, in turn, will Michigan be successful?

Jennifer is a reporter with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and worked as a producer for WFUV in the Bronx.
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