Poverty still a challenge for Michigan kids


  • Micheal Samsky, Detroit Stock City

Despite progress in child outcomes since 1990, a new report reveals serious racial and ethnic disparities persist in child well-being in Michigan and other states.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2019 Kids Count Data Book ranked the state 32nd overall in its measure of how kids are faring. Kids Count Project Director at the Michigan League for Public Policy Alicia Guevara Warren explained Michigan's child poverty rate is 11 percent worse now than when the report was first published three decades ago.

"We haven't moved the needle when it comes to improving child poverty," Warren said. "Kids of color are more likely to be living in poverty because of the number of historical and systemic barriers and challenges to opportunities that they face over time."

One in 5 Michigan kids lives in poverty, and the state has the highest rate of concentrated poverty for African-American kids in the country for the second year in a row. And Michigan was one of a dozen states that saw a drop in its child population since 1990.

Michigan's area of strength in the report is children's health, as the state has the third highest rate of kids with health-care coverage. Warren said now is an opportune time to build upon that success.

"Particularly when it comes to ensuring that kids, regardless of immigration status, have access to public health programs," she said. "The state has an opportunity to expand coverage to lawfully residing immigrant children and pregnant mothers as allowed under the federal Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act."

Casey Foundation vice president of external affairs Leslie Boissiere contended public policies should ensure all of the country's 74 million children have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

"Children represent 25 percent of the population but they are 100 percent of our future," Boissiere said. "And when we invest in all children, our communities are stronger and also the country is stronger."

Boissiere also highlighted the importance of an accurate census count in 2020. More than 10,000 Michigan kids younger than age five were missed in the 2010 census, costing the state almost $10 million annually in funding from just five federal programs for children and families.

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