WUOMFM

Michigan, we have a problem

Sep 21, 2012

Following last week’s release of national poverty numbers, the Census Bureau released state specific numbers this week. Besides a drop in the uninsured, it doesn’t look good. 

Our colleagues at Marketplace wrote a comprehensive article about poverty rates across the country. The number that we’re most interested in, though, is the increase in children living in poverty.

Over the past ten years Michigan has had the third-largest increase in childhood poverty. In 2001, Michigan had a child poverty rate of 14.2 percent. That number rose to 24.4 percent last year. That’s a ten percentage point increase over 10 years.

Job loss alone can’t explain the increase in Michigan’s poverty rates. Last year one in 10 working families in the state were living in poverty, the highest percentage in the Midwest.

While the number of families living in poverty has increased state assistance programs continue to be cut. Since 2011, the state legislature has taken a variety of measures that directly affect low-income families and children. Most notably instituting asset limits on those who receive food assistance and slashing the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit by 70 percent.

A bright spot in the data may be the decrease in the number of Michigan children who lack health insurance. Even as workers have experienced drops in coverage and pay, Michigan’s Medicaid program has made it a priority to provide children with health insurance. Around 11 percent more children were insured in 2011 than 2009.

Here’s some food for thought though. A recent paper suggests poverty rates might actually be going in the other direction. But looking at the census numbers poverty is a big problem for the state. Michigan was only one of 17 states that saw an increase in the number of people living in poverty last year. Too many of those people are under the age of 18.

*Correction: an earlier version of this story reported the change in poverty rates in Michigan from 2001 to 2011 as a ten percent increase, not a ten percentage point increase. The above story has been changed to reflect this.