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Study finds Michigan lags behind in childhood well-being, education

School desks
Flickr user Frank Juarez/Flickr

Michigan ranked in the bottom half of the country in terms of childhood well-being and education, according to data from the 2024 Kids Count Data Book, a nationwide analysis of childhood-related data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The state report placed Michigan 41st in education and 34th in overall well-being.

The report used a collection of nationwide data from the 2021-2022 school year and ranked every state in health, education, economic well-being, and community.

Key Findings

The report found that in Michigan,

  • 56% of children aged 3 and 4 were not enrolled in preschool.
  • 72% of fourth-graders scored below proficient in reading, and 75% of eighth-graders scored below proficient in math.
  • 20% of Michigan high school students were not graduating on time, including 32% of Black students, 25% of Latino students, and 26% of multiracial students
  • 40% of students were chronically absent, with 63% of Black, 50% of American Indian, and 46% of Latino children being chronically absent
  • Child and teen deaths per 100,000 increased to 28 from 22 in 2019. 
  • 9.2% of babies were low-weight in 2021.
  • 35% of those aged 10-17 were overweight.
  • 7% of teens (33,000) weren’t in school or working.
  • 18% of children lived in poverty, including 39% of Black children and 24% of Latino children.
  • 25% of children lived in households spending 30% or more of pretax income on housing costs, including 43% of Black children

Anne Kuhnen is the Kids Count Policy Director for Michigan. She said there are economic and racial disparities that create gaps. "For example, the fourth-grade reading scores that (declined) during the pandemic really exacerbated both racial and economic disparities,” she said. “The greatest declines we're seeing among Black and multi-racial children as well as children who are economically disadvantaged, so you can see how those factors contribute to each other and make the overall declines a lot worse.”
Still, she emphasized the problems started long before the pandemic. She suggested funding programs like the State Opportunity Index could be key to addressing gaps and drop-offs. “We need to make sure that we have that funding available so that schools can both address academic needs, literacy and numeracy instruction as well as provide for non-instructional needs,” Kuhnen said.

A.J. Jones is a newsroom intern and graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Sources say he owns a dog named Taffy.
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