High poverty, unemployment harm economic growth

Often touted as the “Comeback State,” Michigan’s economic recovery has not included everyone as reflected in the state’s high poverty and unemployment rates. Leaving people behind will only hinder Michigan’s potential economic growth, which has already showed signs of slowing.

A recent report ranking states based on multiple indicators of economic security and opportunity reveals the state’s major lack of investment in its people. On almost every factor from poverty to education to affordable housing, Michigan is ranked worst or second-worst among the Midwest states.

Let’s start with the state’s poverty rate, which is startling. With over 17% of people in Michigan, including 23% of children, living in poverty, our state ranks the worst in the Midwest at No. 37 in the country. The report cites a decline in support of assistance programs that has left children and families without needed help.

While other states have increased public assistance benefits to help them weather recent economic turmoil, Michigan sought to limit access by creating barriers. The state also cut back an important anti-poverty tool, the state Earned Income Tax Credit, (though there is now a welcome opportunity to fully restore the credit as part of the road funding package). When people cannot afford to meet their basic needs, they certainly are not supporting local businesses and boosting economic growth.

Similarly, while we should celebrate recent declines in the state’s unemployment rate, Michigan continues to have one of the highest rates in the country and in the Midwest. The state has work to do to ensure that we have a skilled and educated workforce to fill jobs as they are created. Michigan ranks 35th, 32nd, 31st, and 41st in high school graduation rates, higher education attainment, youth disconnected from school or the workforce, and the gender wage gap, respectively.

Even with a significant influx of jobs, if people are not trained, they will not be able to obtain higher paid jobs to support their families. Investment and support of the public school system and a lifelong learning from cradle to career model are necessary commitments.

Other states are doing better partly because they have chosen to increase investments in public assistance, EITC, education, and other proven policies that lift people out of poverty. Bottom line: Michigan must make people a priority to boost economic growth. Supporting the ballot proposal in May that increases funding for education and restores the state EITC as a part of the road funding solution is a step in the right direction.

– Alicia Guevara Warren

Census numbers tell of stagnancy and slow recovery

Today is the big day that comes each year: the release of American Community Survey figures on income and poverty.

Ready for some numbers?

Michigan’s household median income in 2013 ($48,273) was a bit higher than in 2012, but is nearly $1,000 lower than in 2009. The income bracket that grew the largest from 2009 to 2013 was the share of Michigan households who make under $10,000 a year. The only other income bracket with a significant share increase was households making more than $200,000 a year. These numbers taken together suggest that the slow economic recovery in Michigan is primarily benefiting those at higher incomes. (more…)

Healthcare coverage on the upswing

There is some good news out today in terms of health insurance.

The share of uninsured people in Michigan fell from 11.4% in 2012 to 11% in 2012, according to today’s Census Bureau release, with major additional improvements expected ahead due to the Affordable Care Act.

Still, more than 1 million in Michigan were without health insurance in 2013, according to the Census Bureau. That number is expected to decline dramatically as the Healthy Michigan Plan (Michigan’s Medicaid expansion), Marketplace enrollment and other provisions in the Affordable Care Act get counted in the numbers that will be released next fall. (more…)

Moving in the wrong direction

The latest U.S. Census Bureau data confirms what we all suspected. While there have been improvements in the economy, it has not been enough to float all boats, and state poverty rates, especially for children, remain 25% to 30% above pre-recession levels.

Certainly there have been cuts in state and local services in Michigan that affected low-income families with children, thwarting their opportunities to share in the American dream by earning enough through hard work to move into the middle class. Deep cuts in basic income assistance have forced more children into extreme poverty, exposing them to homelessness and hunger, and creating barriers to academic success. A failure to invest in child care for low-income families has resulted in fewer parents having the care they need to secure and retain jobs that support their children. (more…)

Michigan’s child poverty unacceptably high

Michigan’s child poverty rate now matches those of Florida and West Virginia, according to the latest data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. All the states with child poverty rates higher than that of Michigan are located in the South or Southwest where overall child well-being lags national averages.

Although Michigan’s child poverty rate didn’t continue its upward climb in 2012, it is stagnating at a relatively high level—affecting roughly one of every four children. More than half a million children in Michigan lived in a family with income below the federal poverty level ($23,300 for a family of four and $18,500 for a single parent with two children). Roughly half of these children live in families in extreme poverty—with annual income below $10,000. (more…)

Data cheat sheet for census releases

This week, the U.S. Census Bureau will start releasing 2012 data from two of its largest surveys – the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey.

