Census data shows Flint and Detroit poverty worst in nation, people of color still struggling statewide

Contact: Alex Rossman

Michigan’s economic “recovery” still dependent on zip code, skin color

LANSING—Data released by the United States Census Bureau today shows that Flint and Detroit have the highest poverty rates of comparable cities in the United States and that Michiganians of color are struggling, issues the Michigan League for Public Policy has been working hard to address.

Detroit’s poverty rate of 39.8 percent and Flint’s poverty rate of 40.8 percent were the highest in the nation for cities of their size. Flint’s median income for 2015 was $25,342, and Detroit’s was $25,980, both less than half of the statewide median household income.

For 2015 statewide, Michigan’s median household income increased 2.4 percent from 2014 to $51,084. The state’s overall poverty rate dropped .4 percent to 15.8 percent and the child poverty rate dropped from 23.7 percent to 22.4 percent. These figures are slightly higher than the national poverty rates of 14.7 percent overall and 20.7 for children.

“Michigan’s economic improvement is in the eye of the beholder and too many people in our state are still not seeing any relief,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Reducing poverty and improving incomes for Detroit and Flint residents and people of color will benefit all of our communities and businesses. Talking about these geographic and racial disparities is a start, but the real need is for quick and thoughtful action by lawmakers to doing something about them.”

For poverty, today’s Census data reinforced the continued racial disparities in Michigan. Across Michigan in 2015, the poverty rates for people of color were: 32.9 percent for Blacks or African-Americans, 25.2 percent for American Indians or Alaskan Natives, 23.8 percent for Hispanics or Latinos and 14.9 percent for Asians. These were all higher than the 12.3 percent poverty rate for Whites in Michigan.

The median income for Whites in Michigan in 2015 was $54,775, nearly $4,000 more than the state’s overall median income. For Hispanics/Latinos, the median income was $13,000 less than whites at $41,844. For Blacks/African-Americans, it was even worse, with a median income of $31,099, more than $23,000 lower than Whites.

With the lead poisoning disaster in Flint and the physical and fiscal conditions of Detroit Public Schools, the League took an in-depth look at Michigan’s Cities in Crisis and made policy recommendations to state government on how to support Flint, Detroit and other cities.

Today’s Census data reinforces the need to also take action on statewide policies lawmakers can pass to reduce poverty and improve economic equity for all include:

  • Working to make college more affordable, especially for older workers and individuals raising families;
  • Eliminating the asset limit for food assistance;
  • Enacting earned sick leave for all workers;
  • Improving investment in child care, education and state support services; and
  • Restoring Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and expanding the federal EITC to low-wage workers not raising children.

Reports on all of these issues can be found at www.mlpp.org/resources/reports-by-date.


The Census released data earlier this week on healthcare coverage, which was a significant bright spot for Michigan. Thanks to Medicaid expansion through the Healthy Michigan Plan and other healthcare reforms, 475,000 more Michiganians had health insurance in 2015. That was a 44% drop in the number of Michigan residents without health insurance from 2013. But despite the Healthy Michigan Plan’s continued success, state lawmakers cut outreach funding in the 2017 budget that stands to hurt the program’s efforts.

The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.


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. (more…)

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


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