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

Report: Poverty, abuse and neglect on the rise for Michigan's children

Michigan League for Public Policy

The new Kids Count report is out, and things are not looking good for kids in Michigan. You would think with the recession now a few years behind us that economic trends would be on an upswing, but that doesn't appear to be the case. I'll break down the report into three sections: The Good, The Bad, and the Stagnant. 

Let's start with THE GOOD. We've talked a lot about Michigan's infant mortality problem, especially as it pertains to children of color. Well it turns out the infant mortality rate in Michigan dropped by 12% from 2005-2011, which translates to roughly 800 babies who died before they reached their 1st birthdays as opposed to more than 1,000 before. Of course 800 is still way, way too high a number, but at least the number is starting to go down. Teen pregnancy and child/teen deaths are also on the decline: 10% and 11% respectively.

All the education outcomes moved in right direction, with the best improvement seen among Michigan's 4th graders in terms of reading proficiency. But as the report notes, Michigan's education system still has a long way to go:

Relatively large percentages of Michigan students still did not demonstrate proficiency in eighth-grade math and high school English. Two of every three eighth-graders lacked math proficiency, and more than two of every five high school students did not show mastery in reading skills. Furthermore, only roughly one-third of counties reflected any improvement in the percentage of eighth-graders demonstrating proficiency in math or of high school students graduating within four years.

We round out our Good News section with out-of-home care, including foster and relative care. The percentage of kids in out-of-home care dropped by 33% from 2005-2011, which translates into roughly 7,000 fewer children who were in out-of-home care.

And now for THE BAD news. Pretty much every economic indicator moved in the wrong direction. The number of children in poverty; the number of kids who are eligible for SNAP benefits; the number of kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch. All three outcomes shot up from 2005 - 2011. 

  • Children in poverty: 454,296 (2005) compared to 556,687 (2011)
  • Children eligible for SNAP benefits: 187,912 (2005) compared to 259,168 (2012)
  • Children eligible for free/reduced lunch: 612,022 (2006) compared to 740,296 (2012)

The grim news doesn't end there. The number of children who are confirmed victims of abuse/neglect was sharply on the rise, up 31% over the past six years. And there was a 40% increase in the number of families being investigated for child abuse or neglect. That brings the total up to nearly 207,000 children - the highest number in 22 years - who were living in families being investigated for abuse and neglect

As for THE STAGNANT part of the report, little has changed between 2005 - 2011 in the percentage of Michigan teens who graduate high school on time, the percentage of low-birthweight babies, and the percentage of 8th graders who are proficient in math.

Overall, not the most flattering portrait of life for Michigan's kids; our children deserve better.

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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