STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Things are getting better for Michigan's kids. Sort of.

Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its 2013 Kids Count Data book, and the results for Michigan seem to be improving. 

The Data Book provides an annual statistical snapshot of kids' well-being across all states. Last year, we wrote of the alarming downward trends for Michigan's kids. From 2005 - 2012, Michigan dropped seven spots in the state rankings for overall child well-being, going from 25th to 32nd. In my blog post last year I asked, "When will it turn around?" 

Now, we have an answer. In the Kids Count Data Book released today, Michigan's overall rank improved one spot, going from 32nd to 31st. It's not a huge jump. But it's an improvement relative to other states.  

So, what, exactly, has improved? 

According to the Data Book, fewer kids in Michigan are living in homes where parents are unemployed or have unstable employment. Fewer kids in Michigan are living in single parent homes. More high school students are graduating on time. Fewer teens had babies. Those are all good things. 

But the news isn't all good. Consider these two very important statistics: 

  • 21,000 more Michigan kids are living in poverty. The poverty rate for children went from 23 percent to 25 percent in the latest report, which uses data from 2011. 
  • 9,000 more Michigan kids are living in areas with concentrated poverty. The rate for children living in concentrated poverty went from 14 to 15 percent. The latest data period covers from 2007 - 2011. 

So, have things turned around for Michigan's kids? In many ways, yes. But Michigan still ranks in the bottom half of states for child well-being. And some crucial measures of well-being are still moving in the wrong direction. 

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.
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