UM: Before COVID about 14% of state residents were living in poverty, 29% near it
Ann Arbor — Even before Michigan exceeded Great Recession-level weekly unemployment numbers in April amid the coronavirus pandemic, 14% of residents were below the poverty line, University of Michigan researchers say.
Michigan's poverty rate is just one of nine indicators included in the latest Michigan Poverty and Well-Being Map released by the University of Michigan's Poverty Solutions, which aims to prevent and alleviate poverty through action-based research.
"Even before the pandemic spread to Michigan, there were many people struggling, and that shows up in a number of different ways on the Poverty and Well-Being Map," said H. Luke Shaefer, the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy.
The Michigan Poverty and Well-Being Map has been published since 2017 as part of an effort to assist federal, state and local poverty alleviation initiatives.
The following Michigan counties have the highest poverty rates:
- Isabella County: 23.4%
- Lake County: 22.3%
- Wayne County: 21.7%
- Luce County: 20.7%
- Clare County: 20.6%
The Poverty and Well-Being Map also tracks people whose income level is above the federal poverty line, but cannot afford a basic household budget. The Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed (ALICE) metric provides a sense of how many Michiganians are struggling financially, said Jennifer Erb-Downward, a senior research associate at Poverty Solutions.
The following Michigan counties have the highest percentage of ALICE households:
- Baraga County: 43.0%
- Alger County: 40.6%
- Luce County: 40.1%
- Montmorency County: 38.7%
- Lake County: 38.3%
The map also tracks the percentage of students who have experienced homelessness by the time they reach fifth grade—7.6% of students statewide.
Erb-Downward has done research linking child homelessness and chronic absenteeism, which hurts students' academic performance. She anticipates the COVID-19 pandemic will leave even more families without a stable place to live.
The following counties have the highest rate of student homelessness by fifth grade:
- Oceana County: 27.4%
- Lake County: 25.5%
- Iosco County: 22.9%
- Alcona County: 22.4%
- Ogemaw and Newaygo counties: 18.8%
There is also evidence of an undercount of homeless children in Wayne County, Erb-Downward said, which means the percentage of children who experience homelessness by the end of elementary school is likely much higher than the data show for Southeast Michigan as a whole.