Report: Rate of black kids living in poverty dips

The Detroit News

While Michigan continues to recover from the Great Recession, one group has lagged behind.

The number of black children living in poverty has dropped but still remains alarmingly high, according to the 2018 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book. It has fallen from 48 percent in 2010 to 42 percent in 2016.

The poverty level of children overall also fell, from 23 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2016, according to the report.

The yearly study of child welfare data, released Tuesday by the Michigan League for Public Policy, also found that 65 percent of students aren’t ready for college or careers. Some 84 percent of students from low-income families aren’t prepared compared to 16 percent of students from higher income families.

“The (data) provides an important counterpoint to the conversation on Michigan’s economic recovery,” said Gilda Jacobs, president and chief executive of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The study also found that three of the top five counties for helping children were in southeast Michigan: Oakland, Livingston and Washtenaw. The other two are Ottawa and Clinton counties. Wayne County was ranked 64th of the state’s 82 counties. (Keweenaw County wasn’t included in study.)

The bottom five counties were Lake, Clare, Muskegon, Calhoun and Oceana.

The report stated that economic struggles contribute to academic ones. Michigan ranks in the bottom 10 states for education, it said.

About 56 percent of the state’s third-graders aren’t proficient in reading, according to the report. Broken down by race, 70 percent of third-graders of color aren’t proficient compared to 48 percent of white students.

Last week, it was announced that Michigan had improved its national ranking in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, but continued to lag behind the national average. Michigan students made gains in all four categories of the exam, which is given every two years.

But education experts said the improvement of Michigan’s ranking had more to do with other states doing poorly.

The Kids Count tally found that in Wayne County, 43 percent of children live in high-poverty neighborhoods. The statewide figure is 17 percent.

About 55 percent of black children in Michigan live in high-poverty neighborhoods, the report found.

A high-poverty neighborhood is one where at least 30 percent of the residents live in poverty.

Besides the 21 percent of Michigan children living in poverty, 31 percent live in families that don’t have year-round, full-time employment, according to the report.

While employment has risen in the state, many of the new jobs pay low wages, said the report.

The study makes several suggestions to improve conditions for children in Michigan.

One recommendation calls for raising the age that children are treated as adults in the criminal justice system. In Michigan, once someone turns 17, they enter the adult system. Under the report’s recommendation, the age would rise to 18.

Michigan is one of five states that haven’t raised the age, said the report. A bill has been proposed in the Michigan Legislature but hasn’t been approved.

Youths receive inadequate treatment in the adult criminal justice system, face possible assaults and are likely to become repeat offenders, said the report.

“By passing the ‘raise the age’ bills, lawmakers could make a difference in improving the lives of Michigan’s kids and bettering our state,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, project director of Kids Count in Michigan.

The report also suggests the state strengthen policies that support work, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. The credit would allow families to keep more of what they earn, the report said.

The report also access to affordable, high-quality child care was critical.