While most people associate the Census Bureau only with the decennial census, it actually is responsible for dozens of surveys. In fact, the decennial census only gathers very basic information and primarily serves as a population count. (more…)

Recession scars linger

As you complete your charitable giving for the year or prepare to celebrate the holidays with family and friends please remember that many in Michigan will be struggling with economic insecurity.

The  latest census data shows that, over the past 10 years, poverty in Michigan has grown by 66%, the fastest growth in the nation, according to a just-released report from the Michigan League for Public Policy. Nearly 1.7 million people lived in poverty in 2011, 17.5% of the population. Data continually shows that the middle class is decreasing and that poverty and economic insecurity are growing, and no group has been immune. (more…)

Election season calls for tough questions

The election season is the perfect time for voters to reflect on the track record of their elected officials in allocating state resources and addressing the needs of Michigan families and children.

This year’s track record is mixed at best. On the positive side, an estimated 110,000 children will have access to dental care because of an expansion in the Healthy Kids dental program, more pregnant women will find obstetrical services because of the Legislature’s approval of a rate increase for obstetricians, and nearly 1,500 additional 4-year-olds will have the benefit of a preschool education. In addition, low-income children and families should have better access to primary health care services because of the increase in Medicaid physician rates that was mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act and entirely paid for with federal funds. (more…)

The Good, the Fair, and the Ugly

The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual Current Population Survey Report contains the good, the fair and the bad. The report, released Wednesday, has a sample size of 100,000 households and provides the official numbers on poverty, income and health insurance coverage for the United States. Here are some of the key findings:

The Ugly – Income: There was a 1.2% decline in median household income and a 1.6% growth in income inequality in 2011. The number of middle-income households is decreasing while the number of households in extreme poverty has grown by almost 50%. Also, 6.6% of all Americans lived in households with income at or below 50% of the federal poverty level ($11,406 for a family of four) in 2011.

The Fair – Poverty: After three consecutive years of increases, the poverty rate seems to be flattening out. The 46.2 million Americans (15% of the population) who lived in poverty in 2011 was not significantly different than 2010. This may be due to an increase in the number of people working full-time, year round. The number of year-round, full-time workers in the bottom income quintile of households increased 17.3% between 2010 and 2011, indicating that many of the new jobs that are being created are low-wage jobs.

The Good – Health Insurance: The number of Americans without health insurance decreased from 16.3% in 2010 to 15.7% in 2011, a 3.8% drop. The increase in health care coverage is likely attributable to two things:

  1. The growth in government-sponsored health insurance – the percentage of people covered by government health insurance (Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, etc) increased for the fifth consecutive year
  2. The increase in young adults under age 26 receiving health coverage under their parents’ health insurance as provided under the Affordable Care Act. There was a 7% decrease in the number of people ages 19 to 25 who were uninsured.

Uninsurance Rate by Age

(more…)

Reminder: We have a long way to go

A recent survey by the Associated Press predicted that the upcoming annual release from the Census Bureau is expected to report the highest poverty level nationally since 1965! Economists forecast the national poverty rate of 15.1% will increase anywhere between 0.1% and 0.6% when the 2011 numbers are released and similar growth will likely be seen here in the Mitten State.

While we’ve started to experience economic growth and job expansion here at home, the new poverty numbers are sure to emphasize that we still have a long way to go.  Consider:

  • The Michigan poverty rate has grown almost 25% over the past decade, the seventh-fastest growth nationwide.
  • Michigan had the 16th-highest poverty rate in the nation in 2010 at 15.5%. 
  • In 2010, one in every six Michiganians lived in poverty – that’s more than the percentage of people in the U.S. who are left-handed!
  • Michigan’s child and family poverty rates are among the fastest growing in the nation:
  • Family poverty has grown 26% since 2005, the third-fastest growth nationally.
  • Michigan’s child poverty rate has increased 30% since 2005, the sixth-fastest growth in the nation. Almost one in every four children in Michigan lives in poverty.

The last time Michigan experienced the current rate of poverty was 1983-84 when the state’s poverty rate was close to 17%. Total poverty only grew about 11% during the 1980s, but grew almost 60% between 2000 and 2010.  (more…)

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